Friday, April 27, 2012

Remember Stein's Law

Find out about the dangers of reading too much into trends, in today's LiveScience GoFigure infographic.

If technology continues on its course, within 20 years transistors will be the size of an atom, and after another generation or so, he says, they will be the size of an electron! This trend line is based on Moore's Law, which would support the claim that about every two years the number of transistors that could be placed on an integrated circuit doubles. 

Excepting possibly the expansion of the universe, Richard Heinberg, a senior fellow-in-residence, says all trends ultimately reach their limits and either stall or reverse. He suggests a dose of critical thinking and some statistics know-how are neccessary when looking at trends.

For instance, even taking one trend in isolation may not make sense, as some trends work against each other and can end up cancelling each other out. Taking these business-as-usual assumptions, Heinberg says, may be as much a lack of cognition as a motive-driven action; politicians want certain trends, such as the national economy, to continue to expand forever; transportation planners want traffic to continue to proliferate. But in reality, neither is valid. And so on.


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