Moore’s Law and Collaboration

You’ve probably (or maybe not) heard of Moore’s Law (link) where the number of transistors doubles on a chip every two years. This idea of doubling power has been something floating around in my head for awhile. Does your power to think, to create, to produce double every two years?

Realistically, individual human production, at least in my case, doesn’t double every two years. The hours in a day aren’t getting any longer. My ability to go without sleep hasn’t improved. And I still have well over 100 books waiting on my shelves to read. So does the potential to double your power ever exist? I suspect the answer is yes when you look outside of your individual abilities for a power surge.

People are happy to toss around the word “collaboration.” On one hand we have Tim O’Reilly saying that “the network is opening up some amazing possibilities for us to reinvent content, reinvent collaboration.” (link) On the other you’ve got Seneca pointing out that “every sin is the result of collaboration.” (link) Collaboration is a sticky subject.

The impossible can become possible if a group proves willing to work together. Wikipedia, for example, is representative of what can happen when collaboration works. As of today, the English-version Wikipedia is home to 1,775,776 articles (link). However, collaboration can get ugly fast.

General Motor’s Chevy brand wanted to create an interactive experience, so it offered online tools that let users “Make [Their] Own Tahoe Commercial.” Chevy offered prizes like a Jackson Hole vacation and tickets to the Major League All-Star Baseball Game for the best entries. Over 400,000 participates responded, but 16% of the submitted ads mocked the SUV, leading GM to take down the application. (link)

I struggle with collaboration, mostly out of a desire to figure things out and do it myself. (A tendency I’ve shown since about the age of two.) It’s not that I’m unwilling to learn from others or take advice. Rather, I enjoy the sense of having accomplished something on my own, a thinking filled with all sorts of flaws. Ultimately, if I’m serious about doubling my abilities, I need to get over myself.

This same obstacle trips up companies unfamiliar and uncomfortable with collaboration too. The Chevy case is only one example of how things can get out of hand, due, in part, to a loss of control. You’re trusting someone or a group of someone’s to contribute in meaningful manner. You’re risking the success of your idea on the potential that others can add to it and make it that much better.

Back to Moore, the real Moore that is. In 2005, on the 40th anniversary of the idea, Moore commented that “Moore’s Law is a violation of Murphy’s Law. Everything gets better and better.” (link via Wikipedia) I believe this possibility is collaboration’s potential.

My abilities are ultimately finite. And your abilities are ultimately finite. But combine mine, yours, and everyone else finite abilities and you have infinite possibilities.



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May 2007
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