Oliver Payne

Behavioural insight & comms consultant

6 Billion computer chips and the World’s energy use.

By admin • Dec 2nd, 2008 • Category: News / Updates / Thinking

In the next two years more computing power will be made than has ever existed. I’m going to say that again: In the next two years more computing power will be made than has ever existed. Source: Radio 4, Start the Week, 1.12.08


It’s the very definition of exponential growth. In raw numbers that means more chips will be made than people on the planet; well over 6 billion. However, only 1% of these chips will be in personal computers. The rest will be in washing machines, and pond sprinklers and… toasters. (That’s one hell of a user manual). It won’t all be FMCG and consumer household goods though - cars, ships, heavy industry, and the military. Probably toilets too.

I think the chip manufacturers need to take a leaf out of Steve Jobs’s book; He always pushed development teams to shave seconds off of the load time of his computers, citing the multiplication effect as a reason.

But does it really matter if you save 0.000000001% difference in the energy use of each chip? If you multiply that figure by a conservative 6 billion - which is the floor number because we’ll make more than the population of the Earth - you get a figure of 6%. A 6% reduction of global energy use is big. Consider this: “Global primary energy consumption grew by 2.4% in 2007″ Statistical Review of World Energy 2008 | BP

Let’s just hope each new chip is one in a billion (-th fewer watt-hours).

As an aside, did you know the 1969 Moon landings were made with less computational power than exists in a singing Birthday card? How far we’ve come.

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admin is a digital native who's been taking brands and businesses digital since 1995 (only 5 years after Tim Burners-Lee created the first ever web page). Honing his skills in a variety of companies for the last 14 years, including Ogilvy and Saatchi & Saatchi as a Creative Director, Partner and/or Board Member. He also won some awards.
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