The Point

Computers are a special type of digital circuit. They are created to be programmed and reprogrammed until they die. We can change, experiment, and adapt the programs they run until we find one we like. The generality they provide sacrifices their ability to run with high efficiency. Dedicated circuits to a specific task (like mining Bitcoin for example) will beat the snot out of the nicest computer you have. But that ASIC will only live one life, whereas your computer can live many.

Energy efficiency is becoming the next barrier to increasing our computing power. I do not believe general purpose computers are fit to fill that role and are better suited to circuits which do less, but with orders of magnitude better efficiency.

In order to make that a viable option we need better manufacturer capabilities for lower cost of development for small batch dedicated circuits like ASIC. Additionally, re-configurable circuits like FPGA’s are dying to become mainstream but remain locked behind patent walls. And not all of the circuits I have in mind are fixed function — DSP’s for example can be programmed too — but they all win efficiency by sacrificing flexibility.

Computers are not the solution to everything and we need to embrace that.