Sunday, January 16, 2011

Moore's Law?

I read that according to Moore's Law, computer power doubles every 12-18 months, depending on who you quote. Read an article the other day that listed the doubling times of many different facets of computer performance and they ranged from about 10-12 months to about 30 months.

This got me to thinking about its ramifications to the computer we have between our ears and the rate of knowledge/skill acquisition--specifically, how long does it take to double our knowledge/skill in a difficult endeavor such as learning a language or learning to play a musical instrument?

I've been working on (finally!) learning to play the piano for about 30 months now. This final "big push" is something I've been scared of my whole life, but I figure at age 61, I've got nothing to lose! Learning to play the piano is such a massive undertaking that I was always daunted by the prospect. What if I put in years and years and it turned out that the time was wasted, that I had nothing to show for it? Truthfully, I was always afraid that I lacked the key ingredient, that it wasn't really possible for me to do this. So I goofed around half-heartedly for most of a lifetime at the piano without much success.

For some reason, in the spring of 2008, I decided to learn to play, or die trying. Literally! I fully intend to play as long as I can and make this an experiment in the limits of geriatric learning.

As it turns out, learning to play the piano is: 1)tougher that I even thought it might be; 2)actually possible; 3)very gratifying in unexpected ways. After 32 trips through Bach's 371 chorale harmonizations I find my hands doing things at rates of speed I could have scarcely imagined. It's getting really fun. And I'm not even mediocre yet. I'll let you know when I make it to mediocre. Maybe in another 30 or 40 times through. I'm averaging about once through the book a month--that's a dozen chorales a day for 30 days each month, roughly.

I'm also working my way through two large books of ragtime--the complete piano works of Scott Joplin and a book of the most famous rags by numerous composers. These are getting easier and easier. Not easy. Easier.

These days I often get the feeling that I'm making breakthroughs. This brings me to Moore's Law. Does it hold true for learning curves? I hope so. Double ability the first 18 months, double that the 2nd, etc. After 7 1/2years (5 times 18 months), the ability/skill/speed should be 32 times the initial. Of course, if the initial is zero, you can do the math! But I started with something. Not much, but something. Anyone care to comment on this?

No comments: