Inventors, visionaries, engineers — whatever you want to call them — have to arrive at each level before they can even imagine a way to the next one … and then create it.
The exponential improvement of a given technology — Moore’s Law in the case of computer chip technology — measures the ultimate speed at which a large group of creative humans can proceed to improve a technology, under competition, when there’s no physical barrier to its improvement and when the technology must pay its own way.
It’s like the evolution of living things. Tiny changes aggregate into eventually massive changes, different species even — but the living things must remain viable at every step. There couldn’t have been a direct one-step leap from a bacterium to a baby. In contrast to Darwinian evolution, however, Moore’s Law changes have a teleology: towards cheaper, larger, denser, and faster. We implement each step to see if it actually works, then gain the courage, the insight, and the engineering mastery to proceed to the next step.