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There is plenty of time at the bottom: the economics, risk and ethics of time compression

There is plenty of time at the bottom: the economics, risk and ethics of time compression The speed of computing and other automated processes plays an important role in how the world functions by causing “time compression”. This paper aims to review reasons to believe computation will continue to become faster in the future, the economic consequences of speedups and how these affect risk, ethics and governance.Design/methodology/approachA brief review of science and trends followed by an analysis of consequences.FindingsCurrent computation is far from the physical limits in terms of processing speed. Algorithmic improvements may be equally powerful but cannot easily be predicted or bounded. Communication and sensing is already at the physical speed limits, although improvements in bandwidth will likely be significant. The value in these speedups lies in productivity gains, timeliness, early arrival of results and cybernetic feedback shifts. However, time compression can lead to loss of control owing to inability to track fast change, emergent or systemic risk and asynchrony. Speedups can also exacerbate inequalities between different agents and reduce safety if there are competitive pressures. Fast decisions are potentially not better decisions, as they may be made on little data.Social implicationsThe impact on society and the challenge to governance are likely to be profound, requiring adapting new methods for managing fast-moving and technological risks.Originality/valueThe speed with which events happen is an important aspect of foresight, not just as a subject of prediction or analysis, but also as a driver of the kinds of dynamics that are possible. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png foresight Emerald Publishing

There is plenty of time at the bottom: the economics, risk and ethics of time compression

foresight , Volume 21 (1): 16 – Mar 11, 2019

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Publisher
Emerald Publishing
Copyright
© Emerald Publishing Limited
ISSN
1463-6689
DOI
10.1108/fs-04-2018-0044
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

The speed of computing and other automated processes plays an important role in how the world functions by causing “time compression”. This paper aims to review reasons to believe computation will continue to become faster in the future, the economic consequences of speedups and how these affect risk, ethics and governance.Design/methodology/approachA brief review of science and trends followed by an analysis of consequences.FindingsCurrent computation is far from the physical limits in terms of processing speed. Algorithmic improvements may be equally powerful but cannot easily be predicted or bounded. Communication and sensing is already at the physical speed limits, although improvements in bandwidth will likely be significant. The value in these speedups lies in productivity gains, timeliness, early arrival of results and cybernetic feedback shifts. However, time compression can lead to loss of control owing to inability to track fast change, emergent or systemic risk and asynchrony. Speedups can also exacerbate inequalities between different agents and reduce safety if there are competitive pressures. Fast decisions are potentially not better decisions, as they may be made on little data.Social implicationsThe impact on society and the challenge to governance are likely to be profound, requiring adapting new methods for managing fast-moving and technological risks.Originality/valueThe speed with which events happen is an important aspect of foresight, not just as a subject of prediction or analysis, but also as a driver of the kinds of dynamics that are possible.

Journal

foresightEmerald Publishing

Published: Mar 11, 2019

Keywords: Ethics

References