Von Neumann's Legacy: 'Intelligent' Capital in a Weightless Economy
Trinity Economic Technical Paper No. 18/98
Posted: 8 Sep 1998
Date Written: July 1998
Computers are different from hammers because, unlike hammers, they can operate autonomously, manipulate symbols, and modify themselves. This paper analyzes the factor behind the phenomenon of the de-materialization of advanced economies: combinations of electronic hardware and software; considers their heterogeneity as compared to other forms of capital; and seeks to explain the origins of that heterogeneity. Today's computers are examples of an "intelligent" capital--a means of production that actively incorporates human capital in physical forms. Their characteristics derive from developments in computing and automata theory that benefited from John von Neumann's research. On this basis the paper shows that intelligent capital is potentially capable of increasing through a process which does not require investment in the traditional sense, and comments on the relevance of this capacity to economic analysis and the study of advanced, "weightless" economies.
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JEL Classification: O30, O40, B31
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation