Von Neumann's Legacy: 'Intelligent' Capital in a Weightless Economy

Trinity Economic Technical Paper No. 18/98

Posted: 8 Sep 1998

See all articles by Alessandro Acquisti

Alessandro Acquisti

Carnegie Mellon University - H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management

Date Written: July 1998

Abstract

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

Acquisti, Alessandro, Von Neumann's Legacy: 'Intelligent' Capital in a Weightless Economy (July 1998). Trinity Economic Technical Paper No. 18/98, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=123808

Alessandro Acquisti (Contact Author)

Carnegie Mellon University - H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States
412-268-9853 (Phone)
412-268-5339 (Fax)

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