The Technological Foundations of Prosperity Symposium
Creating a cross-disciplinary community with computer scientists and economists faces two hurdles. The first hurdle, which is common to all interdisciplinary work, is that different disciplines tend to focus on different topics, use different methods, and be physically separated – all of which deter mutual understanding and collaboration. But these factors are not determinative, many disciplines still find ways of collaborating. One might have expected this to also be true for computer science and economics, since computer science is such an important driver of productivity growth. However the historical structure of computer science – modular with levels of abstraction – is a second hurdle that has exacerbated the separation between the disciplines. This is because changes lower in the stack, e.g. Moore’s Law and hardware architecture changes, are hidden from the user behind modular interfaces (e.g. operating system). This technical abstraction can (and often is) exploited by economists who then only look at high-level attributes of technology, e.g. spending on I.T., rather than the technical details of what is actually being implemented and on what system. For decades this worked reasonably well. But, as Moore’s Law ends, engineers are beginning to break these modularities in search of more performance. This creates an urgent need for economists and business scholars to re-engage with the technical details in order to understand how I.T. will drive prosperity. This conference will help to create this community and articulate a research agenda for it.