Tuesday, September 08, 2015

[anhumtak] Hyperprojects

Consider engineering projects that take many years to build.  For each year i of its construction, let p_i be the portion of the world's total GDP (GDP summed over all countries) spent on the project that year.  Define a hyperproject as a project for which the sum of p_i for all years of its construction is greater than Y, the life expectancy of a person during the construction.  In other words, a hyperproject costs at least 70 times the world's annual economic output.  It would be impossible to build in under one lifetime; it would probably built over hundreds or thousands of years.

Possible candidates of things that are (sort of) engineering hyperprojects: rebuilding after the Toba eruption (where GDP is artificially low because of the near extinction of the human race), rebuilding after the Mongol conquests.  In the future, colonizing the stars may be hyperprojects though it might be hard to exceed our threshold if there are significant improvements in longevity.

The original motivation was, we have supercomputers: what kind of computer would deserve to be called a hypercomputer?

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