Posted in my personal capacity

The AGI governance community has recently converged on compute governance[1] as a promising lever for reducing existential risks from AI.

One likely building block for any maximally secure compute governance regime is stock and flow accounting of (some kinds of) compute: i.e., requiring realtime accurate declaration to regulators of who possesses which uniquely numbered regulated chips, with penalties for undeclared or unauthorized[2] transfers.

To understand the optimal design and feasibility of such a regime, we seek historical analogies for similar regimes. One that we are already familiar with include:

  • Fissile nuclear material and other nuclear weapons components
  • Firearms
  • Some financial instruments
  • Automobiles
  • Real estate

What are other good existing or historical analogies for compute stock and flow accounting? An ideal analogy will have many of the following traits:[3]

  • The thing being tracked is a physical object
  • The thing being tracked is economically important
  • The thing being tracked is dual-use
  • The tracking regime requires registration of current ownership and any transfers
  • The tracking regime imposes penalties for failing to register ownership or transfer

More and better examples of stock and flow accounting mechanisms could be extremely informative in improving compute governance proposals.

  1. See, e.g., this sequence by Lennart Heim. ↩︎

  2. The question of which types of transfers ought to be authorized is important but beyond the scope of this post. ↩︎

  3. NB: Many of the above do not have all of these traits! ↩︎

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4 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 9:53 PM

Maybe controlled substances? - e.g. in UK there are requirements for pharmacies to store controlled substances securely, dispose of them in particular ways, keep records of prescriptions, do due diligence that the patient is not addicted or reselling etc. And presumably there are systems for supplying to pharmacies etc and tracking ownership.

Not sure if any of these qualify but: Military equipment, ingredients for making drugs, ingredients for explosives, refugees and travelers (being transferred between countries), stocks and certificates of ownership (used to be physical), big amounts of cash. Also I bet there was lots of registration of goods in planned economies.

Counterfeit tracking (e.g. for high-end clothing) could be another domain that has confronted this sort of tracking problem. Though I'm not sure if they do that with accounting versus e.g. tagging each individual piece of clothing.

Thanks! I'm a bit confused by this though. Could you point me to some background information on the type of tracking that is done there?