[Home] [Tech Library]

6. Conclusions

This paper has explored mechanisms for the allocation of processor time and storage that are compatible both with programming practice and with market mechanisms. Processor scheduling through an auction process yields a flexible, decentralized priority system, allowing a variety of strategies that make tradeoffs involving the speed, certainty, and cost of service. Storage can be managed through auctioning of rental space and decentralized networks of client-consultant relationships. This yields a distributed garbage collection algorithm able both to collect unreferenced loops that cross trust boundaries and to accumulate rough price information to guide economic decisions regarding, for example, local caching in distributed systems.

Some of these algorithms (e.g., for processor scheduling) have per-decision costs comparable to those of non-market mechanisms in current use; others have costs that are much greater. In general, these costs will be acceptable for objects of sufficient size and processes of sufficient duration. The question of the appropriate scale at which to apply market mechanisms can be addressed by additional study but will best be addressed by experience in actual computational markets. The proposals made here can doubtless be improved upon; they are merely intended to illustrate some of the issues involved in incentive engineering for computational markets, and to provide a starting point for discussion and design. Any advances toward lower costs, greater effectiveness, and better incentive structures will shift tradeoff points in favor of finer-grained application of market mechanisms.

Even heavy overhead costs would leave intact a solid case for market mechanisms in computation. This case rests on the value of doing the right thing (or something like it) with some overhead costs, rather than doing something blatantly wrong with polished efficiency. And when finding the right thing to do requires cooperation, competition, and freewheeling experimentation, the value of decentralized systems with market accountability becomes very great indeed.

Previous Next

[Home] [Tech Library]