NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Algorithms and the Changing Frontier

Hezekiah Agwara, Philip Auerswald, Brian Higginbotham

NBER Working Paper No. 20039
Issued in April 2014
NBER Program(s):   PR

We first summarize the dominant interpretations of the “frontier” in the United States and predecessor colonies over the past 400 years: agricultural (1610s-1880s), industrial (1890s-1930s), scientific (1940s- 1980s), and algorithmic (1990s-present). We describe the difference between the algorithmic frontier and the scientific frontier. We then propose that the recent phenomenon referred to as “globalization” is actually better understood as the progression of the algorithmic frontier, as enabled by standards that in turn have facilitated the interoperability of firm-level production algorithms. We conclude by describing implications of the advance of the algorithmic frontier for scientific discovery and technological innovation.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w20039

Forthcoming: Algorithms and the Changing Frontier, Hezekiah Agwara, Philip Auerswald, Brian Higginbotham. in The Changing Frontier: Rethinking Science and Innovation Policy, Jaffe and Jones. 2014

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