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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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Material accounting controls on chemical weapons and precursors under the chemical weapons convention might fulfil some of your criteria.