One of my interests about a decade ago was agorics, the study of computational markets.  Mark S. Miller and K. Eric Drexler pushed this idea in the late 1990s and collected a fair portion of the work on the topic on Drexler’s website.  A sample from the section on computation and economic order:

Trusting objects with decisions regarding resource tradeoffs will make sense only if they are led toward decisions that serve the general interest-there is no moral argument for ensuring the freedom, dignity, and autonomy of simple programs. Properly-functioning price mechanisms can provide the needed incentives.

The cost of consuming a resource is an opportunity cost-the cost of giving up alternative uses. In a market full of entities attempting to produce products that will sell for more than the cost of the needed inputs, economic theory indicates that prices typically reflect these costs.

Consider a producer, such as an object that produces services. The price of an input shows how greatly it is wanted by the rest of the system; high input prices (costs) will discourage low-value uses. The price of an output likewise shows how greatly it is wanted by the rest of the system; high output prices will encourage production. To increase (rather than destroy) value as ‘judged by the rest of the system as a whole’,a producer need only ensure that the price of its product exceeds the prices (costs) of the inputs consumed. This simple, local decision rule gains its power from the ability of market prices to summarize global information about relative values.


I still think it’s an interesting concept, and the rise of cloud computing has, to an extent, fulfilled this idea:  AWS spot pricing is one of the best examples I know of, where resource spot prices will change depending upon load.

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