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Real-Time Decentralized Information Processing and Returns to Scale

Author

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  • Timothy Van Zandt
  • Roy Radner

Abstract

We use a model of real-time decentralized information processing to understand how constraints on human information processing affect the returns to scale of organizations. We identify three informational (dis)economies of scale: diversification of heterogeneous risks (positive), sharing of information and of costs (positive), and crowding out of recent information due to information processing delay (negative). Because decision rules are endogenous, delay does not inexorably lead to decreasing returns to scale. However, returns are more likely to be decreasing when computation constraints, rather than sampling costs, limit the information upon which decisions are conditioned. The results illustrate how information processing constraints together with the requirement of informaitonal integration cause a breakdown of the replication arguments that have been used to establish nondecreasing technological returns to scale.

Suggested Citation

  • Timothy Van Zandt & Roy Radner, 1998. "Real-Time Decentralized Information Processing and Returns to Scale," Discussion Papers 1233, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  • Handle: RePEc:nwu:cmsems:1233
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    File URL: http://www.kellogg.northwestern.edu/research/math/papers/1233.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Thomas Marschak, 1996. "On economies of scope in communication," Review of Economic Design, Springer;Society for Economic Design, pages 1-31.
    2. Erik Brynjolfsson & Thomas W. Malone & Vijay Gurbaxani & Ajit Kambil, 1994. "Does Information Technology Lead to Smaller Firms?," Management Science, INFORMS, pages 1628-1644.
    3. Geanakoplos, John & Milgrom, Paul, 1991. "A theory of hierarchies based on limited managerial attention," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, pages 205-225.
    4. Erik J. Brynjolfsson & Thomas Malone & Vijay Gurbaxani & Ajit Kambil, 1991. "Does Information Technology Lead to Smaller Firms?," Working Paper Series 123, MIT Center for Coordination Science.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    returns to scale; real-time computation; decentralized information processing; organizations; bounded rationality;

    JEL classification:

    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • D23 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Organizational Behavior; Transaction Costs; Property Rights

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