Computing overhang refers to a situation where new algorithms can exploit existing computing power far more efficiently than before. This can happen if previously used algorithms have been suboptimal.

In the context of Artificial General Intelligence, this signifies a situation where it becomes possible to create AGIs that can be run using only a small fraction of the easily available hardware resources. This could lead to an intelligence explosion, or to a massive increase in the number of AGIs, as they could be easily copied to run on countless computers. This could make AGIs much more powerful than before, and present an existential risk.


In 2010, the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology reported on benchmark production planning model having become faster by a factor of 43 million between 1988 and 2003. Of this improvement, only a factor of roughly 1,000 was due to better hardware, while a factor of 43,000 came from algorithmic improvements. This clearly reflects a situation where new programming methods were able to use available computing power more efficiently....

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