What is the Buxton index?

Tom James @ 16-02-2009

buxtonAn interesting science-fictional concept concerning intitutional longevity, via the late pioneering computer scientist Edsger W Dijkstra, in this essay (EWD 1175):

The Buxton Index of an entity, i.e. person or organization, is defined as the length of the period, measured in years, over which the entity makes its plans.

For the little grocery shop around the corner it is about 1/2,for the true Christian it is infinity, and for most other entities it is in between: about 4 for the average politician who aims at his re-election, slightly more for most industries, but much less for the managers who have to write quarterly reports.

The Buxton Index is an important concept because close co-operation between entities with very different Buxton Indices invariably fails and leads to moral complaints about the partner.

This is an interesting concept: and one that helps explain a lot of attitudes and responses towards issues like climate change, environmental destruction, and DRM.

In each case there are two different parties that are thinking in terms of two completely different Buxton indices. Short term profit vs. longterm survival in AGW or short term data security vs. longterm preservation of cultural artefacts in DRM.

[via this comment in Charlie’s Diary][image from Parksy1964 on flickr]

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3 Responses to “What is the Buxton index?”

  1. Rick York says:

    I’m just curious to know if you are aware of the “Long Now Foundation”?

    I wonder what its Buxton Index would be.

    Rick York

  2. Tom James says:

    Thanks Rick: it says the Long Now guys have built a clock to tick for 10,000 years:


    Poetic, no? But also a very substantial Buxton index. Kudos to them.

  3. Lion Kimbro says:

    I think the Damanhurians would say that their Buxton index is “400i” — as in 400 times the square root of negative one; See Anthony Judge’s notes at: http://www.laetusinpraesens.org/docs00s/horus.php