Is innovation over? The case against pessimism.

https://www.foreignaffairs.com/reviews/review-essay/2016-01-28/innovation-over

  • An economy that grows at one percent doubles its average income approximately every 70 years, whereas an economy that grows at three percent doubles its average income about every 23 years—which, over time, makes a big difference in people’s lives.
  • The period from 1870 to 1970 was a “special century,” when the foundations of the modern world were laid. Electricity, flush toilets, central heating, cars, planes, radio, vaccines, clean water, antibiotics, and much, much more transformed living and working conditions.
  • Not all GDP gains are created equal. Some sources of growth, such as antibiotics, vaccines, and clean water, transform society beyond the size of their share of GDP. But others do not, such as many of the luxury goods developed since the 1980s. GDP calculations do not always reflect such differences.
  • Robert Gordon cites the mediocre American educational system, rising income inequality, government debt, and low levels of population growth, among other factors, as unfavorable headwinds that are buffeting the U.S. economy.
  • It seems obvious that no single individual, not even the most talented entrepreneur, can predict much of the future.
  • A few technological breakthroughs we could witness in the coming years: significant new ways to treat mental health, such as better antidepressants; strong and effective but nonaddictive painkillers; artificial intelligence and smart software that could eliminate many of the most boring, repetitive jobs; genetic engineering; and the use of modified smartphones for medical monitoring and diagnosis.
  • Thanks to greater political and economic freedom all over the world, more individual geniuses have the potential to contribute to global innovation than ever before.
  • Given that economic growth and technological progress are uneven, there may well be bumps on the road when it comes to using computers to significantly improve human well-being.
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