“…apart from the seemingly magical internet, life in broad material terms isn’t so different from what it was in 1953…The wonders portrayed in THE JETSONS, the space-age television cartoon from the 1960s, have not come to pass…Life is better and we have more stuff, but the pace of change has slowed down compared to what people saw two or three generations ago.”
“If one sentence were to sum up the mechanism driving the Great Stagnation, it is this: Recent and current innovation is more geared to private goods than to public goods. That simple observation ties together the three major macroeconomic events of our time: growing income inequality, stagnant median income, and the financial crisis.”
“advances since 1970 have tended to be channeled into a narrow sphere of human activity having to do with entertainment, communications, and the collection and processing of information. For the rest of what humans care about—food, clothing, shelter, transportation, health, and working conditions both inside and outside the home—progress slowed down after 1970,”
“The economic revolution of 1870 to 1970 was unique in human history, unrepeatable because so many of its achievements could happen only once.”
These kinds of examples show that there can be ecosystems that are better at generating progress than others, perhaps by orders of magnitude. But what do they have in common? Just how productive can a cultural ecosystem be? Why did Silicon Valley happen in California rather than Japan or Boston? Why was early-20th-century science in Germany and Central Europe so strong? Can we deliberately engineer the conditions most hospitable to this kind of advancement or effectively tweak the systems that surround us today?
we’re coming to appreciate more and more that organizations with higher levels of trust can delegate authority more effectively, thereby boosting their responsiveness and ability to handle problems. Organizations as varied as Y Combinator, MIT’s Radiation Lab, and ARPA have astonishing track records in catalyzing progress far beyond their confines.
while science generates much of our prosperity, scientists and researchers themselves do not sufficiently obsess over how it should be organized.
The problem is desire. We need to want these things. The problem is inertia. We need to want these things more than we want to prevent these things. The problem is regulatory capture. We need to want new companies to build these things, even if incumbents don’t like it, even if only to force the incumbents to build these things. And the problem is will. We need to build these things.
It’s time for full-throated, unapologetic, uncompromised political support from the right for aggressive investment in new products, in new industries, in new factories, in new science, in big leaps forward.
The ARPA/PARC history shows that a combination of vision, a modest amount of funding, with a felicitous context and process can almost magically give rise to new technologies that not only amplify civilization, but also produce tremendous wealth for the society. Isn’t it time to do this again by Reason, even with no Cold War to use as an excuse?
`Even God wouldn’t get a grant today because somebody on the committee would say, oh those were very interesting experiments (creating the universe), but they’ve never been repeated. And then someone else would say, yes and he did it a long time ago, what’s he done recently? And a third would say, to top it all, he published it all in an un-refereed journal (The Bible).