TPM Goes Steampunk

In, The Innovation Dilemma: Is America Stagnating? two fellows from MIT discuss whether America is done or not.

Everyone agrees that it would be troubling news if America’s rate of innovation were to decrease. But we can’t seem to agree at all about whether this is actually happening.

We care about innovation so much not simply because we like new stuff, although we certainly do. … From an economist’s perspective, satisfying these desires is great—taking care of consumer demand is usually seen as a good thing. But innovation is also the most important force that makes our society wealthier.

But is it innovation that is most important? In this next paragraph it was a new technology – the steam engine – that really kick-started economic growth:

Gordon emphasizes—as do we—the role of new technologies in driving economic growth. And like us, he’s impressed by the productive power unleashed by the steam engine and the other technologies of the Industrial Revolution. According to Gordon, it was the first truly significant event in the economic history of the world. As he writes, “there was almost no economic growth for four centuries and probably for the previous millennium” prior to 1750, or roughly when the Industrial Revolution started. As we saw in the first chapter, human population growth and social development were very nearly flat until the steam engine came along. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that economic growth was, too.

And what made the steam engine possible? Coal, and other energy intensive fossil fuels – which are being depleted, but are not discussed at all.

Here is some word frequency from the article:

innovation 29
technology, ies 5
steam 4
progress 2
electricity 1
oil reserves 1
energy 0
coal 0
gas 0
nuclear 0
alternative 0
solar 0
wind 0


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2 responses to “TPM Goes Steampunk”

  1. trkingmomoe says :

    You have a good point there.


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