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Unformatted text preview: tion- a nd- ne w- te c hnology- ha ve - stoppe d- dr iving- gr owth- ge tting- inc r e a sing 3/8 1/31/13 I nnova tion pe ssimism: Ha s the ide a s ma c hine br oke n down? | The Ec onomist but c ook ing is done muc h as it was by grandma.
Or tak e s peed. In the 19th c entury hors es and s ailboats were replac ed by railway s and
s teams hips . Internalc ombus tion engines and jet turbines made it pos s ible to mov e more
and more things fas ter and fas ter. But s inc e the 1970s humanity has been c oas ting.
Highway trav el is little fas ter than it was 50 y ears ago; indeed, endemic c onges tion has
many c ities now inv es ting in trams and bic y c le lanes . Supers onic pas s enger trav el has
been abandoned. So, for the pas t 40 y ears , has the moon.
Medic ine offers another ex ample. Life ex pec tanc y at birth in Americ a s oared from 49 y ears
at the turn of the 20th c entury to 74 y ears in 1980. Enormous tec hnic al adv anc es hav e
oc c urred s inc e that time. Yet as of 2011 life ex pec tanc y res ted at jus t 78.7 y ears . Des pite
hundreds of billions of dollars s pent on res earc h, people c ontinue to fall to c anc er, heart
dis eas e, s trok e and organ failure. Molec ular medic ine has c ome nowhere c los e to matc hing
the effec ts of improv ed s anitation.
To thos e fortunate enough to benefit from the bes t that the world has to offer, the fac t that it
offers no more c an dis appoint. As Mr Thiel and his c olleagues at the Founders Fund, a
v enturec apital c ompany , put it: “We wanted fly ing c ars , ins tead we got 140 c harac ters .” A
world where all c an us e Twitter but hardly any c an c ommute by air is les s impres s iv e than
the futures dreamed of in the pas t.
The firs t thing to point out about this appeal to ex perienc e and ex pec tation is that the
s c ienc e fic tion of the mid20th c entury , important as it may hav e been to people who
bec ame entrepreneurs or ec onomis ts with a tas te for the big pic ture, c ons tituted neither
s erious tec hnologic al forec as...
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This document was uploaded on 02/16/2014 for the course MGMT 237 at UPenn.
- Spring '14