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« Land of the Free, Home of the Brave (?) | Main | Liberty After Lehman Brothers: What Have We Learned? »


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Where I come down is that no one knows how this great machine of progress got started and no one knows when or if it will end. You can draw a lot of analogies from history and look at trends, but the predictive value of it is squat.

Mokyr says as much: "History is always a bad guide to the future and economic historians should avoid making predictions."

But then he does so anyway, with arguments along the lines of:

"Can new technology stop it? There is no doubt that it can, even if nobody can predict right now what shape that will take, and if collective action difficulties will actually make it realistic."

"It seems plausible that the future, too, will create occupations we cannot imagine, let alone envisage."


"seems plausible" arguments are nice and interesting, but not very useful.

My position is that the engine of innovation was arrived at by random variation within social systems (with a few necessary but not sufficient institutional conditions making it possible to begin with) and that we have no clue whether or not it will suddenly or eventually just stop, as we have no clue what precisely got it going in the first place.

If the US has become a connection society as the previous post suggests, then stagnation is the future.

As Eric Voegelin noted, the more a people throw themselves into world immanent "progress," the more they lose touch with the basis of human spiritual well being.

So, yes, it is quite possible that in 100 years we will have a nation of spiritual zombies living to 180 watching 200 inch plasma screen TVs with full smellovision and brain implants to allow kinetic transmissions. And if that is "getting better," then "things" indeed might keep going that way.

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