Google’s head of engineering, innovator and futurist Ray Kurzweil often discusses the concept of longevity escape velocity; or the point at which science can extend your life for more than a year for every year that you are alive. Kurzweil believes we are much closer than you might think. In fact, he believes we are just another 10 to 12 years away from the point that the general public will hit this longevity escape velocity.
In a brilliant journey through the economic history of the western world, author Robert J. Gordon looks at The Rise and Fall of American Growth. This recent book focuses on a revolutionary century that impacted the American standard of living more than any period before or after. Our standard of living is typically viewed as the ratio of total production of goods and services (real GDP) per member of the population. But this measure fails to truly capture enhancements to our well-being. Human well-being is influenced by advances in the areas of food, clothing, shelter, energy, transport, education, health, work, information, entertainment, and communications. The special century (1870 – 1970) that followed the Civil War was made possible by a unique clustering of what the author calls the great inventions. Clearly – as the visual I developed depicts – the great inventions of the second industrial revolution significantly improved our well-being:
A recent book by Robert J. Gordon titled The Rise and Fall of American Growth shines a light on technological innovation and its past and future impact on growth. The premise of the book is that the innovations of the special century (1870 – 1970) cannot be replicated. As such, the author does not envision a return to growth for America (hence the title). The book is very well written, and I will touch on aspects of it in future posts. For this post, I’d like to gauge the reader’s level of optimism or pessimism.