"Technopessimism Is Bunk"
August 26, 2013
Yes! Distinguished economist Joel Mokyr smacks down the pessimists:
Yet today, once again, we hear concerns that innovation has peaked. Some claim that "the low-hanging fruits have all been picked." The big inventions that made daily life so much more comfortable -- air conditioning, running cold and hot water, antibiotics, ready-made food, the washing machine -- have all been made and cannot be matched, so the thinking goes.
Entrepreneur Peter Thiel's widely quoted line "we wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters" reflects a sense of disappointment. Others feel that the regulatory state reflects a change in culture: we are too afraid to take chances; we have become complacent, lazy and conservative.
Still others, on the contrary, want to stop technology from going much further because they worry that it will render people redundant, as more and more work is done by machines that can see, hear, read and (in their own fashion) think. What we gained as consumers, viewers, patients and citizens, they fear, we may be about to lose as workers. Technology, while it may have saved the world in the past century, has done what it was supposed to do. Now we need to focus on other things, they say.
This view is wrong and dangerous. Technology has not finished its work; it has barely started.
Related: "Why Capitalism is Awesome".
And see also "The US Is Well On Its Way To Replace Saudi Arabia As The World's Largest Oil Producer". Why? Technology and markets.
But the true genius of the market economy isn’t that it produces prominent, highly publicized goods to inspire retail queues, or the medical breakthroughs that make the nightly news. No, the genius of capitalism is found in the tiny things — the things that nobody notices. A market economy is characterized by an infinite succession of imperceptible, iterative changes and adjustments.