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Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy by Jonathan Taplin
1960s counterculture, affirmative action, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Airbnb, Amazon Mechanical Turk, American Legislative Exchange Council, Apple's 1984 Super Bowl advert, back-to-the-land, barriers to entry, basic income, battle of ideas, big data - Walmart - Pop Tarts, bitcoin, Brewster Kahle, Buckminster Fuller, Burning Man, Clayton Christensen, commoditize, creative destruction, crony capitalism, crowdsourcing, data is the new oil, David Brooks, David Graeber, don't be evil, Donald Trump, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, Dynabook, Edward Snowden, Elon Musk, equal pay for equal work, Erik Brynjolfsson, future of journalism, future of work, George Akerlof, George Gilder, Google bus, Hacker Ethic, Howard Rheingold, income inequality, informal economy, information asymmetry, information retrieval, Internet Archive, Internet of things, invisible hand, Jaron Lanier, Jeff Bezos, job automation, John Markoff, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, John von Neumann, Joseph Schumpeter, Kevin Kelly, Kickstarter, labor-force participation, life extension, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Menlo Park, Metcalfe’s law, Mother of all demos, move fast and break things, move fast and break things, natural language processing, Network effects, new economy, Norbert Wiener, offshore financial centre, packet switching, Paul Graham, paypal mafia, Peter Thiel, plutocrats, Plutocrats, pre–internet, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, rent-seeking, revision control, Robert Bork, Robert Gordon, Robert Metcalfe, Ronald Reagan, Ross Ulbricht, Sam Altman, Sand Hill Road, secular stagnation, self-driving car, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, smart grid, Snapchat, software is eating the world, Steve Jobs, Stewart Brand, technoutopianism, The Chicago School, The Market for Lemons, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, Tim Cook: Apple, trade route, transfer pricing, Travis Kalanick, trickle-down economics, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, universal basic income, unpaid internship, We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters, web application, Whole Earth Catalog, winner-take-all economy, women in the workforce, Y Combinator
Gordon argues that the hype around the technology revolution is overdone and that digital services are less important to productivity than any one of the five great inventions that drove economic growth before 1970: electricity, urban sanitation, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, the internal combustion engine, and telecommunications. Yes, it’s nice to have a phone and a computer in your pocket, but has it really changed the world the way the inventions of Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, and Henry Ford did? Even Peter Thiel has remarked, “We wanted flying cars; instead we got 140 characters.” For Gordon, the future may be characterized by stagnant living standards, rising inequality, falling education levels, and an aging population. This chart, taken from Gordon’s book, puts the lie to notions about the computer revolution introducing radical productivity. Not a pretty picture. It isn’t a leap to think this stagnation could lead to much deeper social conflict.
Jennifer Burns, Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right (London: Oxford University Press, 2009). Anne Conover Heller, Ayn Rand and the World She Made (New York: Nan A. Talese, 2009). Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead (New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1943). Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged (New York: Random House, 1957). Peter Thiel, “The Education of a Libertarian,” Cato Institute, April 2009, www.cato-unbound.org/2009/04/13/peter-thiel/education-libertarian. Hans Hermann-Hoppe, Democracy—The God That Failed (Newark: Transaction, 2001). Greg Satell, “Peter Thiel’s Four Rules for Creating a Great Business,” Forbes, October 3, 2014, www.forbes.com/sites/gregsatell/2014/10/03/peter-thiels-4-rules-for-creating-a-great-business/2/#2ea53ac12804. Brad Stone, The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2013). Chapter Five: Digital Destruction The film The Social Network, written by Aaron Sorkin and directed by David Fincher, is a remarkably honest telling of the birth of Facebook.
Speaking at the Black Hat USA cybersecurity conference in 2015, longtime tech security guru Dan Kaminsky said, “Half of all Americans are backing away from the net due to fears regarding security and privacy. We need to go ahead and get the Internet fixed or risk losing this engine of beauty.” People like Google CEO Larry Page, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, PayPal founder Peter Thiel, and Sean Parker of Napster and Facebook fame are among the richest men in the world, with ambitions so outsize that they are the stuff of fiction: Dave Eggers’s The Circle and Don DeLillo’s Zero K are populated with tech billionaires inventing technology that will enable people to live forever. But this scenario is happening in real life. Peter Thiel, Larry Page, and others are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in research to “end human aging” and to merge human consciousness into their all-powerful networks. As George Packer, writing in the New Yorker, put it, “In Thiel’s techno-utopia a few thousand Americans might own robot-driven cars and live to a hundred and fifty, while millions of others lose their jobs to computers that are far smarter than they are, then perish at sixty.”
The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America by Margaret O'Mara
"side hustle", A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, accounting loophole / creative accounting, affirmative action, Airbnb, AltaVista, Amazon Web Services, Apple II, Apple's 1984 Super Bowl advert, autonomous vehicles, back-to-the-land, barriers to entry, Ben Horowitz, Berlin Wall, Bob Noyce, Buckminster Fuller, Burning Man, business climate, Byte Shop, California gold rush, carried interest, clean water, cleantech, cloud computing, cognitive dissonance, commoditize, computer age, continuous integration, cuban missile crisis, Danny Hillis, DARPA: Urban Challenge, deindustrialization, different worldview, don't be evil, Donald Trump, Doomsday Clock, Douglas Engelbart, Dynabook, Edward Snowden, El Camino Real, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, Frank Gehry, George Gilder, gig economy, Googley, Hacker Ethic, high net worth, Hush-A-Phone, immigration reform, income inequality, informal economy, information retrieval, invention of movable type, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, Joan Didion, job automation, job-hopping, John Markoff, Julian Assange, Kitchen Debate, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, Lyft, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, market bubble, mass immigration, means of production, mega-rich, Menlo Park, Mikhail Gorbachev, millennium bug, Mitch Kapor, Mother of all demos, move fast and break things, move fast and break things, mutually assured destruction, new economy, Norbert Wiener, old-boy network, pattern recognition, Paul Graham, Paul Terrell, paypal mafia, Peter Thiel, pets.com, pirate software, popular electronics, pre–internet, Ralph Nader, RAND corporation, Richard Florida, ride hailing / ride sharing, risk tolerance, Robert Metcalfe, Ronald Reagan, Sand Hill Road, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, shareholder value, side project, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, Silicon Valley startup, skunkworks, Snapchat, social graph, software is eating the world, speech recognition, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, supercomputer in your pocket, technoutopianism, Ted Nelson, the market place, the new new thing, There's no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home - Ken Olsen, Thomas L Friedman, Tim Cook: Apple, transcontinental railway, Uber and Lyft, uber lyft, Unsafe at Any Speed, upwardly mobile, Vannevar Bush, War on Poverty, We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters, Whole Earth Catalog, WikiLeaks, William Shockley: the traitorous eight, Y Combinator, Y2K
Tech moguls were the 0.001 percent, and all their change-the-world promises seemed to have done nothing except encourage smartphone addiction. Chasing fast money on apps and games that appealed to a narrow demographic of young, educated urbanites, the Valley seemed to be out of ideas. Even leaders within the industry saw a place that was falling short of its promise. Peter Thiel became one of the more outspoken critics. “What Happened to the Future?” asked a 2011 manifesto issued by Thiel’s VC firm, Founders Fund. “We wanted flying cars; instead we got 140 characters.”14 DAY ONE Jeff Bezos also believed the Internet economy could do more. Visionary and relentless, Bezos already drew comparisons to Jobs for his intense management style and insistence on high standards. As Amazon grew large, his mantra remained largely unaltered since his early bookselling days: think long-term, put customer satisfaction first, and be willing to invent.
The Hoover Tower points straight up.”17 The high-powered, high-profile Campbell gave his exit interview to a little student newspaper that was barely two years old and only published a few issues a year. The Stanford Review, however, was already making its mark as a self-styled voice of reason for Stanford’s conservative students. Founded in the late spring of 1987, the Review was the brainchild of a sophomore philosophy major named Peter Thiel. German-born and California-bred, a regional chess champion and J. R. R. Tolkien devotee, Thiel had arrived on campus as the battle of the Reagan library raged. For the remainder of his undergraduate years and as a Stanford law student immediately after, Thiel focused his considerable intellectual energies on the Review, making its libertarian-conservative views an inescapable feature of campus life as a fresh, even more polarizing battle erupted: the war over the undergraduate curriculum.
The faculty who agonized over whether to take money from the Pentagon became advisors and mentors to the Valley’s next generation of CEOs. The academic administrators steering the place in this era went on to become influential political advisors in the next. Stanford University’s stormy Reagan years became the stage on which the politics of the next-generation Valley were formed. As sharply polarized as Left and Right were on Stanford’s campus during this time, some common threads connected them. Both Peter Thiel and Terry Winograd were concerned about freedom of speech on campus. Both Glenn Campbell and Don Kennedy believed that Stanford scholars had an opportunity, and a responsibility, to contribute to politics and policy. Both the students crying out for a new, multicultural curriculum and the conservative elders who tut-tutted at the closing of the American mind agreed that the college years shaped a person’s trajectory for the rest of their lives.
The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America by George Packer
Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Apple's 1984 Super Bowl advert, bank run, big-box store, citizen journalism, cleantech, collateralized debt obligation, collective bargaining, corporate raider, Credit Default Swap, credit default swaps / collateralized debt obligations, deindustrialization, diversified portfolio, East Village, El Camino Real, Elon Musk, family office, financial independence, financial innovation, fixed income, Flash crash, Henry Ford's grandson gave labor union leader Walter Reuther a tour of the company’s new, automated factory…, housing crisis, income inequality, informal economy, Jane Jacobs, life extension, Long Term Capital Management, low skilled workers, Marc Andreessen, margin call, Mark Zuckerberg, market bubble, market fundamentalism, Maui Hawaii, Menlo Park, Neil Kinnock, new economy, New Journalism, obamacare, Occupy movement, oil shock, paypal mafia, peak oil, Peter Thiel, Ponzi scheme, Richard Florida, Robert Bork, Ronald Reagan, Ronald Reagan: Tear down this wall, shareholder value, side project, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, single-payer health, smart grid, Steve Jobs, strikebreaker, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, the scientific method, too big to fail, union organizing, urban planning, We are the 99%, We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters, white flight, white picket fence, zero-sum game
“The anthology of the top twenty-five sci-fi stories in 1970 was, like, ‘Me and my friend the robot went for a walk on the moon,’” Thiel said, “and in 2008 it was, like, ‘The galaxy is run by a fundamentalist Islamic confederacy, and there are people who are hunting planets and killing them for fun.’” Together with Sean Parker and two other friends, Thiel had started an early-stage venture capital firm called Founders Fund. It published an online manifesto about the future that began with a complaint: “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.” There was no single cause of the tech slowdown. Perhaps there were no more easy technological problems, those had all been solved a generation ago and the big problems left were really hard ones, like making artificial intelligence work. Perhaps science and engineering were losing their prestige along with their federal funding. The libertarian in him pointed to overregulation of things like energy, food, and drugs—it wasn’t a coincidence that the fastest growth had come in one of the least regulated industries, computers—and the kind of narrow environmentalism that wanted all the solutions to look like nature, so that hundreds of new nuclear reactors were not on the radar.
.: Work and Memory in Youngstown (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2002). John Russo, “Integrated Production or Systematic Disinvestment: The Restructuring of Packard Electric” (unpublished paper, 1994). Sean Safford, Why the Garden Club Couldn’t Save Youngstown: The Transformation of the Rust Belt (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009). PETER THIEL AND SILICON VALLEY Sonia Arrison, 100 Plus: How the Coming Age of Longevity Will Change Everything, from Careers and Relationships to Family and Faith, with a foreword by Peter Thiel (New York: Basic Books, 2011). Eric M. Jackson, The PayPal Wars: Battles with eBay, the Media, the Mafia and the Rest of Planet Earth (Los Angeles: World Ahead Publishing, 2010). David Kirkpatrick, The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011).
To get things running, he looked around for a number two—someone who knew how to make his boss look good. His eye fell on Connaughton. Clinton had banned top officials who left the administration from contacting the federal government for five years. The rule applied to Quinn but not to Connaughton, who wasn’t senior enough. So, at the age of thirty-seven, he joined Arnold & Porter and launched a new career: as a lobbyist. SILICON VALLEY Peter Thiel was three years old when he found out that he was going to die. It was in 1971, and he was sitting on a rug in his family’s apartment in Cleveland. Peter asked his father, “Where did the rug come from?” “It came from a cow,” his father said. They were speaking German, Peter’s first language—the Thiels were from Germany, Peter had been born in Frankfurt. “What happened to the cow?” “The cow died.”
The Retreat of Western Liberalism by Edward Luce
"Robert Solow", 3D printing, affirmative action, Airbnb, basic income, Berlin Wall, Bernie Sanders, Boris Johnson, Branko Milanovic, Bretton Woods, business cycle, call centre, carried interest, centre right, Charles Lindbergh, cognitive dissonance, colonial exploitation, colonial rule, computer age, corporate raider, cuban missile crisis, currency manipulation / currency intervention, Dissolution of the Soviet Union, Doha Development Round, Donald Trump, double entry bookkeeping, Erik Brynjolfsson, European colonialism, everywhere but in the productivity statistics, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, future of work, George Santayana, gig economy, Gini coefficient, global pandemic, global supply chain, illegal immigration, imperial preference, income inequality, informal economy, Internet of things, Jaron Lanier, knowledge economy, lateral thinking, liberal capitalism, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Martin Wolf, mass immigration, means of production, Monroe Doctrine, moral panic, more computing power than Apollo, mutually assured destruction, new economy, New Urbanism, Norman Mailer, offshore financial centre, one-China policy, Peace of Westphalia, Peter Thiel, plutocrats, Plutocrats, precariat, purchasing power parity, reserve currency, reshoring, Richard Florida, Robert Gordon, Ronald Reagan, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Skype, Snapchat, software is eating the world, South China Sea, Steve Jobs, superstar cities, telepresence, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas L Friedman, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, universal basic income, unpaid internship, Washington Consensus, We are the 99%, We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters, white flight, World Values Survey, Yogi Berra
We are still awaiting the productivity gains we were assured would result from the digital economy. With the exception of most of the 1990s, productivity growth has never recaptured the rates it achieved in the post-war decades. ‘You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics,’ said Robert Solow, the Nobel Prize-winning economist. Peter Thiel, the Silicon Valley billionaire, who has controversially backed Donald Trump, put it more vividly: ‘We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters [Twitter].’ That may be about to change, with the acceleration of the robot revolution and the spread of artificial intelligence. But we should be careful what we wish for. The squeeze is already uncomfortable enough. I am nearing fifty. My generation – those born in the mid-to-late 1960s and the 1970s – straddled the transition from the golden years to the new normal, though we did not wake up to it until we were into our thirties.
It is possible to imagine we can pull together to ensure that everyone will have a stake in a hyper-automated future. But there are gaping holes in this pleasant reverie. The digital revolution is still in its infancy, yet we are already throwing our toys out of the pram. As political societies, we are further away from plausible solutions than when the digital revolution began. Unlike the Industrial Revolution, it is taking place in a hyper-democratic world. Peter Thiel was right, of course; Twitter cannot be compared to the invention of printing, or flying cars. Yet he was also wrong. We live in a world where everyone with a grievance wields more digital power in the palm of their hand than the computers that sent Apollo 14 into orbit. The Industrial Revolution was unleashed on undemocratic – or in the case of Britain and the US, semi-democratic – societies.
Rocket Billionaires: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the New Space Race by Tim Fernholz
Amazon Web Services, autonomous vehicles, business climate, Charles Lindbergh, Clayton Christensen, cloud computing, Colonization of Mars, corporate governance, corporate social responsibility, disruptive innovation, Donald Trump, Elon Musk, high net worth, Iridium satellite, Jeff Bezos, Kickstarter, low earth orbit, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, minimum viable product, multiplanetary species, mutually assured destruction, new economy, nuclear paranoia, paypal mafia, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, Peter Thiel, pets.com, planetary scale, private space industry, profit maximization, RAND corporation, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, Ronald Reagan, shareholder value, Silicon Valley, skunkworks, sovereign wealth fund, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, trade route, undersea cable, We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters, X Prize, Y2K
The challenge, of course, was that this next level of investing—the rocket business—was very capital intensive. Thiel’s first investment in Facebook had been $500,000. Musk was now asking Founders Fund to invest $20 million— 10 percent of its current funds—in SpaceX. Whatever personal enmity had led the team to eject Musk from the CEO suite at PayPal, it had not exhausted their faith in him as an entrepreneur. The Founders Fund manifesto famously complained that “we wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters,” an unsubtle dig at Twitter and what they saw as the limited ambitions of other Silicon Valley investors. Given a chance to invest in a rocket ship, they said yes, and the first outside investment in SpaceX was sealed in early 2008. The backing of the US space agency and Silicon Valley allowed Musk to avoid the fate of his competitors. After their investment, Luke Nosek, a Founders Fund partner who joined the board of SpaceX, told me that SpaceX only had enough money to test the Falcon 1 three more times.
There could be a virtuous cycle: if the cost of space access fell enough to make new businesses possible in orbit, there would be more money to invest in lowering the cost to access space. It was an attitude he had developed as an entrepreneur in the early days of the internet boom. Not many had thought that a new way of paying for goods and services on the internet was necessary in 1999. But Musk and the other members of the so-called PayPal Mafia—many of whom, like the investors Peter Thiel and Luke Nosek, would also back SpaceX—were not deterred. Once they had built their simple tool for exchanging money safely over the emerging consumer web, other entrepreneurs found ways to use it. The ability to exchange money online became the basis for a whole new economy. When the auction site eBay paid $1.5 billion for PayPal in 2002, Musk’s share of the proceeds provided him with the fortune to find new markets—including in space.
Musk was silent for a few seconds. “We went through hell,” he said. “Of course.” The road to hell is paved with good intentions. In 2001, Musk was at loose ends. He had sold his advertising start-up, Zip2, to Compaq two years earlier, for more than $300 million, earning a $22 million payout. PayPal, the online payment company that emerged from a merger between Musk’s next venture—an “online bank” called X.com—and Peter Thiel’s financial start-up Confinity, was now a booming success. But Musk had been forced out as CEO of the combined company after just a year, following clashes with other executives. Whatever the conflict, he remained a PayPal adviser, and the company’s biggest investor. And then, at age thirty, he reset his life. He got married. He moved to Los Angeles from the San Francisco Bay Area, where he had begun his career.
Utopia for Realists: The Case for a Universal Basic Income, Open Borders, and a 15-Hour Workweek by Rutger Bregman
autonomous vehicles, banking crisis, Bartolomé de las Casas, basic income, Berlin Wall, Bertrand Russell: In Praise of Idleness, Branko Milanovic, cognitive dissonance, computer age, conceptual framework, credit crunch, David Graeber, Diane Coyle, Erik Brynjolfsson, everywhere but in the productivity statistics, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, Frank Levy and Richard Murnane: The New Division of Labor, full employment, George Gilder, George Santayana, happiness index / gross national happiness, Henry Ford's grandson gave labor union leader Walter Reuther a tour of the company’s new, automated factory…, income inequality, invention of gunpowder, James Watt: steam engine, John Markoff, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, Kevin Kelly, Kickstarter, knowledge economy, knowledge worker, Kodak vs Instagram, low skilled workers, means of production, megacity, meta analysis, meta-analysis, microcredit, minimum wage unemployment, Mont Pelerin Society, Nathan Meyer Rothschild: antibiotics, Occupy movement, offshore financial centre, Paul Samuelson, Peter Thiel, post-industrial society, precariat, RAND corporation, randomized controlled trial, Ray Kurzweil, Ronald Reagan, Second Machine Age, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, Skype, stem cell, Steven Pinker, telemarketer, The Future of Employment, The Spirit Level, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, Thorstein Veblen, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, universal basic income, wage slave, War on Poverty, We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters, wikimedia commons, women in the workforce, working poor, World Values Survey
The more wealth is concentrated at the top, the greater the demand for corporate attorneys, lobbyists, and high-frequency traders. Demand doesn’t exist in a vacuum, after all; it’s the product of a constant negotiation, determined by a country’s laws and institutions, and, of course, by the people who control the purse strings. Maybe this is also a clue as to why the innovations of the past 30 years – a time of spiraling inequality – haven’t quite lived up to our expectations. “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters,” mocks Peter Thiel, Silicon Valley’s resident intellectual.16 If the post-war era gave us fabulous inventions like the washing machine, the refrigerator, the space shuttle, and the pill, lately it’s been slightly improved iterations of the same phone we bought a couple years ago. In fact, it has become increasingly profitable not to innovate. Imagine just how much progress we’ve missed out on because thousands of bright minds have frittered away their time dreaming up hypercomplex financial products that are ultimately only destructive.
Alfred Kleinknecht, Ro Naastepad, and Servaas Storm, “Overdaad schaadt: meer management, minder productiviteitsgroei,” ESB (September 8, 2006). 14. See: Tony Schwartz and Christine Poratz, “Why You Hate Work,” The New York Times (May 30, 2014). http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/01/opinion/sunday/why-you-hate-work.html?_r=1 15. Will Dahlgreen, “37% of British workers think their jobs are meaningless”, YouGov (August 12, 2015). https://yougov.co.uk/news/2015/08/12/british-jobs-meaningless 16. Peter Thiel, “What happened to the future?” Founders Fund, http://www.foundersfund.com/the-future 17. William Baumol, “Entrepreneurship: Productive, Unproductive, and Destructive,” Journal of Political Economy (1990), pp. 893-920. 18. Sam Ro, “Stock Market Investors Have Become Absurdly Impatient,” Business Insider (August 7, 2012). http://www.businessinsider.com/stock-investor-holding-period-2012-8 19.
The Future Is Faster Than You Think: How Converging Technologies Are Transforming Business, Industries, and Our Lives by Peter H. Diamandis, Steven Kotler
Ada Lovelace, additive manufacturing, Airbnb, Albert Einstein, Amazon Mechanical Turk, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, barriers to entry, bitcoin, blockchain, blood diamonds, Burning Man, call centre, cashless society, Charles Lindbergh, Clayton Christensen, clean water, cloud computing, Colonization of Mars, computer vision, creative destruction, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, Dean Kamen, delayed gratification, dematerialisation, digital twin, disruptive innovation, Edward Glaeser, Edward Lloyd's coffeehouse, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, epigenetics, Erik Brynjolfsson, Ethereum, ethereum blockchain, experimental economics, food miles, game design, Geoffrey West, Santa Fe Institute, gig economy, Google X / Alphabet X, gravity well, hive mind, housing crisis, Hyperloop, indoor plumbing, industrial robot, informal economy, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Internet of things, invention of the telegraph, Isaac Newton, Jaron Lanier, Jeff Bezos, job automation, Joseph Schumpeter, Kevin Kelly, Kickstarter, late fees, Law of Accelerating Returns, life extension, lifelogging, loss aversion, Lyft, M-Pesa, Mary Lou Jepsen, mass immigration, megacity, meta analysis, meta-analysis, microbiome, mobile money, multiplanetary species, Narrative Science, natural language processing, Network effects, new economy, New Urbanism, Oculus Rift, out of africa, packet switching, peer-to-peer lending, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, Peter Thiel, QR code, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, RFID, Richard Feynman, Richard Florida, ride hailing / ride sharing, risk tolerance, Satoshi Nakamoto, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Skype, smart cities, smart contracts, smart grid, Snapchat, sovereign wealth fund, special economic zone, stealth mode startup, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, supercomputer in your pocket, supply-chain management, technoutopianism, Tesla Model S, Tim Cook: Apple, transaction costs, Uber and Lyft, uber lyft, unbanked and underbanked, underbanked, urban planning, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters, X Prize
In fact, our ire at this lack of delivery has become a meme unto itself. At the turn of the last century, in a now famous IBM commercial, comedian Avery Brooks asked: “It’s the year 2000, but where are the flying cars? I was promised flying cars. I don’t see any flying cars. Why? Why? Why?” In 2011, in his “What Happened to the Future?” manifesto, investor Peter Thiel echoed this concern, writing: “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.” Yet, as should be clear by now, the wait is over. The Flying Cars Are Here. And the infrastructure’s coming fast. While we were sipping our lattes and checking our Instagram, science fiction became science fact. And this brings us back to our initial question: Why now? The answer, in a word: Convergence. Converging Technology If you want to understand convergence, it helps to start at the beginning.
Known as senolytic therapies, these drugs destroy the inflammation-producing zombie cells believed to be one of the causes of aging. A half-dozen companies are now involved in this effort, producing about a dozen drugs that obliterate zombie cells, delaying or alleviating everything from frailty and osteoporosis to cardiological dysfunction and neurological disorder. Backed by investments from Jeff Bezos, the late Paul Allen, and Peter Thiel, Unity Biotechnology is one of the most interesting of these. They’ve developed a way to identify, then kill senolytic cells, or at least they’ve developed a way that works in mice. But it really works. Periodic treatments from midlife forward both extend lifespan by 35 percent and keep the mouse healthier along the way. Everything from lower energy levels to the development of cataracts and kidney dysfunction—all common symptoms of aging—are either avoided entirely or their onset is significantly delayed.
Harrison, “Rapamycin Fed Late in Life Extends Lifespan in Genetically Heterogeneous Mice,” Nature, July 8, 2019. Novartis to decide to test it in humans: J. B. Mannick, “mTOR Inhibition Improves Immune Function in the Elderly,” Science Translational Medicine, December 2014. drug called metformin: Nir Barzilai, “Metformin as a Tool to Target Aging,” Cell Metabolism, June 14, 2016. 23(6): pp. 1060-1065, See https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5943638/. Jeff Bezos, Paul Allen, and Peter Thiel, Unity Biotechnology: See: https://unitybiotechnology.com. extend lifespan by 35 percent: Jan M van Deursen, “Senolytic Therapies for Healthy Longevity,” Science 364, no. 6441 (May 2019): 636–637. Samumed: Osman Kibar, author interview, 2018. See also: https://www.samumed.com/default.aspx. Backed by a $12 billion valuation: Brian Gormley, “Drugmaker Samumed Closes $438 Million Round at $12 Billion Pre-Money Valuation,” Wall Street Journal Pro, August 6, 2018.
Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance
addicted to oil, Burning Man, cleantech, digital map, El Camino Real, Elon Musk, global supply chain, Hyperloop, industrial robot, Jeff Bezos, Kickstarter, low earth orbit, Mark Zuckerberg, Maui Hawaii, Menlo Park, Mercator projection, money market fund, multiplanetary species, optical character recognition, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, paypal mafia, performance metric, Peter Thiel, pre–internet, risk tolerance, Ronald Reagan, Sand Hill Road, self-driving car, side project, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Steve Jobs, technoutopianism, Tesla Model S, transaction costs, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters, X Prize
“I think the probability of us discovering another top-one-hundred-type invention gets smaller and smaller,” Huebner told me in an interview. “Innovation is a finite resource.” Huebner predicted that it would take people about five years to catch on to his thinking, and this forecast proved almost exactly right. Around 2010, Peter Thiel, the PayPal cofounder and early Facebook investor, began promoting the idea that the technology industry had let people down. “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters” became the tagline of his venture capital firm Founders Fund. In an essay called “What Happened to the Future,” Thiel and his cohorts described how Twitter, its 140-character messages, and similar inventions have let the public down. He argued that science fiction, which once celebrated the future, has turned dystopian because people no longer have an optimistic view of technology’s ability to change the world.
The whole idea was to shift away from slow-moving banks with their mainframes taking days to process payments and to create a kind of agile bank account where you could move money around with a couple of clicks on a mouse or an e-mail. This was revolutionary stuff, and more than 200,000 people bought into it and signed up for X.com within the first couple of months of operation. Soon enough, X.com had a major competitor. A couple of brainy kids named Max Levchin and Peter Thiel had been working on a payment system of their own at their start-up called Confinity. The duo actually rented their office space—a glorified broom closet—from X.com and were trying to make it possible for owners of Palm Pilot handhelds to swap money via the infrared ports on the devices. Between X.com and Confinity, the small office on University Avenue had turned into the frenzied epicenter of the Internet finance revolution.
From new kinds of energy storage systems to electric cars and solar panels, the technology never quite lived up to its billing and required too much government funding and too many incentives to create a viable market. Much of this criticism was fair. It’s just that there was this Elon Musk guy hanging around who seemed to have figured something out that everyone else had missed. “We had a blanket rule against investing in clean-tech companies for about a decade,” said Peter Thiel, the PayPal cofounder and venture capitalist at Founders Fund. “On the macro level, we were right because clean tech as a sector was quite bad. But on the micro level, it looks like Elon has the two most successful clean-tech companies in the U.S. We would rather explain his success as being a fluke. There’s the whole Iron Man thing in which he’s presented as a cartoonish businessman—this very unusual animal at the zoo.
Give People Money by Annie Lowrey
"Robert Solow", affirmative action, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, agricultural Revolution, Airbnb, airport security, autonomous vehicles, barriers to entry, basic income, Bernie Sanders, bitcoin, clean water, collective bargaining, computer age, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, deindustrialization, desegregation, Donald Trump, Edward Glaeser, Elon Musk, ending welfare as we know it, everywhere but in the productivity statistics, full employment, gender pay gap, gig economy, Google Earth, Home mortgage interest deduction, income inequality, indoor plumbing, information asymmetry, Jaron Lanier, jitney, job automation, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, Kickstarter, Kodak vs Instagram, labor-force participation, late capitalism, Lyft, M-Pesa, Mahatma Gandhi, Mark Zuckerberg, mass incarceration, McMansion, Menlo Park, mobile money, mortgage tax deduction, new economy, obamacare, Peter Thiel, post scarcity, post-work, Potemkin village, precariat, randomized controlled trial, ride hailing / ride sharing, Robert Bork, Ronald Reagan, Sam Altman, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, single-payer health, Steve Jobs, TaskRabbit, The Future of Employment, theory of mind, total factor productivity, Turing test, two tier labour market, Uber and Lyft, uber lyft, universal basic income, uranium enrichment, War on Poverty, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters, women in the workforce, working poor, World Values Survey, Y Combinator
Fruit-picking robots, cancer-screening apps, drones, digital cameras, and driverless cars cannot compete with the transformative power of threshing machines, commercial airliners, antibiotics, refrigerators, and the birth control pill in terms of economic importance. “You can look around you in New York City and the subways are 100-plus years old. You can look around you on an airplane, and it’s little different from 40 years ago—maybe it’s a bit slower because the airport security is low-tech and not working terribly well,” Peter Thiel, a billionaire tech investor and adviser to President Trump, recently mused to Vox. “The screens are everywhere, though. Maybe they’re distracting us from our surroundings.” (He more famously said, “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.”) It could also be that our sluggish rate of economic growth has spurred our sluggish rate of innovation. The economist J. W. Mason of the Roosevelt Institute, a left-of-center think tank, argues that depressed demand for goods and services and crummy wages across the economy have reduced the impetus for businesses to get leaner, more productive, and more creative.
The AI Economy: Work, Wealth and Welfare in the Robot Age by Roger Bootle
"Robert Solow", 3D printing, agricultural Revolution, AI winter, Albert Einstein, anti-work, autonomous vehicles, basic income, Ben Bernanke: helicopter money, Bernie Sanders, blockchain, call centre, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, Chris Urmson, computer age, conceptual framework, corporate governance, correlation does not imply causation, creative destruction, David Ricardo: comparative advantage, deindustrialization, deskilling, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, everywhere but in the productivity statistics, facts on the ground, financial intermediation, full employment, future of work, income inequality, income per capita, industrial robot, Internet of things, invention of the wheel, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Jeff Bezos, job automation, job satisfaction, John Markoff, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, John von Neumann, Joseph Schumpeter, Kevin Kelly, license plate recognition, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, market bubble, mega-rich, natural language processing, Network effects, new economy, Nicholas Carr, Paul Samuelson, Peter Thiel, positional goods, quantitative easing, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Florida, ride hailing / ride sharing, rising living standards, road to serfdom, Robert Gordon, Robert Shiller, Robert Shiller, Second Machine Age, secular stagnation, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Simon Kuznets, Skype, social intelligence, spinning jenny, Stanislav Petrov, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, technological singularity, The Future of Employment, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, trade route, universal basic income, US Airways Flight 1549, Vernor Vinge, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters, wealth creators, winner-take-all economy, Y2K, Yogi Berra
Yet the Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Solow famously remarked in 1987: “you can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.” 29 (Mind you, the pickup in US productivity in the late 1990s suggests that the gains from computers were real but, as with many other advances, delayed.) The American entrepreneur and venture capitalist, Peter Thiel, has put recent technological disappointment more pithily. He has said: “We wanted flying cars. Instead, we got 140 characters.” This contention of Robert Gordon’s that technological progress has largely run its course is sensational. Think of it: the rapid development of the emerging markets slowing inexorably; overall economic progress essentially dribbling away to nothing; living standards barely rising at all; no prospect of the next generation being appreciably better off than the current one; a return to the situation and the outlook (if not the living standards) that pertained before the Industrial Revolution.
Age of Discovery: Navigating the Risks and Rewards of Our New Renaissance by Ian Goldin, Chris Kutarna
2013 Report for America's Infrastructure - American Society of Civil Engineers - 19 March 2013, 3D printing, Airbnb, Albert Einstein, AltaVista, Asian financial crisis, asset-backed security, autonomous vehicles, banking crisis, barriers to entry, battle of ideas, Berlin Wall, bioinformatics, bitcoin, Bonfire of the Vanities, clean water, collective bargaining, Colonization of Mars, Credit Default Swap, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, Dava Sobel, demographic dividend, Deng Xiaoping, Doha Development Round, double helix, Edward Snowden, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, epigenetics, experimental economics, failed state, Fall of the Berlin Wall, financial innovation, full employment, Galaxy Zoo, global pandemic, global supply chain, Hyperloop, immigration reform, income inequality, indoor plumbing, industrial cluster, industrial robot, information retrieval, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), intermodal, Internet of things, invention of the printing press, Isaac Newton, Islamic Golden Age, Johannes Kepler, Khan Academy, Kickstarter, low cost airline, low cost carrier, low skilled workers, Lyft, Malacca Straits, mass immigration, megacity, Mikhail Gorbachev, moral hazard, Nelson Mandela, Network effects, New Urbanism, non-tariff barriers, Occupy movement, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, open economy, Panamax, Pearl River Delta, personalized medicine, Peter Thiel, post-Panamax, profit motive, rent-seeking, reshoring, Robert Gordon, Robert Metcalfe, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Second Machine Age, self-driving car, Shenzhen was a fishing village, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Skype, smart grid, Snapchat, special economic zone, spice trade, statistical model, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Stuxnet, The Future of Employment, too big to fail, trade liberalization, trade route, transaction costs, transatlantic slave trade, uber lyft, undersea cable, uranium enrichment, We are the 99%, We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters, working poor, working-age population, zero day
Now that Concorde has been shut down, it takes us the same six hours to fly from New York to London that it took them. (We don’t even fly to the moon anymore.) Despite the hundreds of billions of dollars we’ve plowed into medical research in the last 40 years, rich people only live some 8 percent (five years) longer than their grandparents, and we suffer from the same chronic diseases: cancer, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s and organ failure. As Peter Thiel, who co-founded PayPal, put it: “We wanted flying cars—instead we got 140 characters.”36 Figure 6-1. To date, many expectations of the future have been disappointed. Image credit: Bill Watterston (1989). Calvin and Hobbes. Reprinted with permission of Universal Uclick. All rights reserved. Diminishing dreams All the above has sown a deeper doubt: that humanity’s glory days may be permanently past. Is it possible that there are only so many one-time transformations humanity can work upon itself—and that we’ve already made most of them?
Think Like a Rocket Scientist by Ozan Varol
Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Airbnb, airport security, Albert Einstein, Amazon Web Services, Andrew Wiles, Apple's 1984 Super Bowl advert, Arthur Eddington, autonomous vehicles, Ben Horowitz, Cal Newport, Clayton Christensen, cloud computing, Colonization of Mars, dark matter, delayed gratification, different worldview, discovery of DNA, double helix, Elon Musk, fear of failure, functional fixedness, Gary Taubes, George Santayana, Google Glasses, Google X / Alphabet X, Inbox Zero, index fund, Isaac Newton, James Dyson, Jeff Bezos, job satisfaction, Johannes Kepler, Kickstarter, knowledge worker, late fees, lateral thinking, lone genius, longitudinal study, Louis Pasteur, low earth orbit, Marc Andreessen, Mars Rover, meta analysis, meta-analysis, move fast and break things, move fast and break things, multiplanetary species, obamacare, Occam's razor, out of africa, Peter Thiel, Pluto: dwarf planet, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, Ronald Reagan, Sam Altman, Schrödinger's Cat, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Simon Singh, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, Stewart Brand, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas Malthus, Upton Sinclair, Vilfredo Pareto, We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters, Whole Earth Catalog, women in the workforce, Yogi Berra
Shane Snow summarizes the relevant research in Smartcuts: “From 2001 to 2011, an investment in the 50 most idealistic brands—the ones opting for the high-hanging purpose and not just low-hanging profits—would have been 400 percent more profitable than shares of an S&P index fund.”15 Why? Moonshots appeal to human nature and attract more investors. Poking fun at the limited ambitions of most Silicon Valley firms, the manifesto for Founders Fund—a prominent venture-capital firm—reads: “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.”16 The firm became the first outside investor in SpaceX’s moonshots. Moonshots are also talent magnets. This is why SpaceX and Blue Origin have been able to cherry-pick the best rocket scientists from traditional aerospace companies and make them work around the clock on audacious engineering projects. Musk’s selling point was that the engineers would “have the freedom to actually do their job—build a rocket—rather than sitting in daylong meetings, waiting months for a parts request to wend its way through a bureaucracy, or fending off internal political attacks.”17 You might be thinking, it’s easy for internet billionaires to start a space company.
For example, I gave trusted advisers early drafts of this book and asked them to point out not what’s right, not what they loved, but what’s wrong, what should be changed, what should be taken out. This approach provides psychological safety to those who might otherwise withhold dissent for fear of offending you. If you can’t find opposing voices, manufacture them. Build a mental model of your favorite adversary, and have imaginary conversations with them. This is what Marc Andreessen does. “I have a little mental model of Peter Thiel,” explains Andreessen, referring to fellow venture capitalist and PayPal cofounder, “a simulation that lives on my shoulder, and I argue with him all day long.”59 He added, “People might look at you funny while it’s happening,” but it’s well worth the ridicule. The voice of dissent could be anyone. You can ask yourself, “What would a rocket scientist do?” and imagine a rocket scientist, armed with the tools in this book, critically questioning your ideas.
Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress by Steven Pinker
3D printing, access to a mobile phone, affirmative action, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, anti-communist, Anton Chekhov, Arthur Eddington, artificial general intelligence, availability heuristic, Ayatollah Khomeini, basic income, Berlin Wall, Bernie Sanders, Black Swan, Bonfire of the Vanities, business cycle, capital controls, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, carbon footprint, clean water, clockwork universe, cognitive bias, cognitive dissonance, Columbine, conceptual framework, correlation does not imply causation, creative destruction, crowdsourcing, cuban missile crisis, Daniel Kahneman / Amos Tversky, dark matter, decarbonisation, deindustrialization, dematerialisation, demographic transition, Deng Xiaoping, distributed generation, diversified portfolio, Donald Trump, Doomsday Clock, double helix, effective altruism, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, end world poverty, endogenous growth, energy transition, European colonialism, experimental subject, Exxon Valdez, facts on the ground, Fall of the Berlin Wall, first-past-the-post, Flynn Effect, food miles, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, frictionless, frictionless market, germ theory of disease, Gini coefficient, Hans Rosling, hedonic treadmill, helicopter parent, Hobbesian trap, humanitarian revolution, Ignaz Semmelweis: hand washing, income inequality, income per capita, Indoor air pollution, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of writing, Jaron Lanier, Joan Didion, job automation, Johannes Kepler, John Snow's cholera map, Kevin Kelly, Khan Academy, knowledge economy, l'esprit de l'escalier, Laplace demon, life extension, long peace, longitudinal study, Louis Pasteur, Martin Wolf, mass incarceration, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Mikhail Gorbachev, minimum wage unemployment, moral hazard, mutually assured destruction, Naomi Klein, Nate Silver, Nathan Meyer Rothschild: antibiotics, Nelson Mandela, New Journalism, Norman Mailer, nuclear winter, obamacare, open economy, Paul Graham, peak oil, Peter Singer: altruism, Peter Thiel, precision agriculture, prediction markets, purchasing power parity, Ralph Nader, randomized controlled trial, Ray Kurzweil, rent control, Republic of Letters, Richard Feynman, road to serfdom, Robert Gordon, Rodney Brooks, rolodex, Ronald Reagan, Rory Sutherland, Saturday Night Live, science of happiness, Scientific racism, Second Machine Age, secular stagnation, self-driving car, sharing economy, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, Simon Kuznets, Skype, smart grid, sovereign wealth fund, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, Stuxnet, supervolcano, technological singularity, Ted Kaczynski, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, the scientific method, The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver, The Spirit Level, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas Malthus, total factor productivity, union organizing, universal basic income, University of East Anglia, Unsafe at Any Speed, Upton Sinclair, uranium enrichment, urban renewal, War on Poverty, We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters, women in the workforce, working poor, World Values Survey, Y2K
A precautionary principle prevents anyone from trying anything for the first time. Capitalism has lost its capitalists: too much investment is tied up in “gray capital,” controlled by institutional managers who seek safe returns for retirees. Ambitious young people want to be artists and professionals, not entrepreneurs. Investors and the government no longer back moonshots. As the entrepreneur Peter Thiel lamented, “We wanted flying cars; instead we got 140 characters.” Whatever its causes, economic stagnation is at the root of many other problems and poses a significant challenge for 21st-century policymakers. Does that mean that progress was nice while it lasted, but now it’s over? Unlikely! For one thing, growth that is slower than it was during the postwar glory days is still growth—indeed, exponential growth. Gross World Product has increased in fifty-one of the last fifty-five years, which means that in each of those fifty-one years (including the last six), the world got richer than it was the year before.13 Also, secular stagnation is largely a first-world problem.
Nuclear power and the psychology of fear and dread: Gardner 2008; Gigerenzer 2016; Ropeik & Gray 2002; Slovic 1987; Slovic, Fischof, & Lichtenstein 1982. 87. From “Power,” by John Hall and Johanna Hall. 88. Variously attributed; quoted in Brand 2009, p. 75. 89. Necessity for standardization: Shellenberger 2017. Selin quote: Washington Post, May 29, 1995. 90. Fourth-generation nuclear power: Bailey 2015; Blees 2008; Freed 2014; Hargraves 2012; Naam 2013. 91. Fusion power: E. Roston, “Peter Thiel’s Other Hobby Is Nuclear Fusion,” Bloomberg News, Nov. 22, 2016; L. Grossman, “Inside the Quest for Fusion, Clean Energy’s Holy Grail,” Time, Oct. 22, 2015. 92. Advantages of technological solutions to climate change: Bailey 2015; Koningstein & Fork 2014; Nordhaus 2016; see also note 103 below. 93. Need for risky research: Koningstein & Fork 2014. 94. Brand 2009, p. 84. 95.
The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living Since the Civil War (The Princeton Economic History of the Western World) by Robert J. Gordon
"Robert Solow", 3D printing, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, airline deregulation, airport security, Apple II, barriers to entry, big-box store, blue-collar work, business cycle, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, Charles Lindbergh, clean water, collective bargaining, computer age, creative destruction, deindustrialization, Detroit bankruptcy, discovery of penicillin, Donner party, Downton Abbey, Edward Glaeser, en.wikipedia.org, Erik Brynjolfsson, everywhere but in the productivity statistics, feminist movement, financial innovation, full employment, George Akerlof, germ theory of disease, glass ceiling, high net worth, housing crisis, immigration reform, impulse control, income inequality, income per capita, indoor plumbing, industrial robot, inflight wifi, interchangeable parts, invention of agriculture, invention of air conditioning, invention of the sewing machine, invention of the telegraph, invention of the telephone, inventory management, James Watt: steam engine, Jeff Bezos, jitney, job automation, John Markoff, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, labor-force participation, Loma Prieta earthquake, Louis Daguerre, Louis Pasteur, low skilled workers, manufacturing employment, Mark Zuckerberg, market fragmentation, Mason jar, mass immigration, mass incarceration, McMansion, Menlo Park, minimum wage unemployment, mortgage debt, mortgage tax deduction, new economy, Norbert Wiener, obamacare, occupational segregation, oil shale / tar sands, oil shock, payday loans, Peter Thiel, pink-collar, Productivity paradox, Ralph Nader, Ralph Waldo Emerson, refrigerator car, rent control, Robert X Cringely, Ronald Coase, school choice, Second Machine Age, secular stagnation, Skype, stem cell, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Steven Pinker, The Market for Lemons, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, Thomas Malthus, total factor productivity, transaction costs, transcontinental railway, traveling salesman, Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, undersea cable, Unsafe at Any Speed, Upton Sinclair, upwardly mobile, urban decay, urban planning, urban sprawl, washing machines reduced drudgery, Washington Consensus, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters, working poor, working-age population, Works Progress Administration, yellow journalism, yield management
Alex Field revitalized U.S. economic history by his startling claim that the 1930s were the “most progressive decade.” For us to determine that labor productivity and TFP growth were even quicker during 1941–50 does not diminish the boldness of Field’s imagination with his claim or the depth of evidence that he has marshaled to support it.61 Chapter 17 INNOVATION: CAN THE FUTURE MATCH THE GREAT INVENTIONS OF THE PAST? We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters. —Peter Thiel INTRODUCTION The epochal rise in the U.S. standard of living that occurred from 1870 to 1940, with continuing benefits to 1970, represent the fruits of the Second Industrial Revolution (IR #2). Many of the benefits of this unprecedented tidal wave of inventions show up in measured GDP and hence in output per person, output per hour, and total factor productivity (TFP), which as we have seen grew more rapidly during the half-century 1920–70 than before or since.
The genie in the bottle will not willingly go back in the bottle, nor have we any reason to expect them to be well-disposed to us.42 Just as some inventions have come as a surprise, including the entire electronics and digital revolutions, other anticipated inventions never came to pass. Dick Tracy’s wrist radio in cartoon comic strips of the late 1940s finally is coming to fruition seventy years later with the Apple Watch. The Jetsons’ vertical commuting car/plane never happened, and in fact high fuel costs caused many local helicopter short-haul aviation companies to shut down.43 As Peter Theil quipped, “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.” THE INVENTIONS THAT ARE NOW FORECASTABLE Despite the slow growth of TFP recorded by the data of the decade since 2004, commentators view the future of technology with great excitement. Nouriel Roubini writes, “[T]here is a new perception of the role of technology. Innovators and tech CEOs both seem positively giddy with optimism.”44 The well-known pair of techno-optimists Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee assert that “we’re at an inflection point” between a past of slow technological change and a future of rapid change.45 They appear to believe that Big Blue’s chess victory and Watson’s victory on the TV game show Jeopardy presage an age in which computers outsmart humans in every aspect of human work effort.