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An End to the “Age of Innovation?” Hardly.


Refrigeration, human flight, anti-biotics – the list of beneficial innovations in the last century is a long one. But has it come to an end? Peter Thiel famously said that “he wanted flying cars,” and “got 140 characters instead.” Others, like the economist Tyler Cowen, who, incidentally, spoke at the IdeaFestival last year, point to growing economic inequality and are, with important caveats, relatively pessimistic. The columnist Paul Krugman wondered just last week if an era of “rapid economic progress” had ended.

Philip Auerswald isn’t among that group and argues:

No. An end to technological evolution is no more likely than an end to biological evolution. The underlying reason is the same in both cases: the nearly unbounded power of combinatorial possibilities.

If the current generations of techno-pessimists fail to see the creation of new combinations at work today, it’s simply because they either can’t glimpse them from where they sit, or they’re just not looking hard enough. Granted, the technologies that drove past prosperity in the United States—electric lights, the telephone, automobiles and airplanes, flush toilets—are today improving only incrementally in comparison with the past. But those very same technologies are only now reaching the majority of the world’s population. The resultant productivity gains are massive and reverberating in an epic fashion on a global scale. That process is just beginning.

Give the piece a read. It’s an important rejoinder to those who would bet against entrepreneurs.

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