Friday, September 23, 2011

Niall Ferguson: The 6 killer apps of prosperity

 Ferguson's major point is that the elements institutionalized in Western Society a few centuries ago that led to the great economic divergence are now diffusing to other continents and the process of divergence has been replaced by one of convergence. His graphs are very convincing.

His six killer apps, which he gets to almost 10 minutes into the presentation include thinks like competition, the work ethic and consumerism, but number 2 is The Scientific Revolution. I suspect he is right in that that revolution affected both what we think and the way we think, and was very important in the rise of the West.

I would add the Industrial Revolution. The Scientific Revolution seems to me to deal with how we think about the world around us and how it works. The Industrial Revolution deals with technology, how we think about the ways we do and make things. I believe that there was a technological revolution that complements and was complemented by the Scientific Revolution.

An interesting question is whether we (civilization) have made or will make soon another killer app. After all, the six named by Ferguson occurred over a few hundred years and were not quickly recognized for their huge potential. Why should the institutional infrastructure of modern society not continue to evolve by the invention and institutionalization of new apps? Indeed, perhaps the Information Revolution will prove to be such a killer app for society.

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