A turning point in economic development?
March 3, 2011 4:51 AM   Subscribe

"Towards a Sustainable Global Golden Age" (four youtube links) is a talk by Carlota Perez comparing the current revolution in information and communications technologies (ICT) to four prior technological revolutions. She argues that each revolution has started with a long phase of experimentation driven by finance, which leads to a financial bubble and subsequent crash. The short phase of recovery from the crash is followed by a long phase of consolidation driven by concrete productivity gains and government policy. She believes that NASDAQ was the crash in the ICT revolution, and that we are still in the recovery phase, partly because cheap oil and manufacturing labor facilitated a reemphasis on unskilled-labor- and energy-intensive means of production. She speculates on what may come out of the consolidation phase she hopes we're now entering.

I found this while I was deciding whether to read Tyler Cowen's essay, The Great Stagnation (discussed here on metafilter.) Perez has an inspiring message on a aspect of the world which often seems very gloomy, and she bases it on a historical analysis which seems quite plausible.
posted by Coventry (4 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Oh, I left off the link to the slides for her talk.
posted by Coventry at 5:21 AM on March 3, 2011

Triggering a golden age is easy, you just have to win a battle with your civilization's special unit.
posted by nathancaswell at 6:35 AM on March 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

We need more experimentation, like a securely encrypted decentralized peer-to-peer replacement for instant messaging and social networking application. Yes, facebook is helping the revolutions in the middle east, but that level of control can only lead to evil.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:59 AM on March 3, 2011

Of course I don't know the future, but there is certainly at least one more revolution waiting to happen that she doesn't seem to spend a lot of time thinking about, and that would be a revolution that is brought about by the development of a source of near zero cost clean energy.

The ICT revolution has at its heart a drop in price and increase in capabilities in processing and transmitting information. An energy revolution would apply the same transformation to material goods. There are plenty of transformations and techniques that can't be economically applied because the cost of the energy required is prohibitive. Given zero cost clean energy we could probably just turn the excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere into diamonds or something else more useful.

I think that using information technologies as a tool to investigate the outcomes of changing basic variables would make the potential of this transformation more obvious to policymakers. If people could make a model that would show you the outcomes of near zero cost clean energy, I think it would be seen as perhaps the single most desirable thing that could happen. I think that is the missing piece as far as solving the problems associated with making our technological society sustainable. Of course, there are probably other unforeseen problems that will be spawned, but that's seems to be par for the course.
posted by jefeweiss at 9:38 AM on March 3, 2011

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