Has progress plateaued?

  • Article by: D.J. TICE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 17, 2012 - 5:19 PM

It's not as if ours is an age without advances. But the truly momentous changes seem to be behind us, and that has economic implications.

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goalie16Nov. 17, 12 5:12 PM

There isn't much reason for companies to find or fund a huge advance... We'll buy a new phone or 'computer type' thing because it has a better camera and then brag about it constantly until the next one comes out.. We pay big money for tiny advances.

paulskiNov. 17, 12 6:24 PM

the article is a bunch of nonsense. Many of the elderly since the beginning of time have been saying that the best is behind us. I'm 63 and I think the best is ahead. The author quotes 40 years of stagnation. I suppose he still uses a dial phone to communicate, and produced this article on a IBM selectric.

pumiceNov. 17, 12 6:26 PM

From the article: "[E]conomist Tyler Cowen argued that Americans, largely unawares, have found themselves atop a 'technological plateau' over the past 40 years or so. Innovations have been fewer and less economically powerful, Cowen says, and it is mostly this that explains decades of significantly slower rates of economic growth in rich nations like the United States." I submit that innovations of the kind D.J. Tice wrote occur close to the production lines, and that production lines have been off-shored to such an extent that Americans find themselves atop the technological plateau of which Cowen wrote. What we are left with is a military-industrial complex which produces innovative weapons of destruction and a financial sector which produced innovative weapons (read, "mortgage products") of economic destruction.

JudelingNov. 17, 12 6:46 PM

Momentous changes are apparent in retrospect not when they are happening. We are in the midst of a vast societal change as profound as the industrial and agricultural revolutions. But instead of creating millions of jobs and massive economic expansion it is doing the exact opposite. This death of work is only in its infancy but already is having profound implications. I can today design simple plastic parts (or go to the online repository) and print them at home, Hospitals can sequence the genetic code of super bug outbreaks and trace the source in days instead of months, in house without using vast lab resources. FoxConn is looking to buy a million robots to assemble your cell phones and tablets. Who knows what comes next but the pace has hardly slowed down it is just that we don't have the perspective yet.

boboboboNov. 17, 12 6:59 PM

The U.S. enjoyed a great, decades - long economic boom following WW II. This has little to do with the relative advances of technology during that time. It has everything to do with the fact that the U.S. was uniquely positioned to profit from the reconstruction of Europe. "Technological advances" are highly overrated with respect their raw impact on economic prosperity. History shows us that all that really matters is the ability to employ the prevailing and developing technologies in ways that are profitable. When a cohesive population does this, it succeeds economically. When most of the profits consolidate into concentrated pockets that exclude opportunities for the greater population, that larger group fails economically. Yes, technology changes the world, but control of technology changes it much more.

thehoffersNov. 17, 12 7:17 PM

Advances come in fit and starts. I think this particular 60 year old didn't have enough left in him to actually research his subject before writing about it.

farcicalNov. 17, 12 7:39 PM

Preposterous. The economic impact of the internet and cell phone (more specifically the smartphone) is still taking place. All of that information is more easily accessible than ever before. This new Age is about USING that information, not storing it and (requesting) access to it. Tice's problem is less about wonder and more about not truly understanding the change(s) taking place. Sagan's "Demon-Haunted World" is a much better source from which to take perspective. We've not only become used to technological advances, we've taken our understanding of HOW and WHY things work completely out of the picture - things "just work" or they're broken, needing replacement (which is much cheaper nowadays thanks to improved automation and distribution). The biggest drawback to innovation is archaic patent law, which inhibits experimentation and applicability of new ideas and concepts out of fear of legal (and economic) retribution. This "Social Age" born from the Information Age will hopefully break the mold allowing for an incredible opportunity of collaboration and implementation of new ideas and concepts never even thought of by the Boomers.

larrymeaseNov. 17, 12 7:39 PM

Given your age, you encountered a natural pessimism. The world is the great "I AM" and that's all the progress we needed.

patriotrightNov. 17, 12 7:45 PM

Phooey! A past head of the US patent office once said that the office should be eliminated since everything worthwhile had been invented. I think it was back in the 1800's.

alansonNov. 17, 12 7:50 PM

Many of the innovations that powered America in the 19th and 20th centuries were not invented here, but there was a mindset that was determined to take advantage of the newest and best that the world had to offer on a scale that couldn't be matched elsewhere. It's hard to find that mindset today. As our politics have gotten more "progressive" our attitude toward risk has become dangerously conservative. One only as to look at China and Korea to see huge numbers of jobs being created today by the Internet boom - a hundred thousand or more overseas jobs appear to be necessary to produce the cluster of devices marketed by Apple. We are about to see Dell and HP (our pre-eminent PC makers) succumb in the marketplace to the likes of ASUS, Samsung and Lenovo, not because of manufacturing costs but because the Asian companies have been more willing to innovate. This is not unlike what happened to Great Britain in the early-mid 20th century. The so-called housing and financial crisis of 2008 is just the first major shock that to be associated with this country's decline. It was really a crisis of American performance failing to live up to our complacent and overblown expectations of ourselves.


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