Starting from here on The Next Big Future I read a few articles and looked at some videos. The book The Great Stagnation which seems to be at the root of all this makes the claim that technological advance is slowing because we’ve already grabbed the ‘low-hanging fruit’. Take for example the car. It is a huge step to go from not having a car to having one. The car was the big invention and everything since has just been innovation – no flying cars have arrived. In a speech he gives the author of the book cites many examples, like the average kitchen and how little it has changed since the 50s, but he then reluctantly admits that there have been some big advances in communication (Internet, mobile phones etc.).
Apparently, the low hanging fruit having been grabbed means that the average American is half as wealthy as he would have been had the advances been continuing at their previous rate.
Firstly, I don’t buy the distinction between invention and innovation since the car is just an innovation of the horse and cart and can be traced back to Shanks’ pony and the simple need to get from A to B. I sort of buy the ‘low hanging fruit’ argument but in the end that is really a value judgement. Is the invention of the car more important than the invention of the mobile phone? Is it more important than the accumulation of medical inventions/innovations that have extended our lives by decades? Is it more important than sequencing genomes at an increasing rate, biotech that makes it possible to make yeast that produces diesel or our growing nanotechnology? You see what I mean: a value judgement.
And, like many who have been discussing this book, I don’t agree that a slowing of technological advance is why people aren’t as wealthy as they could be. Firstly I don’t agree that technological advances are slowing. I would say that their effects are taking longer to reach us because of an increasingly hysterical anti-science meme that has spread in the West, with its resultant increase in restrictive legislation. Secondly I would say that the decrease in wealth relative to those advances is all due to increasingly parasitic governments and financial institutions sucking up that wealth – wealth that would have been used to develop those technological advances. Invent something astounding and you need big bucks to get it to market from under the leaden hand of government legislation. You don’t have big bucks of your own to spare because government and the financial institutions have stolen them. It’s an increasingly vicious circle.
This is why you see no technological singularity in The Departure – the parasitic state has killed innovation and invention. My only hope, in the real world, is that the financial collapse we are entering now will kill off some portion of the parasite infestation before the host dies. But even if that does happen, the host will still need time to recover its health, and the problem is that parasites grow faster than their hosts.