counter create hit The Lever of Riches: Technological Creativity and Economic Progress - Download Free eBook
Ads Banner
Hot Best Seller

The Lever of Riches: Technological Creativity and Economic Progress

Availability: Ready to download

In a world of supercomputers, genetic engineering, and fiber optics, technological creativity is ever more the key to economic success. But why are some nations more creative than others, and why do some highly innovative societies--such as ancient China, or Britain in the industrial revolution--pass into stagnation? Beginning with a fascinating, concise history of technol In a world of supercomputers, genetic engineering, and fiber optics, technological creativity is ever more the key to economic success. But why are some nations more creative than others, and why do some highly innovative societies--such as ancient China, or Britain in the industrial revolution--pass into stagnation? Beginning with a fascinating, concise history of technological progress, Mokyr sets the background for his analysis by tracing the major inventions and innovations that have transformed society since ancient Greece and Rome. What emerges from this survey is often surprising: the classical world, for instance, was largely barren of new technology, the relatively backward society of medieval Europe bristled with inventions, and the period between the Reformation and the Industrial Revolution was one of slow and unspectacular progress in technology, despite the tumultuous developments associated with the Voyages of Discovery and the Scientific Revolution. What were the causes of technological creativity? Mokyr distinguishes between the relationship of inventors and their physical environment--which determined their willingness to challenge nature--and the social environment, which determined the openness to new ideas. He discusses a long list of such factors, showing how they interact to help or hinder a nation's creativity, and then illustrates them by a number of detailed comparative studies, examining the differences between Europe and China, between classical antiquity and medieval Europe, and between Britain and the rest of Europe during the industrial revolution. He examines such aspects as the role of the state (the Chinese gave up a millennium-wide lead in shipping to the Europeans, for example, when an Emperor banned large ocean-going vessels), the impact of science, as well as religion, politics, and even nutrition. He questions the importance of such commonly-cited factors as the spill-over benefits of war, the abundance of natural resources, life expectancy, and labor costs. Today, an ever greater number of industrial economies are competing in the global market, locked in a struggle that revolves around technological ingenuity. The Lever of Riches, with its keen analysis derived from a sweeping survey of creativity throughout history, offers telling insights into the question of how Western economies can maintain, and developing nations can unlock, their creative potential.


Compare
Ads Banner

In a world of supercomputers, genetic engineering, and fiber optics, technological creativity is ever more the key to economic success. But why are some nations more creative than others, and why do some highly innovative societies--such as ancient China, or Britain in the industrial revolution--pass into stagnation? Beginning with a fascinating, concise history of technol In a world of supercomputers, genetic engineering, and fiber optics, technological creativity is ever more the key to economic success. But why are some nations more creative than others, and why do some highly innovative societies--such as ancient China, or Britain in the industrial revolution--pass into stagnation? Beginning with a fascinating, concise history of technological progress, Mokyr sets the background for his analysis by tracing the major inventions and innovations that have transformed society since ancient Greece and Rome. What emerges from this survey is often surprising: the classical world, for instance, was largely barren of new technology, the relatively backward society of medieval Europe bristled with inventions, and the period between the Reformation and the Industrial Revolution was one of slow and unspectacular progress in technology, despite the tumultuous developments associated with the Voyages of Discovery and the Scientific Revolution. What were the causes of technological creativity? Mokyr distinguishes between the relationship of inventors and their physical environment--which determined their willingness to challenge nature--and the social environment, which determined the openness to new ideas. He discusses a long list of such factors, showing how they interact to help or hinder a nation's creativity, and then illustrates them by a number of detailed comparative studies, examining the differences between Europe and China, between classical antiquity and medieval Europe, and between Britain and the rest of Europe during the industrial revolution. He examines such aspects as the role of the state (the Chinese gave up a millennium-wide lead in shipping to the Europeans, for example, when an Emperor banned large ocean-going vessels), the impact of science, as well as religion, politics, and even nutrition. He questions the importance of such commonly-cited factors as the spill-over benefits of war, the abundance of natural resources, life expectancy, and labor costs. Today, an ever greater number of industrial economies are competing in the global market, locked in a struggle that revolves around technological ingenuity. The Lever of Riches, with its keen analysis derived from a sweeping survey of creativity throughout history, offers telling insights into the question of how Western economies can maintain, and developing nations can unlock, their creative potential.

30 review for The Lever of Riches: Technological Creativity and Economic Progress

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jack

    Where does innovation come from? Why were the classical civilizations able to flourish, create towering intellectual achievements in mathematics, law and philosophy, yet not develop much in the way of fundamentally new technology, nor particularly advance the standards of living of their people? Why was China able to lead the world for over a thousand years in new discoveries, then suddenly regress and involute, losing the most complex clock and best seafaring navy the world had seen? And how di Where does innovation come from? Why were the classical civilizations able to flourish, create towering intellectual achievements in mathematics, law and philosophy, yet not develop much in the way of fundamentally new technology, nor particularly advance the standards of living of their people? Why was China able to lead the world for over a thousand years in new discoveries, then suddenly regress and involute, losing the most complex clock and best seafaring navy the world had seen? And how did a louse- and tb-infested runt end of the Eurasian land mass suddenly explode and take over nearly the entire known world? These modest questions are at the heart of Mokyr's book. He wants to understand where innovation -- particularly sustained innovation -- comes from, and how it generates longterm economic growth. He wants to do so by looking hard at the history of technology, understanding it in the details to limit the facile one-off anecdote used to "prove" so many speculations. The result is an impressive book. Mokyr lays out in about 150 pages a rough history of European technology from the classical era to World War I. He demonstrates, impressively, that science as often followed technology as lead it. He gives enough detail to really understand why some of the remarkable advances (now taken for granted) really were remarkable advances. In the second half of the book he looks at existing explanations for innovation and economic growth. Pertinently, he is able to show that most of the ideas out there in the popular milieu are inconsistent with most of the historical record. His own answer is not entirely satisfying, but that's rather beside the point -- I think he would argue that sustained innovation and growth is about combination of individual remarkableness and inventiveness, in a society that nurtures, values and rewards such inventiveness, in an political culture that tolerates diversity and sustains property rights. But, again, Mokyr's answer isn't so much the point; rather, his incredibly clear thinking on the limitations of existing explanations, and remarkable condensation of so much historical material is worth the price of admission. Now, truth requires me to point out this is not a book for everyone. The details get a little dense here and there. Mokyr is an economist, and this is an academic book written for social scientists. He presumes the reader has a working knowledge of microeconomics and transaction cost economics, and can recognize Smith and Schumpeter. The work does not have any mathematical formalism, mind you, so it is certainly readable by those with only a passing knowledge, and I think those readers would still enjoy it. But if you understand why quibbling that "sometimes there ARE free, or very cheap, lunches" would constitute apoplexy-inducing heresy in some circles, then you can really enjoy this book. (This book is heavily leaned on by David Christian's Maps of Time An Introduction to Big History. It is substantially shorter, but more academic than that ambitious book -- if you found Christian hard-going, you'll probably not enjoy Mokyr. But if you liked Christian, you may love this book.)

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bertrand

    Mokyr is an accessible, relatively jargon-free and not overly dogmatic economic historian. The Lever of Riches strikes the right balance between historical narrative and a modicum of economic theory, in order to defend a vision of growth which I think I am not entirely in agreement with, but which is well argued, coherent and which readily acknowledges its critics. The author identifies early on four vectors of economic growth: investment (increased availability of funds), commercial expansion ( Mokyr is an accessible, relatively jargon-free and not overly dogmatic economic historian. The Lever of Riches strikes the right balance between historical narrative and a modicum of economic theory, in order to defend a vision of growth which I think I am not entirely in agreement with, but which is well argued, coherent and which readily acknowledges its critics. The author identifies early on four vectors of economic growth: investment (increased availability of funds), commercial expansion (opening of new markets), population growth (encouraging the division of labour) and, finally, what he terms 'Schumpeterian growth', essentially growth driven by technological progress, that is, by 'any change in the application of information to the production process in such a way as to increase efficiency, resulting either in the production of a given output with fewer ressources (i.e. lower costs), or the production of better or new products' (6). As such, then, it does not entail scientific 'discovery' but rather, often, the novel application of existing knowledge. Mokyr claims that technological change is 'spasmodic' - concentrated in specific periods (a comparison with Kuhn's time-table of scientific revolutions would be interesting!) and for most of history was rarely the result of rational planning but is rather the result of 'creativity', 'an attack by an individual on a constraint that everyone else takes as given'(9). He divides technological change between innovation, the spread of best practices which he finds to be social and collective, and invention, which is some sort of qualitative leap taken by Great Men, and as such is a more individual and maybe heroic feat: That's the bit I am not too comfortable with: too Schumpeterian probably. This solitary inventor struggling to tease out the secrets of nature (11) sounds to me like the not-so-unlikely love-child of a romantic artist and acaptain of industry (Doctor Frankenstein or Elon Musk, take your pick!) The two aspects, collective innovation and solitary invention, however, are deeply intertwined, so that the growth of the one without the other is at best unlikely. Innovation, then, the spread of best-practices and technological know-how, is crucial, and luckily is the focus of most of the book. So even if, like me, you don't buy the whole solitary genius scenario, the book is still very much readable, enjoyable and informative! Mokyr identifies three necessary condition for technological growth to take place: first, the presence in the given society of class willing to take risks and to challenge the common ways and beliefs. Second, economic and social institutions that encourage and incentivize such innovation. Third, a society that encourage diversity and tolerance. The book is divided in two parts, first a general and relatively rapid history of Western technology, from antiquity to the XXth century, which covers a wide range of topics and is both stimulating and accessible. The second part is composed of small comparative studies, tackling some of the most well known quandaries of world history: a comparison between classical and medieval technology, another between China's and Europe's 'Great divergence', and the last one tackling the question of why the Industrial Revolution took place in Britain rather than the continent. All in all it's well written, it's polished and measured, a good introduction to the subject even for someone like me who knows next to nothing about either economic or technological history.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Siddharth

    Summary The Lever of Riches is a great book. I think I say that about a lot of books though. Lever of Riches is a 3-part book. In the first part, Mokyr presents a concise history of Technological progress starting in 500 BC and ending around 915. In the second part, Mokyr compares the relative technological progress in three periods across time and space and the possible reasons (he touches on religion, culture, geography and national sentiment as possible reasons). In the last part, he draws a Summary The Lever of Riches is a great book. I think I say that about a lot of books though. Lever of Riches is a 3-part book. In the first part, Mokyr presents a concise history of Technological progress starting in 500 BC and ending around 915. In the second part, Mokyr compares the relative technological progress in three periods across time and space and the possible reasons (he touches on religion, culture, geography and national sentiment as possible reasons). In the last part, he draws an analogy between Biological Evolution and Technological progress. I liked the first and second parts immensely. I didn't find the last part (the analogy) very intersting or useful. Review Great summarization: What is this book about? I think that if you read the Introduction part of the book, you understand that and know exactly what's about to come. So many books are free-wheeling narratives of the author's research areas that it has few (if any) connections to the topic at hand once you are deep into the book. This book doesn't lose the plot. It aims to provide one possible explanation for the apparent difference in quality of life between the West and most of Asia and Africa. If the West is on teh whole comfortable, even opulent, compared to the appaling poverty still rampant in most of Asia and Africa, it is in large part thanks to its technology. Excellent structure: I started noticing this in non-fiction books after the majorly disorienting narrative in The Box (Levinson). That was also a great book, but the fact that the narrative wasn't chronological really messed up my comprehension of the book. Lever of Riches stays on track and moves linearly through the Ancient times, the Industrial Revolution to the late 20th century. There are no unnecessary breaks, few parallel narratives which are always geographically isolated. Description and analysis of other prevalent theories: The author leans heavily on work done by others in his attempt to prove his own theory. And along this line, it was fairly clear to me, every step along the way that whatever the author was saying was thoroughly researched and that the author had seriously considered what other people believed and had not dismissed their points of view out of hand. History of technological progress: The second part of the book is a concise history of technological progress. There are several diagrams and a lot of dates and names. I felt that the author did justice to this topic and I learnt a LOT just from this part of the book. If anything, I highly recommend this part of the book in isolation. A better book of technological history definitely exists out there and the author admits as much, but I felt that the detail Mokyr goes into is just right. (My opinion is bound to change when I read a more thorough history which touches on some of the things Mokyr skipped over) Great comparisons: The comparisons that make up the third part of the book are definitely my highlight from this book. I liked the times and countries he compared because I have struggled in the past to understand the vast gap in the servies and quality of life in these places first hand, and this book helped me understand one probable cause for these differences. Not crazy about the Evolution analogy: The last part of the book is an attempt by Mokyr to draw several parallels between biological evolution and technological progress. The analogy seems to hold in most cases and there are several holes, etc. In general though, I didn't like this part of the book as much as I liked the preceding 2 parts. In conjunction with other inventions, power technology created the gap between Europe and the rest of the world, a temporary dis-equilibrium that allowed the Europeans to establish global political and military domination. Hindi doctrine holds that castepromotion is possible through re-incarnation if one lives an appropriately resigned and obedient life. ... Poverty was holy and action was vanity. ... A fiendish failure proof system to ensure the status quo A gentleman only concerns himself with the lofty ideals of pure science, scientific research for it's own sake Longer form notes on my blog.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Rick

    In a world of supercomputers, genetic engineering, and fiber optics, technological creativity is ever more the key to economic success. But why are some nations more creative than others, and why do some highly innovative societies--such as ancient China, or Britain in the industrial revolution--pass into stagnation? Beginning with a fascinating, concise history of technological progress, Mokyr sets the background for his analysis by tracing the major inventions and innovations that have trans In a world of supercomputers, genetic engineering, and fiber optics, technological creativity is ever more the key to economic success. But why are some nations more creative than others, and why do some highly innovative societies--such as ancient China, or Britain in the industrial revolution--pass into stagnation? Beginning with a fascinating, concise history of technological progress, Mokyr sets the background for his analysis by tracing the major inventions and innovations that have transformed society since ancient Greece and Rome. What emerges from this survey is often surprising: the classical world, for instance, was largely barren of new technology, the relatively backward society of medieval Europe bristled with inventions, and the period between the Reformation and the Industrial Revolution was one of slow and unspectacular progress in technology, despite the tumultuous developments associated with the Voyages of Discovery and the Scientific Revolution. What were the causes of technological creativity? Mokyr distinguishes between the relationship of inventors and their physical environment--which determined their willingness to challenge nature--and the social environment, which determined the openness to new ideas. He discusses a long list of such factors, showing how they interact to help or hinder a nation's creativity, and then illustrates them by a number of detailed comparative studies, examining the differences between Europe and China, between classical antiquity and medieval Europe, and between Britain and the rest of Europe during the industrial revolution. He examines such aspects as the role of the state (the Chinese gave up a millennium-wide lead in shipping to the Europeans, for example, when an Emperor banned large ocean-going vessels), the impact of science, as well as religion, politics, and even nutrition. He questions the importance of such commonly-cited factors as the spill-over benefits of war, the abundance of natural resources, life expectancy, and labor costs. Today, an ever greater number of industrial economies are competing in the global market, locked in a struggle that revolves around technological ingenuity. The Lever of Riches, with its keen analysis derived from a sweeping survey of creativity throughout history, offers telling insights into the question of how Western economies can maintain, and developing nations can unlock, their creative potential. ** Review "An excellent volume outlining in great detail, yet wide ranging in scope, the role of technological change in history. Will make a great supplemental text for our future World Economic History course that I'll be teaching."--Michael Haupert, Univ. of Wisconsin-LaCrosse "Mokyr has demonstrated, yet again, that he is one the best economic historians around. His book is a treasure trove of facts and insights about technological progress often overlooked in other accounts. Further, his argument that economics might do well to adopt the methodology of evolutionary biology instead of the standard application of Newtonian physics is cogent and convincing."--Howard Bodenhorn, St. Lawrence Univ. "An informative and well-written study of humankind's progress."--J.M. Skaggs,Wichita State Univ. "The history and the examples Mokyr uses are a delight to read."--Business Week "Joel Mokyr is a first-rate scholar who has read a wide body of literature. The book is very well written, lively and engaging. It is closely reasoned and well executed"--Nathan Rosenberg, Stanford University "Joel Mokyr likes telling his story and he tells it well; his book makes for good reading and rereading, and this in itself sets him apart from many of his fellow economic historians."--The New York Times Book Review "[Mokyr's] examples are so comprehensive, his knowledge so detailed, and his conclusions so broad and firmly drawn that the reader comes away full of insight."--The Christian Science Monitor "[A] rich, subtly flavored buffet of theories, ideas, insights and examples."--Wall Street Journal "Lucid and accessible."--Reason "Raise[s] some very insightful questions."--Informationweek About the Author Joel Mokyr is Professor of Economics and History at Northwestern University, and is the author of Why Ireland Starved, The Economics of the Industrial Revolution, and other books in economic history.

  5. 4 out of 5

    So Hakim

    An interesting book about relationship between technological inventions and their economical impacts. Roughly divided into three parts: - History of technological inventions (very compressed), - Analysis of inventions' economical impacts, - What is the possible mechanism behind it? In world history, there is one big question, namely: how did the West rise as technological powerhouse? Why did Renaissance happen in Italy, and Industrial Revolution take place in England? While nowadays taken for grant An interesting book about relationship between technological inventions and their economical impacts. Roughly divided into three parts: - History of technological inventions (very compressed), - Analysis of inventions' economical impacts, - What is the possible mechanism behind it? In world history, there is one big question, namely: how did the West rise as technological powerhouse? Why did Renaissance happen in Italy, and Industrial Revolution take place in England? While nowadays taken for granted, those events were actually rather miraculous -- in that they defied the odds. Those familiar with history of science will recall that, before Renaissance, there were two cultures unrivaled in their mastery of science and technology: Islamic and Chinese civilizations. Yet for some reason they didn't make the leap to industrialization. Instead the Europeans, who were comparatively backward, gained momentum to pass the two... and even weirder: the Muslims and Chinese just let themselves stagnate. Somehow they were reluctant to absorb or adapt 'Western' technologies. In the end this bit them in the rear. European countries became superpower, eclipsing the glories of Muslims and Chinese, and the rest is history. But... what the hell happened? Well, that question is among the topics Joel Mokyr investigated. His general theme can be summed thus: what is the relationship between people, technology, and their prosperity? Is there some law behind it? Big part of the book is spent to analyze the rise of Industrialization in England. Why England, not France or Germany? (Some detailed explanation ensues) Another part deals with The China Question. Why did this big civilization, who had compass, gunpowder, and big ships that ruled Pacific in 1400s, stop in its track? Here Mokyr details his fellow scholars' argument, agreeing with some, debunking others. In the end, though, there's no clear answer. At least not yet. Still, we are treated to what the experts think. Unfortunately, Mokyr didn't talk much about the stagnation of Islamic culture which -- at least for me -- is as baffling as China's. In that era they were the best in mathematics; their astronomers revolted against Ptolemaic model (although not to the level of Copernicus'); their medical books went on to inspire European doctors. Yet they failed. Surely this idiosyncrasy deserves a chapter or two. All in all, though, Mokyr built and presented his case well. Clearly there is interplay between technological advancement and a culture's political and economical prowess. What exactly it is, still rather vague -- I don't think he cracked it. But in following him, we glimpse clearer picture of it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jerry Ward

    I could not improve on the Jack’s excellent review of Joel Mokyr's The Lever of Riches. I will just add a few thoughts. In my judgment Prof. Mokyr appears to have underestimated the important and fundamental significance of the steam engine, the iconic invention of the Industrial Revolution. He noted its original use in pumping water out of coal mines, and that “it was the first economically useful transformation of thermal energy (heat) into kinetic energy (work).” (p. 85 of the paperback). He fa I could not improve on the Jack’s excellent review of Joel Mokyr's The Lever of Riches. I will just add a few thoughts. In my judgment Prof. Mokyr appears to have underestimated the important and fundamental significance of the steam engine, the iconic invention of the Industrial Revolution. He noted its original use in pumping water out of coal mines, and that “it was the first economically useful transformation of thermal energy (heat) into kinetic energy (work).” (p. 85 of the paperback). He fails to amplify on the significance of this step: this discovery opened the door to the use of new sources of energy. Until the steam engine, Europe’s primary source of power on land was the muscles of the horse (and when nature obliged, wind and gravity acting on water). Muscle—derived from grass, oats, and hay—had gone about as far as it could go. The steam engine and its later progeny allowed the use of the much higher energy embodied in coal, oil, and (much later) nuclear fission. I believe the fundamental importance of the Industrial Revolution was this huge magnification of the power made available by this switch in basic sources of energy. The dramatic increase it permitted in the productivity of labor was the central enabler of the hockey stick growth that started in the 19th century. This criticism not withstanding, The Lever of Riches is an important book, a tour de force. It conveys a message that more people need to understand: the central importance of innovation to our wealth today and in the future. Everyone pays lip service to the need for innovation, but few understand it well enough to translate that need into policy. I have drawn heavily and gratefully from Prof. Mokyr’s work in my own book, The Evolution of Wealth: An Economic History of Innovation and Capitalism, The Role of Government, and the Hazards of Democracy.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Igor

    The first half, covering the history of technological progress through 1914, is fascinating. The other half lists all the theories that tried to explain technological creativity or lack of it, with pros and cons for each. Very interesting and readable book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jim Angstadt

    Linking technology and progress just makes sense. Understanding why seems like a worth goal. But, my goodness, this book is slow and boring. Bailed

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rosie

    Quality of the writing: 5 Quality of the content/organisation/research: 5 Impact on my perspective: 4 Personal resonance: 4 Rereading potential: 5 Overall score: 5 The reason I read it: General curiosity about the history of technology, trying to expand on some point about diminishing returns.  Context of reading: I also read Exactly at the same time and the two meshed together extremely well.  Where I heard about it/who suggested it: I was following up a point about the history of horse collars in Fare Quality of the writing: 5 Quality of the content/organisation/research: 5 Impact on my perspective: 4 Personal resonance: 4 Rereading potential: 5 Overall score: 5 The reason I read it: General curiosity about the history of technology, trying to expand on some point about diminishing returns.  Context of reading: I also read Exactly at the same time and the two meshed together extremely well.  Where I heard about it/who suggested it: I was following up a point about the history of horse collars in Farewell To The Horse when I came across an extract from this book. I immediately ordered it. Later, I saw it's on the Ribbon Farm reading list. Review: Some societies produce a lot of creative technology at certain times. The same societies also have periods of stagnation. Some societies were creative for a while then stopped forever. Some societies have never produced much new technology. Why? This is the basic question of this book: what does it take for a society to be technologically creative? The Lever of Riches begins with a concise history of technology, an ambitious undertaking for an entire book, let alone part of one. Somehow, it manages to be dense and still unrushed, nor does it have the almost expected blindspot of non-Western technology. Based on what we know from history, Moky seeks to identify the elements which enable a society to be technologically creative and the ones which hinder it. He ends up with three main categories of factors: 1. The society needs to have a supply of smart, resourceful people willing to challenge their physical environment 2. There need to be societal inventions, like Nobel prizes and patents, to incentivise invention 3. The society needs to be tolerant towards difference.  Mokyr presents a vision of technology as anything that gives us the elusive free lunch. It allows us to reduce waste - in the form of labour, energy, material etc - meaning we increase output without a corresponding increase in input. Technology, as a consequence, makes societies richer. He also distinguishes between macroinventions (radical new ideas emerging from scratch) and microinventions (small improvements to existing technology.) Analysis on the level of 'what does it take for a society to invent good stuff?' almost always ends up so reductionist and over-elegant as to be useless. Somehow, this book avoids that. I don't know how. Perhaps because the final theories Mokyr presents are not forced into neat boxes, they're layered and full of digressions and caveats. He dispenses with a number of simplistic explanations of what enables or prevents technological creativity (e.g. that people with short lifespans tend not to be interested in inventing things. Life expectancies throughout history are skewed by high infant mortality and societies without longer life spans have been creative.) This is now one of my favourite books. I love it. Checking my notes, I spent 20–30 hours reading it, far more than should be warranted by a 368-page book. I just couldn't stop taking notes and looking things up and rereading parts. Lever of Riches contains a wealth of ideas which were new to me and I'm sad this book isn't better known.  This is yet another one which is older than me by a bit so some parts are a little dated. The section about the history of horse collars, which was first led me to this book, is incorrect according to more recent research. Other parts have also probably been disproven, as is expected.  Interesting tidbits: (heavily cut down - I probably took more notes from this book than anything else I've ever read.) -Rome in 100 AD had better-paved streets, sewage disposal, water supply, and protection from fire than capital cities in Europe in 1800. -Medieval Europe was likely the first society not to base its economy on the labour of enslaved people. -The practice of having 60 seconds in a minute and 60 minutes in an hour was standard by the middle of the fourteenth century. -Even during the Renaissance, the distinction between scientists and engineers was blurred. Many scientists worked on their own instruments. -Up until the early Renaissance, cities helped foster creativity by bringing people together. By the sixteenth century, the ability of organised groups like guilds to prevent new ideas spreading overrode that. -The first formal patent system developed in Venice in 1474. -Many forms of technology were in use before we developed the science to explain them, e.g. the steam engine.  -'One of the biggest advantages that Europe had was its large supply of large domesticated animals, which were entirely lacking in pre-Columbian America and Africa, and scarce in most parts of Asia.' -'It seems that as a general rule, then, the weaker the government, the better it is for innovation.'

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mark Isaak

    A very thoughtful and well-written book about the factors which are responsible for helping and hindering technological advance. Mokyr does an excellent job of writing clearly about an issue which is extremely complex. Almost half of the book is devoted to a history of technological advance, from antiquity through the 19th century. This seemed excessive to me as I read it, but it is necessary to contextualize the examples which help make the analyses clear. Although Mokyr does dismiss some facto A very thoughtful and well-written book about the factors which are responsible for helping and hindering technological advance. Mokyr does an excellent job of writing clearly about an issue which is extremely complex. Almost half of the book is devoted to a history of technological advance, from antiquity through the 19th century. This seemed excessive to me as I read it, but it is necessary to contextualize the examples which help make the analyses clear. Although Mokyr does dismiss some factors as unimportant (e.g. population growth) and call others essential (e.g. openness to new ideas), he does not shy from noting that most are more complicated and/or uncertain. The relationship between science and technology, for example, is not nearly as straightforward as I had thought. In a late chapter, he draws an extended analogy between change in technological ideas and biological evolution. Even here, he is scrupulous in detailing the limits to such an analogy and how it should *not* be used. This is not a book to turn to for simple answers. It is a book to turn to for real answers, insofar as they are possible.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Adora

    A brief comparative history of technological progress (up to the 1990s) from an economic historian. In particular, why some societies are technically creative and why some are not. The part about Luddites is enlightening. The last chapter about how evolution framework maps to technological progress is a bit forced / dumb, best to skip it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    Starts off a bit dry, but really gets interesting. I learned a lot of interesting details about our historical technological progress, especially the Industrial Revolution at a more detailed level.

  13. 5 out of 5

    David

    super academic, slow reading but great.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Chuck Kollars

    About "technological change"; thorough, detailed, accurate, logical, very well organized, and an easy read, if a bit dated a quarter century after its publication. The book revolves around "why did the Industrial Revolution happen in Great Britain and not somewhere else?". By way of background covers so much more though it's easy to forget that -- covers everything from the early Middle Ages through the 1980s, and all of the West; makes excursions into Rome, Greece, Islam, and China too. The "lif About "technological change"; thorough, detailed, accurate, logical, very well organized, and an easy read, if a bit dated a quarter century after its publication. The book revolves around "why did the Industrial Revolution happen in Great Britain and not somewhere else?". By way of background covers so much more though it's easy to forget that -- covers everything from the early Middle Ages through the 1980s, and all of the West; makes excursions into Rome, Greece, Islam, and China too. The "life's work" of a professor in the field, partly from lecture notes and partly from fresh research. Very broad and deep, almost a survey of the field - yet extremely well organized and an easy read. It's refreshing to me to find a semi-academic book where it's easy to find things and where paragraphs actually have identifiable topic sentences. He dips fairly deeply into some other academic fields too (for example societal economics and biological evolution). He even contributes his own evaluations once in a while, and --unlike what usually happens when an academic strays into some other field-- his offerings seem knowledgeably accurate, well-reasoned, and helpful. Much of what he says though lists others' theories of why the IR was in Britain, followed in each case by the reason that theory is _wrong_. And the extensive coverages of what were burning academic controversies at the time of publication seems irrelevant now. Most significantly for me, he never seriously covers -or in many cases even asks- the questions I really want to read about:1] why do periods of technological change appear to have a "life arc" from birth to youth to adulthood to old age to death? 2] what is the relationship between the technological aspect and the societal aspect of change (i.e. just because it's technologically possible is it societally a good idea, and vice versa)? 3] how do technological improvements affect human-related values other than population and economic living standard? and 4] was the lack of an IR in China (and many other countries) the result of a conscious decision to _not_ risk completely reorganizing that society? He's very very careful about logical reasoning, something I generally applaud because it's all too rare even in academic circles. He often makes a theory look silly, then dismisses it, simply by pointing out the logical flaw in the reasoning behind it. But (and I didn't really understand until now) when this is used again and again throughout an entire book, it becomes tedious. This is particularly the case because his one big positive contribution that would otherwise break up the naysaying is easy to thoroughly discount and even ignore, as it now feels strained and dead-end and not very useful. (In brief, his big positive contribution is analogizing technological change to biological evolution.) All in all, my suggestion is to make your default behavior _skimming_ rather quickly, then slow down and dig in whenever something interests you.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Mk Miller

    I prefer the way Fernand Braudel treats the economic history of technical innovation. Found this to be a little narrow. But I wanted to read Mokyr's Gifts of Athena instead of this, which I suspect is a bit more broad in scope.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Bradleypeacock

    An interesting reading, this book challenges some economic assumptions; for example, that there are no such thing as a free lunch. He argues that technological advancement spurred by creative innovation creates free lunch for the society through rising living standards.

  17. 5 out of 5

    David

    A classic look at the evolution of technology from an economic historians perspective. Engagingly written and erudite.

  18. 4 out of 5

    !Tæmbuŝu

    KOBOBOOKS KOBOBOOKS

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mimi

  20. 4 out of 5

    Matsini1

  21. 5 out of 5

    Chad

  22. 4 out of 5

    Randall Gwin

  23. 5 out of 5

    Fabian

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rami Bidshahri

  25. 4 out of 5

    Josh Rowe

  26. 5 out of 5

    Chris

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Williams

  28. 4 out of 5

    Alperen

  29. 4 out of 5

    Donald Hanna

  30. 5 out of 5

    Newsblogger

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.