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a16z Podcast: Knowledge Builds Technology and Technology Builds Knowledge -- with Joel Mokyr


November 29, 2016 19:36

00:00 / 36:02

The Industrial Revolution (and period between 1500-1700) was an unprecedented
age of technology and economic progress — not unlike today’s, in fact — where
we took “quantum leaps” forward in tech by taming electricity, making cheaper
steel and refining iron cheaply, automating fiber looms, pumping water out of
coal mines, figuring out how to measure longitude at sea, improving the
quality of food, preventing smallpox, … even bleaching underwear. But what
really triggered the Industrial Revolution? Why did it take place in Europe
and spread beyond? It has to do with a competitive, open market of ideas — a
transnational “Republic of Letters”, not unlike the early days of the
blogosphere. And the conditions that created it (virtual networks, open access
science, weak ties, and so on) are the very conditions we may need to sustain
growth and prosperity even today, argues Joel Mokyr, professor of economics
and history at Northwestern and author of the new book A Culture of Growth:
The Origins of the Modern Economy. Despite fears of what new tech may bring,
the alternative to not innovating is stagnation — “not doing it is worse”,
argues Mokyr in this episode of the a16z Podcast. So how do we then measure
that growth? How does this all play out internationally, and institutionally?
And what happens when we bring shared focus to big problems, like climate
change? If there’s one pattern that continues to play out throughout history
to today, it’s that “Knowledge builds technology and technology builds
knowledge.” image: Library of Congress Read more
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