How far can humanity advance?

Economic growth is a new concept, existing on a global level only since the Industrial Revolution. So what makes us think we can keep driving ever onward and upward if so little of history suggests we can?
Indeed much of our growth has been based on our imagination and creativity. But is man able to create anything entirely new? Try it now and you’ll find that what you think of in fact adapts something else that already exists. The greatest example in human history is the wheel. But that too we could have derived from a stone or a piece of fruit rolling down a hill, or perhaps more likely a log.

In addition, countries like China are able to grow fast because they are playing ‘Catch-up economics’. This occurs where new ideas, capital and technologies are being adapted/taken from abroad. Yet if the paragraph above is true then aren’t we all just playing ‘catch-up’ with nature? If we can’t ever think of anything new then we can only ever advance as far as nature allows us too. Right? Or wrong?

4 comments

  • Wrong. Many things are new. The internet for example. It’s existence derives from many, many, new ideas and tools that were unknown and invisible to ancient societies.

    How far can economies progress ? is a much better question.

    If you look at the rise in inflation over even two generations you can see that the economy is based on the percieved value of money. As long as we keep on believing that inflation is logical, then we can continue to fund ourselves in building better living standards and technological progress.

    If people however are forced to recognise, either through an economic disaster or credit crises, that the value of money is no longer based on the gold standard but on the decisions of govt’s about how much to print or not print, then maybe soceities pursuit of money via productivity, will disappear somewhat.

  • Things like the internet are built on aspects of nature. Thus they are not entirely new. No one can simply invent something out of their heads that isn’t inspired by nature. However we are aspects of nature too, since we are of course natural. Once we built the wheel it became natural and thus part of nature, just as did the computer and ultimately the internet. So although we can’t jump from A to Z if nature is nowhere more than D we can go from A to B to C to D and then past, because we, as a part of nature, shape what it is. So I agree that there are many new things.

    The economy is not however built on the perceived value of money. If we all woke up tomorrow thinking money was worth more than it is today it would merely create inflation. It would not increase productivity or ‘real’ economic activity. Money is a means of exchange, storage etc. Economic growth is facilitated by it, not created by it.

  • I can’t agree with you that things like the internet are built on nature. This kind of reductive idea is almost circular, we live in a natural world and therefore we are natural and all the things we create are natural because we live in a natural world.

    A-Z ? Man is natural, a prosthetic limb is not. If we build a man entirely out of prosthetics and circuitry does he still qualify as natural just because we built him ?

    Anyway, back to the mainpoint. “If we all woke up tomorrow thinking money was worth more than it is today it would merely create inflation”, actually inflation would occur if we all woke up thinking money was worth less today than it was yesterday.

    And that is exactly what makes the economy spin, the time value of money. You need to keep creating it/earning it/chasing it otherwise the money you already have will slowly start to diminish in value.

    And for most people the way to try and earn more is by trying to produce more. If there was hyper inflation this would remove the disguise and let people see that they are actually chasing a man-made system.

    p.s. this website is much easier to post on. Good stuff.

  • I think we’ll agree to disagree here. Apart from where I said inflation. Yes that should have been deflation.

    P.S. Cheers about the website!

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