Synopsis and Summary of Class Discussion
In The Lever of Riches, Joel Mokyr attempts to explain historical economic growth in terms of technological creativity. He argues that innovation plays the critical role in determining human prosperity by providing an increase in output without a commensurate increase in inputs. Accordingly, Mokyr’s book explores the variables that influence technological progress through a comprehensive historical analysis. In particular, chapter seven of The Lever of Riches provides a serious attempt to uncover the variables that allow some countries to innovate while preventing others. As the focus of our class is the effect of technology on the environment, exploring the various factors that determine rates of innovation provides crucial insight into human nature, technology, and the environment.
The class discussion, following the presentation of these variables, reflects the complexity inherent in technological progress. No one disagreed that the variables highlighted by Mokyr were significant. Most of the class was also in consensus with Mokyr’s interpretation of such variables on innovation. However, the implications of these variables on future rates of innovation proved difficult to identify. In addition, the sheer quantity of variables and the complex interactions between them leaves one feeling overwhelmed. The class discussion seemed scattered at points, symbolizing the difficulty in unifying so many disparate themes.
In particular, the discussion on crafting policy to influence these variables in favor of future innovation was unable to produce a clear conclusion. This inability to extrapolate future policy demonstrates the complexity of innovation and reinforces the need for future scholarship on technological innovation.