My TEDx talk on The Great Stagnation

You will find it here.

And tomorrow the physical version of the book is available from Amazon, Barnes&, and in book stores.


Recently read the Kindle version, I've been recommending it to everyone I know. Well-researched and a fascinating counterpoint to Kurzweil.

Stagnating median incomes are a result of raising income inequality. This talk didn't, in my opinion, satisfactorily explain the link between stagnating innovation and increasing income inequality.

Tyler, I liked the use of the image from Paleofuture!

So the question Tyler is asking is "is technology growth a stationary series" If it is, then he is right, if it is not then Kurzweil is correct.
Well! This is an empirical question! We have tools to answer it!

One thing that Tyler didn't really address in the book (or in this talk) is the rise of the welfare state.

Before the 1964, welfare didn't really exist as a government function.

I would say that if someone is in danger of becoming homeless or just struggling to make ends meet, they will be far more resourceful. Tyler specifically calls out the 1930s as being the most economically innovative eras and there were certainly millions of people with no money, no jobs, and no safety net. The only option they had was to do something, anything.

It seems like this would be a major component of the slowdown in median income. Especially when he gives such a thorough treatment of government spending in general. How was welfare skipped?

What will sell more copies? The ebook or the physical one?

Also, I'm waiting for the day when pirated TGS copies start appearing online; that's a real sign a book has made it!

I thought that was a pipe in your hand for half the talk.

I enjoyed the talk.

From near the end of the talk, you said, "...what I see in early periods of time, but not so much today, is this notion for extreme reverence for science and scientists is weaker in the United States than I would like."

Could it be that scientists are to blame for this? Perhaps what you see are scientists in earlier periods that actually solved problems like eradicating disease. Scientists today seem to be political tools.

Perhaps what you see are scientists in earlier periods that actually solved problems like eradicating disease. Scientists today seem to be political tools.

Partly, science has gotten a lot more complicated.

Through the 1950's, anybody could learn the simple rules for electronic design and create their own special electronic circuits. But now if you need quantum tunneling it has to be designed by somebody who's expert in quantum mechanics. You can't just get a computer program to do quantum mechanics for you, it takes a lot of special judgement.

Quantum mechanics is guaranteed to get the right answer if you can actually solve the problem, but mostly you can't. So where's the innovation? Townes imagined a laser, and shopped the idea around to various physics experts who all told him it was not compatible with quantum mechanics. Then after he did it, they figured out that QM predicted it after all.

To actually get results, we need a way to simplify the science to something we can work with easily. Even if it isn't completely correct, if it gives easy approximations that work well enough we can use it to invent.

Great talk. Thank you.

I was wondering if you had considered the influence of the creation of the EPA (in 1973 no less) and the slow down of economic growth in the United States. Is it possible that since companies are required to internalize the environmental effects that were externalities until then have reduced their rates of return and dimished economic growth? Have you considered whether the economic numbers of the early 20th century are somewhat flawed because externalities like those were not considered in the statistics?

Thanks again.


Regarding the stagnation in family incomes beginning about 1974, I'm surprised that more attention wasn't paid to the end of cheap oil, which became acute in 1973 with the ascendancy of OPEC, the Arab oil embargo, and the gasoline crisis of 1974. Expensive energy has reduced real incomes by eating up take-home pay and by reducing worker productivity.

Also, the massive increase in environmental regulation that began in the early 1970's, including:
Formation of EPA in 1970
Clean Air Act Amendments of 1970
Clean Water Act Amendments of 1972
Although our environment is cleaner than it would have been without EPA, the cost of industrial production is higher than it would have been. Also, a lot of well-paying jobs have been lost to places with lower environmental standards.

The collapse of the Bretton Woods system in 1971 accounts not only for the end of cheap oil but for the escalation of inflation across the board and in consequence the stagnation of real family incomes.

This shows which they last very much lengthier and thus saving you income which could otherwise are actually utilized to purchase new ones.

Great talk, Tyler.

I'm wondering if you're familiar with Ray Kurzweil's work accelerating technological progress? Am I right in saying that your respective arguments are not as dichotomous as they would first appear? Would be great to see you both on the same stage together!

Mr. Tyler Cowen
I just read about you in detail. Brenden Greeley's article " Tyler Cowen , century's hottest economist in the making" is informative about contemporary economic fraternity.
E-book " The Great Stagnation" portrays only half truth since it stops in time the future. Actually, it should have been "The Great Hunger". May be you will write this book in future. May be I will write this book in futurre.
If we extend the results of the action plans deliberated in the book "5 years guarantee: how to make India richer" ( ISBN 978-81-7049-384-6 and available on; we will be staring at very different scenario in America, Europe and Australia soon in future.
If the developing world nations India , China , Thailand and others stop food exports to meet the aspirations of their own citizens ; what will be the scenario of food availability in America, Europe and Australia. Populations in these zones on earth have grown too big and is definitely not sustainable based on the agricultural resources available locally. The governments of the developing nations will have to stop exports of agriculural produce to meet the requirements and aspirations of their own citizens much sooner than later. The population in these countries is naturally high due to availability of food, but governments have been exporting the food for extraneous reasons.
Best Regards
S K Vikram

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