Productivity and Gordon

Just watched a nicely-filmed 8-minute segment in PBS on Robert Gordon’s new book, ‘The rise and fall of American growth’, filmed for effect, mostly by way of a debate-like conversation between Prof. Robert Gordon and Erik Brynjolfsson of MIT. The interviewer is dressed in a nice old-fashioned suit and hat. All good stuff.

In that 8-minute long interview, at around the 6th minute, Erik Brynjolfsson says that pessimism about economic stagnation was at its highest in the 1930s but America had the best twenty years of economic growth after that.

It is total conflation (or, ignorance or both) of the causes that contributed to growth in the 1940s (second half, may be including first half due to production of weapons!) and in the 1950s. A lot was destroyed and hence a lot had to be rebuilt. Period. As simple as that. Nothing more; nothing less. Why confuse that?

If one were to be charitable to Erik Brynjolfsson, one could say that there were multiple causes other than productivity and technology gains and collectively, they perhaps mattered a lot more than these two factors.

If anything, such a comment is proof, if it were needed, that technology has no answer for human cognitive limitations – deliberate or unintended.

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