A collection of quotes/images/parables/passages I like related to progress studies.

“I do not see how one can look at figures like these without seeing them as representing possibilities. Is there some action a government of India could take that would lead the Indian economy to grow like Indonesia’s or Egypt’s? If so, what, exactly? If not, what is it about the ‘nature of India’ that makes it so? The consequences for human welfare involved in questions like these are simply staggering: Once one starts to think about them, it is hard to think about anything else.” Robert Lucas, 1988. No class on growth is every complete if this quote isn’t mentioned at least once (along with the image of North/South Korea below).

Satellite image taken of North/South Korea at night, showing the power of Economic Growth Credit: NASA Earth Observatory. Source: Flickr

“The raw materials that we use have not changed, but as a result of trial and error, experimentation, refinement, and scientific investigation, the instructions that we follow for combining raw materials have become vastly more sophisticated. One hundred years ago, all we could do to get visual stimulation from iron oxide was to use it as a pigment. Now we put it on plastic tape and use it to make videocassette recordings.” Paul Romer (1990). I’d be interested in hearing modern takes on this.

Richard Hamming’s three questions for new hires at Bell Labs: “1- What are you working on? 2- What’s the most important open problem in your area? 3- Why aren’t they the same?”

“Science isn’t the sum of what scientists think. Had science operated by majority consensus we would be still stuck in the Middle Ages and Einstein would have ended as he started, a patent clerk with fruitless side hobbies.” Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

Economic Historian Robert Heilbroner in 1965 said “as machines continue to invade society, duplicating greater and greater numbers of social tasks, it is human labor itself—at least, as we now think of ‘labor’—that is gradually rendered redundant”

“Labor will become less and less important… More and more workers will be replaced by machines. I do not see that new industries can employ everybody who wants a job.” Wassily Leontief

“We are being afflicted with a new disease of which some readers may not have heard the name, but of which they will hear a great deal in the years to come — namely, technological unemployment…due to our discovery of means of economising the use of labor outrunning the pace at which we can find new uses for labor” (Keynes 1930).

“I had also, during many years, followed a golden rule, namely that whenever published fact, a new observation of thought came across me, which was opposed to my general results, to make a memorandum of it without fail and at once; for I had found by experience that such facts and thoughts were far more apt to escape from the memory than favourable ones.” Charles Darwin

In an editorial in 1851 The Economist wrote that granting patents, “inflames cupidity, excites fraud, stimulates men to run after schemes…begets disputes and quarrels betwixt inventors, provokes endless lawsuits [and] makes men ruin themselves for the sake of getting the privilege of a patent.”

“Thanks to each wave of new arrivals to this land of opportunity, we’re a nation forever young, forever bursting with energy and new ideas, and always on the cutting edge, always leading the world to the next frontier.” Ronald Reagan, 1989

“I see all this progress, and it fills me with conviction and hope that further progress is possible. This is not optimistic. It is having a clear and reasonable idea about how things are. It is having a worldview that is constructive and useful.” Hans Rosling

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” Arthur C. Clarke

“If we all worked on the assumption that what is accepted as true is really true, there would be little hope of advance.” Orville Wright

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