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A friend, an economist at a big-time university, sends along the following materials, asking, impishly, “Is there a pattern here?” First, from the United States, in “Conversations with Tyler”:
TYLER COWEN: Let’s start with some questions about stagnation, Peter. At any point, if you care to add other topics of your own, please do so. You’re well known for arguing, well, “they promised us flying cars and all we got is 140 characters”; “technological progress has slowed down.” How is it you think that we’re most likely to get out of the great stagnation, when that happens?
PETER THIEL: Yes, I think there are, those three separate things. There’s the question of stagnation, which I think has been a story of stagnation in the world of atoms, not bits. I think we’ve had a lot of innovation in computers, information technology, Internet, mobile Internet in the world of bits. Not so much in the world of atoms, supersonic travel, space travel, new forms of energy, new forms of medicine, new medical devices, etc. It’s sort of been this two-track area of innovation.
There are a lot of questions of what has caused it and I think maybe that’s a good part to start in terms of what gets you out of it. On a first cut, I would say that we lived in a world in which bits were unregulated and atoms were regulated [emphasis added].
“Tech thrives because it is the only sector free of government interference—it’s where anyone with ambition goes.”
From China, “The wild, wild East,” an article in the September 10, 2015 issue of The Economist:
What helped Neusoft take off, says Mr Liu, was that there were no SOEs to block new software firms. “The Chinese state today is technologically sophisticated … but that was not the case at the start of the IT boom,” says Mr Liu. “We got lucky because the IT sector was so new, so driven by talent, that the government didn’t understand how it worked [emphasis added].”