Re: poly: World Economic History

From: Hal Finney <>
Date: Sat Jun 06 1998 - 08:21:20 PDT

Robin Hanson, <>, writes:
> I got hold of a data series estimating total World Product (WP)
> from 1 million B.C. to present. While a similar series on
> population history plausibly fits a hyperpolic model, I find
> that the WP history looks more plausibly like a sum of
> exponentials. I interpret this as saying that the world
> economy has switched between exponential growth "modes".
> I get a close fit with these 5 exponential terms:
> Doubling Time Dominant Period DT factor WP factor
> ------------- ------------------------- --------- ---------
> 500,000 yrs 1M B.C. to ~300K B.C. ? 9
> 140,000 yrs. ~300K B.C. to 5000 B.C. 4 6
> 860 yrs. 5000 B.C. to 1700 155 196
> 58 yrs. 1700 to 1900 15 11
> 15 yrs. 1900 to 2000 4 37

Can we identify these periods with technological innovations?

1. Descent of man
2. Discovery of fire
3. Beginning of agriculture / writing / arithmetic / cities / civilization
4. Industrial revolution / renaissance
5. ???

I'm just guessing on these, mostly. 5000 B.C. is often cited as the date
of the start of civilization. 1700 is a little late for the renaissance
but a little early for the industrial revolution.

The curious one is the 1900 date. What happened then? Maybe the transfer
of western technology throughout the world? Does the increase in growth
at that date show up in western GNP statistics, or did those countries
maintain a steady growth rate?

If it is mostly a transfer of an existing technology base to a larger
group (even if it happened relatively suddenly) then that is not likely
to be repeated, and it might make more sense to group the last two periods
together as far as technology. In that case we are still basing our
growth on the innovations which occured around 1700.

This does not give us much reason to expect a new transition in the next
few decades, although of course we have other reasons to expect new
technologies to make a difference.

Received on Sat Jun 6 15:25:19 1998

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