The Hard Limits of Progress 

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Source: The Hard Limits of Progress – The Daily Reckoning

BY BRIAN MAHER

Until the 19th century, technological and economic progress advanced inch by agonizing inch.

The fastest transportation in A.D. 1776 was the fastest transportation in 1776 B.C. — the horse.

Maritime commerce flowed to the fickle rhythms of wind and tide, as it had since the opening chapter.

Life was intensely agricultural.

Night was lit by candle and torch… to the extent it was lit at all.

And economic growth?

The Western world’s annual growth rate through 1820 averaged a millimetric 0.06% a year, according to Angus Maddison, economic historian.

That’s 6% a century.

The history of global GDP per capita, 1500–2003:

The chart reveals three centuries of economic dusk.

Then in the mid-to-late-19th century, a light bulb flickered on — literally…

An unlikely series of inventions came along in the mid-to-late-19th century that raised the curtain…

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