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I'm reading two books right now. The Rise and Fall of American Growth [1] by Robert Gordon and The Grapes of Wrath [2] by John Steinbeck. They complement each other, and this post, very well.

I would recommend Gordon's book as an objective overview of the astonishing growth in economic and quality of life terms from 1870-1970. It's not as thoroughly researched as I expected it to be, and the prose is somewhat clunky, but it's a good lesson in the history of technology that we take for granted nonetheless.

Steinbeck's tale of the banks/landowners displacing poor, rural farming families is also extremely pertinent in light of this post. Car dealers extract value from the fleeing, unnecessariat farmers in "Grapes", while insurance companies/debtors prisons extract value from the unnecessariat rural poor chronicled in this post. The promised land of "Grapes" (California) continues to be successful today, with the coasts accreting a large portion of the nation's wealth. It's also just a beautifully written and thoroughly considered (to the point of seeming spontaneous) piece of art.

I am waiting for the next paradigm shifting technology with bated breath.

[1] http://www.amazon.com/Rise-Fall-American-Growth-Princeton/dp...

[2] http://www.amazon.com/Grapes-Wrath-John-Steinbeck/dp/0143039...

I've read Gordon and am planning a review (I've published a "first impressions" at https://reddit.com/r/dredmorbius). Some (brief?) thoughts:

1. His history of change 1870 - 2015 is good. Some weaknesses, but solid, and he makes his case for dramatic changes. A mention of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs would improve the discussion, but his point even without stating that is of drastic changes (and improvements) to basic food, shelter, clothing, and security needs.

2. He misses some infrastructure with his focus on consumer impacts. Less so with early work than in his discussion of information and communications infrastructure, in which I think there might be some weaknesses to his argument (and a possible out for the optimists).

3. You'll find the meat of his theory in the third section of the book. Chapters 15-17 IIRC. Focus your critical eye there.

I've got many quibbles with his economics arguments, though most of the errors actually bolster his overall argument -- I feel actual recent trends are worse than Gordon states.

Steinbeck's Grapes is a true classic. Reading that as a story of an epic animal migration (as Steinbeck begins it) is humbling.

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