Are We Truly Innovative?

The Aspen Ideas Festival has posted video of the discussion entitled “Are We Truly Innovative?” Andrew Ross Sorkin moderated it, and Tyler CowenVijay V. Vaitheeswaran, and I were panelists.


It’s hard to know how these things are going when you’re in the middle of one of them, since you’re thinking about what to say next and how not to sound like an idiot on stage. But as I watch our video, I’m really impressed. Andrew kept us on track and asked excellent questions, and we three panelists answered his questions rather than sticking to talking points, responded to the points made by each other, and grappled sincerely with the central issue of whether the pace of innovation really has slowed down.

So please do watch the video (or at least have it on in the background as you’re doing something else). My favorite parts include Tyler and me talking about how impressed his grandmother would be about the modern world (starts at about 2:01), Vijay giving an excellent defense of ‘greed’ (23:08), a discussion of whether median or mean income is the better measure of innovation (15:01), and an impassioned defense (from me) of the importance of ‘gadgets’ for large-scale economic progress (19:27).

It was a pleasure to meet Andrew and Vijay, but for me the highlight was the chance to share the stage with Tyler. Erik Brynjolfsson and I decided to write Race Against the Machine in large part because of Tyler’s book The Great Stagnation, and Erik had a great debate with him at Techonomy last year. So I’m grateful to him, and happy to have had the chance to cross swords and swap ideas with him. He’s a super smart guy and a gentleman to debate with.