The main topic of conversation in our office over recent days – interspersed with debates around who is going to win BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2012 (such a tough call) – has been the controversial and widely quoted National Bureau of Economic Research paper titled ‘Is U.S. Economic Growth Over?’. Before you start thinking what a terribly dull office Affinity Private Wealth must be, let us provide you with a brief overview of what the paper covers. Written by Robert J Gordon, an economist at Northwestern University, it argues the greatest technological innovations are behind us and there is little prospect for transformative economic change along the lines of the three previous industrial revolutions (IR). He defines these as IR1 (steam engines, railroads) from 1750 to 1830; IR2 (electricity, internal combustion engine, running water and indoor plumbing, communications, chemicals, petroleum) from 1870 to 1900; and IR3 (computers, the web, mobile phones) from 1960 to present.
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