Seeing the 20th century in the 21st

How will 20th-century trends fare in the 21st?  Daron Acemoglu offers an interesting and readable take in “The world our grandchildren will inherit: the rights revolution and beyond” .   Nice example of extrapolation, too.

He begins by outlining ten giant megatrends from 1900-2000:

  • the rights revolution
  • the sweep of technology
  • unrelenting growth
  • uneven growth
  • the transformation of work and wages
  • the health revolution
  •  technology without borders
  • century of war/century of peace (big Steven Pinker ref there)
  • counter-Enlightenment in politics
  • the population explosion
  • a combination of resources and the environment.

Next Acemoglu connects the first trends (rights) to the rest, seeing expanded human rights as crucial.

Then how do these giant currents drive forward in our new century?  In brief, most will carry on in Acemoglu’s view.  Unevenness will flatten out a bit (except maybe in the US and Britain).  Globalization could slow down.  The biggest threats are a possible Chinese economic reversal and the impacts of global warming.  One wild card is an uptick in religious or other counter-Enlightenment movements.

A lot of this draws on Acemoglu’s recent and co-authored book, Why nations fail: the origins of power, prosperity and poverty.  Haven’t read it yet.

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