The Torch of Progress

The Torch of Progress – Ep. 6 with Joel Mokyr

Ashley Yates

Join us for The Torch of Progress – Episode 6 with Joel Mokyr.

Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Progress: How the Modern Age Got started.

Wednesday, July 8, 10 am PT / 11 am MT / 12 pm CT / 1 pm ET

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In This Episode We’ll Discuss:

For most of human history, most people were poor beyond our worst nightmares. None of our modern conveniences, from heating and cooling to flush toilets and anti-allergy medications were even dreamed of. Hunger, cold, disease, violence, and fear were everyday events, expected, and tolerated. In the past 200 years or so, everything changed. The world did not become a paradise, but material life for most people on the planet became much less brutish, nasty, and short. On average, modern people live much longer, eat better, are warm in the winter and cooler in the summer, and there are fewer diseases around to make our lives miserable. Not every person on the planet shares in this progress equally, but few places are unaffected.
This is the greatest event in history — nothing else even comes close. But how did it come about? The answer consists of a few key insights: as a society, we know more than anyone before us. We are not wiser or smarter as individuals, but as a society, we know more about the physical and biological processes that allow us the control our environment and harness nature to our needs (that is, engage in production). It is the key to the economy. Control of natural processes can and does misfire, hence Global Warming, Superfund sites, and extinctions. But even with those, nobody seriously wants humanity to go back to the Middle Ages.
In this talk, Prof. Mokyr will provide an explanation for this momentous event. The explanation centers around two keywords: Attitudes and Aptitudes. Stay tuned.

About Joel Mokyr

Joel Mokyr is the Robert H. Strotz Professor of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Economics and History at Northwestern University. He is the author of ten books, many of which won major prizes. His most recent book is A Culture of Growth, published by Princeton University Press in 2016.

He has served as the senior editor of the Journal of Economic History from 1994 to 1998, was the editor in chief of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Economic History (published in July 2003), and serves as the editor in chief of a book series, the Princeton University Press Economic History of the Western World. He served as President of the Economic History Association 2003-04, President of the Midwest Economics Association in 2007/08, President of the Atlantic Economic Association (2015/16), and is a director of the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Professor Mokyr was awarded the biennial Heineken Prize by the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences for a lifetime achievement in historical science and the prestigious Balzan Prize for Economic History awarded once every twenty years. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Econometric Society, and a number of foreign academies. In 2018 he was elected as a distinguished fellow of the American Economic Association.

Previously on The Torch of Progress:

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