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The end of growth?

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Here’s a depressing fact you probably haven’t heard before: From 1300 to 1750, the world saw zero economic growth. This decidedly anti-American stat is the foundation of a new academic paper by Robert Gordon, a professor at Northwestern University and research fellow at the U.K.’s Centre for Economic Policy Research. Gordon suggests that it is possible this trend will repeat itself in the centuries ahead. The reason? Economic growth is spurred by industrial revolution, which leads to extended periods of productivity that eventually dissipate. Our last revolution began in the 1960s with the rise of computer technology, reached its climax with the dot-com boom of the 1990s, and has fueled a mere eight-year intensive growth spurt. To spur another one, we’ll need an invention that fundamentally changes labor productivity or our standard of living.