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  1. 1. Gifts of Athena Joel Mokyr Ebru BAŞAK AKÖZ
  2. 2. In Greek mythology Athena is the goddess of both wisdom and war, and of the application of reason and intelligent activity to domestic and artisanal activity. Ancient Greeks also believed that Athena invented the horse bridle, enabling men to tame horses and to put them to useful application and work. Athena is thus a good metaphor for the relationship between knowledge and economic growth that Joel Mokyr explores in his book, The Gifts of Athena: Historical Origins of the Knowledge Economy.
  3. 3. In a Nutshell The Lever of Riches was a reference book and focused on economic history of technology. The Gifts of Athena focused on the importance of knowledge in generating economic growth. This book tells the story of the economic growth of the Western world from the perspective of the contemporary revolution in information and communications technology (ICT). To understand economic growth, we need to understand how knowledge has been created, disseminated, and applied.
  4. 4. Chapter 1: Technology and the Problem of Human Knowledge Useful knowledge: related to natural phenomena that can be manipulated to enhance economic welfare: • propositional knowledge about natural regularities (symbol Omega) refers to generalized principles such as natural laws and empirical observations obtained through measurement and classification • prescriptive knowledge or techniques consists of techniques, prescriptions, and instructions, which reside in human memory, artifacts or storage devices Mokyr describes the Omega set as a prior constraint, which limits the set of feasible techniques: "The obvious notion that economies are limited in what they can do by their useful knowledge bears some emphasizing simply because so many scholars believe that if incentives and demand are right, somehow technology will follow automatically" (p. 16)
  5. 5. Chapter 2: The Industrial Enlightment: The Taproot of Economic Progress • The advances in welfare that we enjoy today are the legacy of a revolution in knowledge that occurred some three hundred years ago in Western Europe. • We observe growth taking place before the first Industrial Revolution but were subject to negative feedback mechanisms which caused the the efforts short-lived. • the most important obstacle to self-sustaining growth was the narrow base of propositional knowledge in such areas as agriculture, transportation, power, and medicine • So when the Industrial Revolution did occur, it was due to what Mokyr calls an "Industrial Enlightenment. • "The Industrial Enlightenment's debt to the scientific revolution consisted of three closely interrelated phenomena: scientific method, scientific mentality, and scientific culture." (p.36 )
  6. 6. Chapter 3: The Industrial Revolution and Beyond • Although economies are more likely to grow if inventors and innovators have ready access to sound propositional knowledge, such knowledge is hardly sufficient. • “The driving force behind progress was not just that more was known, but also that institutions and culture collaborated to create better and cheaper access to the knowledge base” (p. 103). • Knowledge that is bottled up by binding contracts or by politics will never be used to its potential.
  7. 7. Chapter 4: Technology and the Factory System Knowledge and technology also caused changes in the organization and location of production from the household to the factory Complementary factors: role of economies of scale, transactions costs, and increases in the intensity of work The factory system itself functioned as a conduit through which knowledge was created, recorded, and transmitted
  8. 8. Chapter 5: Knowledge,Health and the Household • Economic growth is too often discussed as something that happens exclusively in the commercial or industrial sector, with households being mere passive beneficiaries. • Mokyr describes households as active decision makers— agents that “choose many recipes, from toothbrushing to jogging to the consumption of broccoli” (p. 166). • “In the past two centuries household behavior has been affected by formal and informal [propositional] knowledge far more than has been realized by social historians” (p. 180). .
  9. 9. Chapter 6: The Political Economy of Knowledge: Innovation and Resistance in Economic History • the progress of useful knowledge is far more influenced by political economic forces than we realize • technological inertia does not indicate that individuals are irrational, but may be the outcome of rational choice • Entrenched elites may manipulate cultural standards and religious principles to avoid innovations that threaten their position. • The existence of democratic free market processes is no safeguard, and indeed under some circumstances may serve to help inefficient technologies to a greater degree than other less desirable political systems.
  10. 10. Chapter 7: Institutions, Knowledge and Economic Growth • Expansions in the set of useful knowledge can be induced to some extent by social agenda, appropriate institutions and relative prices. • England's unique politics and social structure in the 18th and 19th century seemed to have inadvertently broadened both discovery and diffusion to new amibitious social classes • England created its own technocratic middle class out of regular folk • ‘One type of such institution is the one that protects a • technological status quo from would-be innovators’ (p. 283) • Salvation lies in the generation of new prepositional knowledge, ‘the fuel that keeps the engine of growth running’ (p. 283). The continuing expansion of useful knowledge is not guaranteed and so ‘the political economy of technological progress must occupy its rightful place at center stage’ (p. 283).
  11. 11. Conclusion • There is no recipe for economic growth. • We have a fairly good catalog of conditions that will prevent growth, but we know very little about the minimum conditions necessary for sustained growth to occur. • Useful knowledge and access to it explain a great deal about economic performance, how performance has changed over time, and why performance varies across societies. However, "technology, now as in the past, opens doors; it does not force society to walk through them." It remains for us to use the lessons of Athena to ensure that the gifts of Athena are not bestowed upon ungrateful recipients and squandered.