How much do computers matter? Brad de Long thinks he has a measure for it:
The computer-and-communications technology revolution we have been living through transforms twice as large a share of the economy as did the British Industrial Revolution, looks to last three times as long, and proceeds at a pace three times faster than the revolution in spinning and weaving: it is, relative to the size of the economy, eighteen times a bigger deal than the original.
But, when I look around the world, the real revolution and divide seems to be the fall in infant mortality in modern societies. Is there a name for that? It’s certainly distinct from the industrial revolution. It has more to do with food. and sewerage.
That’s a good question, and fishing around in the grab bag of my semi-comprehensions concerning the industrial revolution and social change I can come up with three or four plausible lines of enquiry.
But hanging out with a proper historian has made me chary of expressing any opinion without doing the research (she’ll ruin me as a columnist). So it’s onto the Web… and here’s just the thing.
The Decline of Infant Mortality in Europe, 1800-1950: Four National Case Studies, of which the rubric sayeth: Of the many changes that have taken place in Western society during the past two centuries, few have been more significant than the steep fall in infant and child mortality. However, the timing and causes of the decline are still poorly understood. While some scholars attribute it to general improvements in living standards, others emphasize the role of social intervention and public health reforms. Written by specialists from several disciplinary field, these case studies provide a long-term perspective that challenges some deep-rooted ideas about the European experience of mortality decline and may help explain the forces and causal relationships behind the still tragic incidence of preventable infant and child deaths in many parts of the world today
Just the thing. And the paper’s free. Only it’s not online free, it’s sitting in a warehouse free and Unicef needs $2.50 to liberate it via the postal service. Which I would happily do, only there’s the whole online shopping trolley nonsense to get through and it really is just an impulse question and…
The New Industrial Revolution’s got a way to go, I think.
blast… *always* preview, *always* preview…