Slowdown: Aviation and Modernity's Lost Dynamism
Ammous, Saifedean. (2017). Slowdown: Aviation and Modernity's Lost Dynamism. Columbia University Center on Capitalism and Society Working Paper 95
12 Pages Posted: 15 Sep 2017
Date Written: May 25, 2017
The inevitability of technological progress is one of the most widely-held beliefs of our era but there is one very important field in which technological progress appears not only to have stagnated, but reversed. Examining the technical and commercial reality of modern aviation, there are three objective markers of slowdown. First, airplanes operational today can no longer reach the speed and altitude records set four decades ago. Second, commercial flight times have not only failed to get shorter, they actually take longer than they did in the past. Third, forty years after its introduction, supersonic flight is no longer available for civilians, neither in commercial nor private jets. While flight today is safer, cheaper, and more widespread than in the past, it has become slower, and jet-makers are strangely not even interested in exploring ways of making it faster. The paper concludes with a discussion of the cultural, political, economic, and institutional reasons behind this slowdown. The receding state of the art in aviation acts as both an object lesson and a warning for the state of economic dynamism overall.
Keywords: Aviation, supersonic, speed, records, innovation, flight
JEL Classification: R41, O31, O38
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation