Change on Earth through the Eyes of an Economist: A Synopsis

4 Pages Posted: 19 Apr 2019 Last revised: 25 Jun 2019

See all articles by Gary H. Jefferson

Gary H. Jefferson

Brandeis University - International Business School

Date Written: April 1, 2019


This essay examines the present in light of the past; it also examines the past in light of the present. The present is the phenomenon of modern technical change and economic growth; the past is the original physical endowment of the Earth and the billions of years of subsequent evolution. The link is that both past and present are the result of the remixing of the original endowment of the Earth – the material and forces that have shaped biological evolution from jellyfish to humans and physical evolution from an uninhabitable world to machine learning. The essay argues that what we know as technical change is but the most recent chapter in the long account of evolution that has transformed both the biological and physical worlds. However, this argument rests on our ability to expand substantially the boundaries of our conventional understanding of evolution and those of technical change, enabling both to view change in the physical and biological worlds as interactive, symmetric and therefore invention-neutral. The essay sets the stage for exploring various implications of this perspective, including the consequence of ideas rather than genes emerging as the fundamental driver of evolution.

Suggested Citation

Jefferson, Gary H., Change on Earth through the Eyes of an Economist: A Synopsis (April 1, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Gary H. Jefferson (Contact Author)

Brandeis University - International Business School ( email )

Mailstop 32
Waltham, MA 02454-9110
United States

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