Dynamics of Technological Growth Rate

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* Article / Chapter: Dynamics of Technological Growth Rate and the Forthcoming Singularity. By Leonid Grinin, Anton Grinin & Andrey V. Korotayev. Chapter in: The 21st Century Singularity and Global Futures pp 287–344, January 2020

URL = https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-030-33730-8_14

Part of the World-Systems Evolution and Global Futures book series (WSEGF)


"In this chapter, we consider the process of technological progress presenting one of the options for measuring its speed throughout the entire historical process. We find that the general dynamics of accelerating technological growth over the past 40 thousand years can be described with amazing accuracy (R2 = 0.99) using the following simplest hyperbolic equation: yt = C/t0 − t, where yt is the technological growth rate measured as a number of technological phase transitions per unit of time.

Although since 40,000 BP the speed of technological progress tended to generally increase, however, according to the theory of production principles on which we rely, the acceleration of technological progress had noticeable fluctuations. These fluctuations can be explained by the fact that technological development proceeded within the framework of super-long cycles. We show that, within these cycles, the phases of accumulation of basic breakthrough innovations are replaced by phases of rapid growth of improvements in basic innovations and their wide distribution. These fluctuations between cycle phases affect the pattern of acceleration of technological progress. Currently, there are a number of calculations of the point of singularity of the Big History and global evolution, which generally localize the singularity around the first half of the twenty-first century. The point of singularity in our calculations, if we rely only on historical time points, falls on 2018, that is, in principle, it fully fits the results of other studies.

There is a fairly reasonable idea of slowing down a number of important social processes (such as demographic development, urbanization), including the speed of technological progress. Indeed, there are already some grounds for talking about signs of a slowdown in progress from the 1960 to 1970s. However, according to the theory of production principles, as already mentioned, there are strong fluctuations in the acceleration of technological progress. We assume that at the moment technological progress is in the fourth—the scientific and cybernetic—production principle. According to this theory, we expect a powerful acceleration of technological progress in the area between the 2030s and the 2070s. In this case, if we take into account the expected time points, the point of singularity, according to our calculations, is estimated to be around 2106.

That is, with this method of calculation, we should first expect a new way of acceleration of technological progress, and then, its slowdown in the region of the end of the twenty-first century—the beginning of the 22nd. We also identify the social mechanism for such acceleration and deceleration: in the coming decades, the process of global ageing can cause technological acceleration first and change its direction, and then closer to the end of the present and the beginning of the next century, on the contrary, elderly society can be a brake on scientific-technological progress.


From the notes:

"There are different views on the growth function of technological progress: an exponent (Kurzweil 2005), a super-exponent (Nagy et al. 2011), a logistic curve (Ayres 2006), multiple S-curves (Sood and Tellis 2005). Also different types of technologies develop at different speeds and functions, see, for example (Koh and Magee 2006)

The cycle of each production revolution looks as follows:

  • the initial innovative phase (emergence of a new revolutionizing production sector)
  • the modernization phase (diffusion, synthesis and improvement of new technologies)
  • the final innovative phase (when new technologies acquire their mature characteristics).

More information

Abu-Lughod J (1989) Before European hegemony: the world system AD 1250–1350. Oxford University Press, New York

Bentley JH (1996) Shapes of world history in twentieth century scholarship. Essays on global and comparative history. American Historical Association, Washington, DC

Works by Leonid Grinin

Grinin LE (2012b) Macrohistory and globalization. Uchitel, Volgograd

Grinin LE (2017) The processes of systemic integration in the world system. J Glob Stud 8(1):97–118

Grinin LE, Grinin AL (2013a) Global technological transformations. In: Grinin LE, Ilyin IV, Korotayev AV (eds) Globalistics and globalization studies: theories, research & teaching. Uchitel, Volgograd, pp 98–128

Grinin LE, Grinin AL (2013b) Macroevolution of technology. In: Grinin LE, Korotayev AV (eds) Evolution: development within big history, evolutionary and world-system paradigms. Uchitel, Volgograd, pp 143–178

Grinin LE, Grinin AL (2014) The sixth Kondratieff wave and the cybernetic revolution. In: Grinin LE, Devezas TC, Korotayev AV (eds) Kondratieff Waves. Juglar – Kuznets – Kondratieff. Uchitel, Volgograd, pp 354–378

Grinin LE, Grinin AL (2015a) The cybernetic revolution and historical process. Soc Evol History 14(1):125–184

Grinin LE, Grinin AL (2015b) Global technological perspectives in the light of cybernetic revolution and theory of long cycles. J Glob Stud 6(2):119–142

Grinin LE, Grinin AL (2016) The Cybernetic Revolution and the Forthcoming Epoch of Self-Regulating Systems. Moscow Branch of the Uchitel Publishing House, Moscow

Grinin L, Grinin A (2020) The cybernetic revolution and the future of technologies. In: Korotayev AV, LePoire D (eds) The 21st century Singularity and global futures. A Big History perspective. Springer, Cham, pp 377–396. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-33730-8_17

Grinin LE, Grinin AL, Korotayev A (2017a) Forthcoming Kondratieff wave, cybernetic revolution, and global ageing. Technol Forecast Soc Chang 115:52–68. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.techfore.2016.09.017

Grinin L, Grinin A, Korotayev A (2017b) The MANBRIC-technologies in the forthcoming technological revolution. In: Devezas T (ed) Industry 4.0 – Entrepreneur-ship and structural change in the new digital landscape: what is coming on along with the fourth industrial revolution. Springer, pp 243–261. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-49604-7_13

Grinin L, Korotayev A (2009) Social macroevolution: growth of the world system integrity and a system of phase transitions. World Futures 65(7):477–506. https://doi.org/10.1080/02604020902733348

Grinin LE, Korotayev AV (2010) Will the global crisis lead to global transformations? the global financial system: pros and cons. J Glob Stud 1(1):70–89

Grinin L, Korotayev A (2012) The Afroeurasian world-system: genesis, transformations, characteristics. In: Babones SJ, Chase-Dunn Ch (eds) Routledge handbook of world-systems analysis. Routledge, London, pp 30–41

Grinin LE, Korotayev AV (2013a) Globalization and the world system evolution. In: Grinin LE, Korotayev AV (eds) Evolution: development within big history, evolutionary and world-system paradigms. Uchitel, Volgograd, pp 30–68

Grinin LE, Korotayev AV (2013b) The origins of globalization. In: Sheffield J, Korotayev A, Grinin L (eds) Globalization. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Emergent Publications, Litchfield Park, pp 1–29

Grinin L, Korotayev A (2014a) Origins of globalization in the framework of the afroeurasian world-system history. J Glob Stud 5(1):32–64

Grinin LE, Korotayev AV (2014b) The inflation and deflationary trends in the global economy, or ‘the Japanese disease’ is spreading. J Glob Stud 5(2):154–173

Grinin L, Korotayev A (2015a) Great divergence and great convergence: a global perspective. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-17780-9

Grinin LE, Korotayev AV (2016b) (eds) Introduction. global evolution and global ageing. Evolution and big history: dimensions, trends, and forecasts. Uchitel, Volgograd, pp 5–17

Grinin LE, Korotayev AV (eds) (2017) Inflationary and deflationary trends in the global economy, or expansion of “the Japanese Disease”. In: History & mathematics: economy, demography, culture, and cosmic civilizations. Uchitel, Volgograd, pp 103–134

Grinin LE, Korotayev AV (2018) The future of the global economy in the light of inflationary and deflationary trends and long cycles theory. World Futures 74(2):84–10. https://doi.org/10.1080/02604027.2017.1357934

Grinin LE, Korotayev AV, Tausch A (2016a) Economic cycles, crises, and the global periphery. Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-41262-7

Grinin LE, Ilyin IV, Andreev AI (2016b) World order in the past, present, and future. Soc Evol History 15(1):58–84

Grinin L, Markov A, Korotayev A (2013) On similarities between biological and so-cial evolutionary mechanisms Mathematical modeling. Cliodynamics 4(2):185–228

Grinin LE, Markov AV, Korotayev AV (2014) Mathematical modeling of biological and social evolutionary macrotrends. History Math 4:9–48

Grinin LE, Markov AV, Korotayev AV (2015) Modeling of biological and social phases of big history. Evolution 4:111–150