Economist Dietrich Vollrath has a new and excellent review
of Christopher Leucyer’s 2007 book Making Silicon Valley
. It touches on a number of favourite TiB
themes, particularly the causes and history of economic growth and the importance of talent. If you share my interest in these topics, it’s worth your time.
Vollrath notes the similarity of Lecuyer’s explanation for the success of Silicon Valley and economic historian Joel Mokyr’s thesis
on the origins of the industrial revolution, above all the centrality of networks
“[T]hese kind of industrial revolutions are dependent on small networks of capable tinkerers, and not on either the average level of human capital or on a few heroic innovators”
This may remind regular readers of the idea of “scenius”, or communal genius, discussed previously here
It’s an important question whether it’s possible to build a “remote-first” scenius. During the height of the coronavirus lockdown, I wrote about the potential benefits
of building tools and infrastructure that would allow talent outside major hubs to participate more fully in innovation. The internet has already done a remarkable job of enabling like-minded people to build relationships that transcend physical distance. If Vollrath (and Lecuyer) are right that “the network preceded the breakthroughs, not the other way around”, that’s a very positive sign.