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Fun with NGrams

December 19, 2010

Here is the use of liberty from 1776 to the present:

On the other hand, here’s technology and innovation:

It’s only in the last 70 years or so that thinking about better ways of doing things has bloomed into a rosy weltanschauung of optimism. Of course, people have been thinking about better ways to govern for millennia. Still here’s a general thought about the personality of competitive government–what I wonder is how effectively we can map this techno-intellectual atmosphere onto thinking about institutions,  rules sets and competition, without slipping into the completely technocratic on the one side or the so-called progressive on the other. It appears a very good old social technology–liberty–has been slipping in cultural importance. But one correlation on these graphs stands out. Why do technology and innovation and liberty all have a simultaneous bump around 1780?


  1. December 21, 2010 2:00 am

    I don’t know that “we” are really going to effect any sort of era of enlightened thinking on institutions, rules sets and competition. We can set up our own seasteads as examples to eventually be copied, but beyond that, I don’t see the competitive governance idea sweeping the world.

    I do suspect that governments will change radically, but I see that happening in a wrenching, reactive manner instead of a studied, forward-looking one. Most existing governments are simply not going to be able to keep up with the hyper-networked, accelerated world we are entering. They are increasingly going to stand out as impediments to progress, and in some cases they’re going to come apart at the seams. I think the best we can hope for is to be in the right place at the right time, to pick up the pieces and make something of them.

  2. Simon permalink
    December 19, 2010 9:07 pm

    The data are noisy. If you search for Technology in the books before 1800, you’ll find reports from NASA and on digital technology all erroneously dated 17xx.

    – Simon

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