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On the Uneven Evolution of Human Know-How

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  • Richard R. Nelson

Abstract

It is widely recognized that advances in knowhow have been the key driving force between the great improvements in human material well-being that have been achieved over the past two centuries. However, not much attention has been directed to the fact that the advances in knowhow that have been achieved have been highly uneven across different human wants. Thus advances in communications and computation technology have been dramatic. We have learned to eliminate or cure a wide variety of human diseases. Yet on the other hand, we have made little progress on certain kinds of diseases. And there has been very little progress on the processes of primary and secondary education. This paper explores the reasons behind the unevenness. Education is used as a canonical example of an area where little progress has been made. The analytic argument makes considerable use of a comparison between research and problem-solving in education, and research and problem-solving in various areas of medicine.

Suggested Citation

  • Richard R. Nelson, 2003. "On the Uneven Evolution of Human Know-How," LEM Papers Series 2003/25, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.
  • Handle: RePEc:ssa:lemwps:2003/25
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Nathan Rosenberg, 2009. "Uncertainty and Technological Change," World Scientific Book Chapters,in: Studies On Science And The Innovation Process Selected Works of Nathan Rosenberg, chapter 8, pages 153-172 World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    2. Nelson, Richard R. & Wolff, Edward N., 1997. "Factors behind cross-industry differences in technical progress," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 8(2), pages 205-220, June.
    3. Klevorick, Alvin K. & Levin, Richard C. & Nelson, Richard R. & Winter, Sidney G., 1995. "On the sources and significance of interindustry differences in technological opportunities," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 185-205, March.
    4. Mowery, David & Rosenberg, Nathan, 1993. "The influence of market demand upon innovation: A critical review of some recent empirical studies," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 22(2), pages 107-108, April.
    5. David, P.A., 1989. "Computer And Dynamo: The Modern Productivity Paradox In A Not-Too Distant Mirror," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 339, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
    6. Arora, Ashish & Gambardella, Alfonso, 1994. "The changing technology of technological change: general and abstract knowledge and the division of innovative labour," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 23(5), pages 523-532, September.
    7. Dosi, Giovanni, 1988. "Sources, Procedures, and Microeconomic Effects of Innovation," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 26(3), pages 1120-1171, September.
    8. Nelson, Katherine & Nelson, Richard R., 2002. "On the nature and evolution of human know-how," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 31(5), pages 719-733, July.
    9. Murnane, Richard J. & Nelson, Richard R., 1984. "Production and innovation when techniques are tacit : The case of education," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 5(3-4), pages 353-373.
    10. Cowan, Robin & Foray, Dominique, 1997. "The Economics of Codification and the Diffusion of Knowledge," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 6(3), pages 595-622, September.
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    Keywords

    Know-How; Research; Problem-Solving.;

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