Robert J. Gordon is among the most influential macroeconomists in the world. And the big picture he sees is not altogether rosy.

Why you should listen

Robert J. Gordon has written prolifically about the problems facing contemporary economic growth, casting a sobering doubt on the ability of our current innovations (what he calls the "third industrial revolution," including all our fancy gadgets) to power the economy the way previous waves of invention. In a recent paper, he suggests that the repeated doubling of economic growth that characterized the 20th century and was arguably the bedrock for modern society may be decelerating at an alarming rate -- especially for the bottom 99 percent of the income distribution. While innovation is continuing apace, he sees the economy buffeted by six headwinds, and a different mix of obstacles for the US economy than for Canada and Europe.

Over the past four decades, he's also done fascinating work on the economics of the airline industry. He's authored hundreds of scholarly articles and five books, including his most recent, Productivity Growth, Inflation, and Unemployment: The Collected Essays of Robert J. Gordon, as well as the textbook Macroeconomics, now in its 12th edition. Two key papers to start: "Is US economic growth over? Faltering innovation confronts the six headwinds," NBER Working Paper 18315; and “Why Innovation Won’t Save Us,” from the Wall Street Journal.

What others say

“The point of such papers is to make you think differently. And I was struck by Gordon’s big example: the relative importance of fancy electronics ... as compared with indoor plumbing.” — Paul Krugman, August 28, 2012

Robert J. Gordon’s TED talks

Robert J. Gordon on the TED Blog

Culture

Debate: Erik Brynjolfsson and Robert J. Gordon at TED2013

February 26, 2013

TED Curator Chris Anderson opened this morning’s first session, Progress Enigma, with a provocative question: What is the future of work? He asked the audience: According to your worldview, is the growth of innovation accelerating? Not surprisingly, the overwhelming majority of the audience answered yes. But is the answer so simple? Economist Robert J. Gordon […]

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Business

Is growth over? Robert J. Gordon at TED2013

February 26, 2013

Could US economic growth be over? That’s the provocative question that economist Robert J. Gordon begins with. And it’s a big question. He points to travel: In 1900 travel was via the open buggy, at 1% the speed of sound. Sixty years later we travelled at 80% of the speed of sound in a Boeing […]

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News

Progress Enigma: The speakers in Session 1 of TED2013

February 26, 2013

As we assembled TED2013’s lineup of speakers from around the world, talked with the TED brain trust, and listened to online conversations, one theme emerged: What is the future of work? Technology and new business practices are, in many ways, putting an end to the classic “good job,” the kind that millions of people once […]

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Quotes from Robert J. Gordon

There are four headwinds that are just hitting the American economy in the face: They're demographics, education, debt and inequality, [and] they're powerful enough to cut growth in half.
Robert J. Gordon
TED2013 • 838K views Apr 2013
Informative, Persuasive
Are we going to grow? … If so, that's going to require that our inventions are as important as the ones that happened over the last 150 years.
Robert J. Gordon
TED2013 • 838K views Apr 2013
Informative, Persuasive