I have argued elsewhere (1991) that the English Industrial Revolution was a turning point in history primarily because from that point on technology has been the dominant engine of economic growth. This view, that technological change is the primary cause of rising incomes in the modern world, is widely held. Gomulka (1990:19) has summarized the results of empirical studies of the sources of economic growth. While there is some dissent, he asserts that the primacy of technology is dear. It emerges as the main determinant of differences in growth across countries and over time. Its importance is even greater if it is recognized that technological change often induces investment. It is not a huge leap of faith, then, to suspect that the course of innovation may somehow be connected with the worst period of economic decline in the modern era:
Although economists have seen fit to ignore or minimize its importance, technology is the true master of the modern world. … Not only is technology largely in control of the long-term trend, but it plays an important role in conditioning economic fluctuations of shorter duration. In the first instance, new industries depend upon technological progress, and new industries have always left their impression upon cycles of economic expansion (Ginzberg, 1939:214–5).