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Economic Breakdown Cycles

Date: 10-12-08
Host: Ian Punnett
Guests: Howard Bloom

Author Howard Bloom talked about the cycles of economic collapse since the 1600s and how the present financial crisis may be solved. Regarding these recurring financial meltdowns that hit society, Bloom said "Every time it happens, the world is absolutely convinced that it has never seen anything like it before. And every single time, the world is wrong." He detailed such events as the "Tulip Boom" which crippled Holland's economy in 1637 and the "Soap and Cotton Revolution" that did the same to England's financial market in 1873.

Bloom explained how his research has revealed that these meltdowns occur approximately every seventy years and form a distinct pattern, which he called a "techno cycle." This cycle sees a new technology or energy source begin to emerge, then it skyrockets and the country behind it becomes an economic superpower. Following that, the technology becomes old and the market is satiated and, soon thereafter, the economy of the country once on top of the boom crashes. While that crash is going on, the next big technological burst is "bubbling up under the surface" and the cycle is beginning anew.

Looking at solutions to the current economic crisis, he noted "usually new technologies involve opening vast new frontiers, but frontiers are not always literal." One such emerging field was what he called the "cyber world," citing the remarkable sales of mini laptops and "smart phones." The other key area where Bloom foresees a technological boom is alternative energy, specifically "solar power harvested in space." He stressed that America, with its homegrown solar panel development and strong space presence, has the lead right now, but warned "we're letting it lapse because of a failure of imagination." Ultimately, Bloom mused, such forward thinking is "what makes new frontiers out of old emptinesses."

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