Human intelligence as the source of wealth creation

In my first economics class at school, I was taught that the three factors of production, land, labour and capital (and sometimes a fourth, entrepreneurship) were responsible for wealth creation in human society. The efficiency with which these factors are used ostensibly determines productivity, economic output and material well-being.

Some economists, for example those adopting a more inter-disciplinary approach to the subject, have suggested that technology, social structure and human agency are factors which mutually determine, but are not reducible to, each other, and which can be used to explore and explain the categories of economic analysis and the outcomes of economic behaviour.

But it is possible to simplify all these categories and their use in the production, exchange and consumption characteristic of economies. Drawing on the work of the late Robert Anton Wilson, not an economist, but more of a social philosopher, it might be suggested that the source of all wealth is information, intelligently used. Someone might have access to all the labour and capital they want, but if they can not intelligently use them (applying information) to produce output that people want to buy or at least can be persuaded to buy (!), then they will fail in their enterprise.

This realisation should lead us to be optimistic about the future of human progress. Thanks to the internet, there has never before been so much information freely available to so many people. Plenty of this information is useless, but plenty is also potentially useful to those who can positively apply it. Some of it is and will continue to be misused and abused, but the potential for it to be used to expand the possibilities available to humanity, not least in the economic sphere, would appear to be limitless. The internet increasingly provides to those who can access it huge parts of human knowledge, and can surely enable our collective human intelligence and its application to society to expand likewise.


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