Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Economics of Digital Age 3: Dis-intermediation & Re-intermediation


The term dis-intermediation gets banded around alot in this early cyber revolution period but what does it mean and how can you show it.


So Wikipedia has the following rather limited definition of intermediation.
Intermediation involves the "matching" of lenders with savings to borrowers who need money by an agent or third party, such as a bank.[1]
If this matching is successful, the lender obtains a positive rate of return, the borrower receives a return for risk taking and entrepreneurship and the banker receives a return for making the successful match.[1] If the borrower's speculative play with the funds provided by the bank does not pay off, the bank can face significant losses on its loan portfolio,[1]and if the bank fails its depositors can lose some of their money if the deposits are not insured by a third party.
In fact with vision, and vision is needed here we need to expand the concept of intermediation to just about any scenario you can think of where there is an actor interposed between step 1 and step 3. So ingrained in us are conventional concepts of human work - most scenarios will not even look like intermediation - they only become so when digital technologies offer new possibilities.

So let us illustrate the concept.

Figure 1.




This gives us a basic template to see what happens when we change the dynamics of the economy.
At the highest level we can observe what happens to entire 'industry complexes' when a digital substitute marketplace is created.

Figure 2.


Pre-2000 there was a substantial industry constructed around music - agents, labels, studios, physical media manufacturing (records, tapes and then CDs) and then the retailers.

However, along came napster and later iTunes and what have we got left.

Fig 3.


What we see here is that Apple iTunes has dis-intermediated the music industry and re-intermediated music as well. It now offers a direct route for artists and traditional music industry operations must go through it to get to the customers. This process has dramatically shrunk the tradition commercial music complex.

Now we can apply this to any example. For example a worker driving a truck. Pre-2000 this idea that the driver is an intermediation point would be treated as complete nonsense - now not so much.

Fig 4.



Fig 5.

We can now move to a scenario when mining companies can dis-intermediate this value chain.


This may look dramatic and that is the point. This logic of dis-intermediation and re-intermediation is intrinsic to digital technologies and we had better start designing data around this concept to understand it better.


Monday, April 11, 2016

Economics of the Digital Age 1 - maintenance

Just some musings today of future costs rather than benefits.

So as a follower of innovation studies and also a collector of serious attempts to look into the future it seems to me that one of the serious flaws in the way we bean count is to only focus on growth. It always seems that studies overshoot the future partly for lack of technical advance but partly because they undervalue the economics of the system. These dimensions are inextrricably link - make enough technical advance and the economics improve - however perhaps the upfront costs of that technical advance are too high to begin with.

It seems to me that in understanding this conundrum our national accounts have categories which are next to useless in the modern economy.

So for example I have often wondered about the accumulated techno-system in societies. So inspired by the great read https://aeon.co/essays/innovation-is-overvalued-maintenance-often-matters-more
here are a few jottings.

That blog immediately triggered so many tangential thoughts. Assimov's comments in the Foundation trilogy that as the Galactic Empire slowly collapsed it could not longer maintain its technologies.

Another was a throw away comment in the current U.S. 'great wall' debate about the cost of maintaining the wall. http://www.cnbc.com/2015/10/09/this-is-what-trumps-border-wall-could-cost-us.html includes an estimate of $750m - per annum for maintenance. If the wall cost $12b even without accounting for inflation you are paying for the equivalent of a new wall every 16 years.

Out of sheer curiosity I looked up the accounts of the local public transport body and it was hard to discern what their actual final maintenance costs are.

But let's just assume that gradually over time not only are our societies accumulating more infrastructure but that as technology is more fully embedded the costs rise.

How to read the image. As we rarely discard technologies entirely or when we do, we replace them with ever more complicated ones. So we add to the techno-system and rarely take away. If you read the chart vertically you can read it that past structures are past onto future generations. Roads build pre-1950 are largely still in use today as entities and locations although they have been upgraded in quality significantly. Therefore the pre-1950s column goes vertically upwards. In the pre-millennial period we started introduced significantly new and varied technologies and we currently stand on the cusp of IOT of things. The graph tries to take account of some efficiencies and productivity improvements from gains from embedded technology - but there will still be more of it. 

So over time the costs of maintenance rise - but it is difficult to determine whether this is proportionate or disproportionate to the rest of the economy. We know that in the USA it is failing. In Europe where taxes are higher infrastructure maintenance is better.

Of course early on councils and governments will embed sensors on everything from water mains to roads - but here is the question - what will break first the sensor or the pipe. If it is the pipe how quickly will cash strapped councils replace the sensor.

With the current obsession with new technology - we only study the system around the production of the new technology - not the technology system itself. Oh and BTW costs are only one element - you actually have to have a techno-system that values education for the skills necessary to maintain the societal infrastructure.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Technology in Economic Space Time


Any regular or irregular reader of this blog will realise that one of the goals of this blog is to explore non traditional concepts and language for describing the economy and the relationship with technology. The dominant language at present is 'innovation' and the academic discipline is 'innovation studies. This is I believe to greater or lesser extent fostering confusion about the topic. Technology remains in my view a problematic entity in society and economics. Treating it like land, labour or capital I believe is not helpful because technology conditions and transforms the others. It is not simply a production variable nor something meaningful to count as X% of firms launched new products last year.

My principle concern is that there is a great deal of muddled language where technology and innovation are almost used interchangeably. Further, technology has been subsumed within economic growth studies and impact but surely it does more that grow the economy it bends its shape.

Technology is more than just one thing - it is many things simultaneously. It is our creation and therefore it can be studied like we do with nature - biology and ecology, as a single organism, with DNA - heritage and history. It can be studied in 'food webs' in relation to economic structure - supply chains and so forth. It can be studied within the ecosystem of other technologies of greater and lesser scale, scope and dimensionality. Back here http://econscapes.blogspot.ca/2013/08/macro-innovation-1-introduction.html I explored the idea that technology should be seen as an ecosystem that is interdependent and modifies the 'environment' ie. the linkages between other systems around it. That is one image of technology - but at the macroeconomic level it is not simple enough.

The idea of 'general purpose technologies" exists but has never really taken off, and there is Keven Kelly - technium which hasn't caught on either.

It is interesting that at this moment when 'technology and economics are now almost synonymous there may just be the start of a movement to go back to rethink technology.

Beyond Innovation: Technology, Institution, and Change as Categories for Social Analysis. By Thomas Kaiserfeld. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.
Pp. 174. $67.50.Technology and Culture, Volume 57, Number 1, January 2016, pp.
244-245 Reviewed by Benoit Godin.

So onto this blog.
The latest concept has been playing in my head for a long time but received some impetus with the first measured gravity waves.

So here is another way to conceptise technology - as 'mass' in economic space time.

Space Time



I found this great youtube video of the space time concept.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MTY1Kje0yLg Dan Burns explains his space-time warping demo at a PTSOS workshop at Los Gatos High School, on March 10, 2012.>

So what is Economic Space Time

Imagine if could measure all the dimensions that are important for understanding the dynamics of economies. Economies are not singularities that move through time - always essentially the same. What is made (incl services - everything), where it is made and how it is made changes radically across time - this we could call economic space time.

Naturally to understand economic space time we need to measure tot just income, but how people make their money, the production systems etc etc ... In short we would be able to then approximate the underlying 'technology' of the economy at particular points in time. But could we simplify this by looking at the 'waves' generated by new technologies.


Economic Space Time circa 1960

Put your mind back to the 1960s the US manufacturing economy was at its zenith - thousands of people were employed in factories. The big companies - resources and manufacturing employed many thousands of employees. I actually went looking for the numbers but they are hard to determine. If I can calculate some I will put them on this blog.


Economic Space Time circa 2016

So what about today. The top companies ( http://fortune.com/fortune500  ) are Walmart, Exxon Mobile, Chevron, Berkshire Hathaway and then Apple.

If we pick on Apple as the first company that makes products - yes I know petroleum is a product but not in the same way.

Apple has nearly 100,000 employees and an un-numbered 000s in its elongated supply chain which is a part of the modern economy. We also don't know how many people do contract work for Apple.

To make the point about supply chains even stronger, General Motors is no 6 on the list. Is has just more than twice the number of employees than Apple.

Amazon one of the born digital companies has 154000 employees.

JP Morgan Chase Institute recently released a fascinating report on income volatility and other information using big data analytics of JP Morgan Chase bank accounts. The most interesting reading relates to the platform economy participation.

Although 1 percent of adults earned income from the Online Platform Economy in a given month, more than 4 percent participated over the three-year period.

The Online Platform Economy was a secondary source of income, and participants did not increase their reliance on platform earnings over time. Labor platform participants were active 56% of the time. While active, platform earnings equated to 33% of total income

Source: 

Paychecks, Paydays, and the Online Platform Economy February 2016
https://www.jpmorganchase.com/corporate/institute/report-paychecks-paydays-and-the-online-platform-economy.htm


So at this point you are thinking - 1/3 of the income for 1 percent of adults, that not much in the scheme of things is it. And that was the view of The Economist

Such reforms, though, would be relevant to only a tiny fraction of the workforce. JPM’s data suggest that most ondemand workers use apps to supplement their income, rather than as a replacement for a fulltime job. On average, labour platforms provided only one third of ondemand workers’ incomes. And their participation was often sporadic; almost half of those who start working on a labour platform stop within a month. Earnings from Uber and the like are strongly correlated with negative shocks to incomes from other sources (capital platforms are used much more consistently). That suggests people use
apps to smooth bumps in their earnings, which are frequent: more than half of JPM’s customers have seen their incomes swing by at least 30% in a month. Volatility in pay is largely responsible. Perhaps conventional jobs are not so great after all.

But just a moment

Just how significant is one percent of the labour force? Well.... As I have been reading through the report by JP Morgan Chase Institute I realise I need to read it much more closely as it refers to 'adults'. That is is a very much larger pool of people than conventional statistics of workforce.

For comparison in Canada 1.6 percent of employment by industry is in agriculture. A further 1.6 are employed in Mining. As a percentage of adult population that may drop a bit and we get closer to the 1 percent.

So when you hear only 1 percent are employed in the 'gig' or 'task' just keep in mind that number is bigger than you think.


So what is the point: 'technology waves'

When the steam engine was invented, enabling power and the factory system it changed the economy - not just grew output and productivity.

Today with the growing digitalisation it is obvious the economy is change shape again. This is not new it is in the papers everyday.

The point is no single way of understanding those changes not single language is powerful enough to capture the scale scope and significance of change and we should give up trying.  Lets be heterodox is our rich descriptions of change.








Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Technium is getting more interesting


Way back here I was critical of Kevin Kelly's Technium concept.

Okay, so I am not going to retract those comments but it is time to amend them.
Kelly continues to work on the idea and it is getting more interesting as he add addition concepts.
You can listen to the talk with the link below or if you go to the Long Now you can watch it on the web.






So these are the big new addition to the Technium concept.

1) Big math of “zillionics” ---beyond yotta (10 to the 24th) to, some say, “lotta” and “hella.”
Basically Kelly's point is that we do not have words in the language for the numbers that digital technology is generating - global digital memory capacity, web scale etc.

2) New economics of the massive one-big-market, capable of surprise flash crashes and imperceptible tectonic shifts. 
The more autonomous, the more that either the machines will make unexpected choices or individuals will work out ways of gaming the system. Kelly claims in the talk that nobody knows the cause of the flash crash. However, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission of the U.S. claims that a single individual was significantly responsible. Link.

3) New biology of our superorganism with its own large phobias, compulsions, and oscillations. 
With new organisms come new illnesses. Look at the problems viruses can cause or cyber attacks. Perhaps Kelly goes to far, but he could be right. It is certainly an interesting thought experiment to seethe global economy from this perspective - new strengths and new vulnerabilities. We think we know what the economy is but perhaps alongside the World Bank, we need a World Economic Health Organisation.

4) New minds, which will emerge from a proliferation of auto-enhancing AI’s that augment rather than replace human intelligence. 
Kelly nicely makes a case for weak AI and against strong AI. But even weak AI will drive change  which we can't imagine.

5) New governance. One world government is inevitable. Some of it will be non-democratic—”I don’t get to vote who’s on the World Bank.“ To deal with planet-scale issues like geoengineering and climate change, “we will have to work through the recursive dilemma of who decides who decides?” We have no rules for cyberwar yet. We have no backup to the Internet yet, and it needs an immune system.
Big thinking, and we are falling further and further behind where the technology is.


What I like about this talk is not the details, its the the big thinking, it is a few sketches on a napkin but industry, government and academics are limited by their institutional histories. Only someone of Kelly's statute can get a conversation like this going. 


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Macro Innovation 13 (final): Ecosystems

In the last of my macro-innovation series I want to just mention the increasing use of the 'ecosystem' as an emerging term particularly in relation to entrepreneurship. just google "entrepreneurial ecosystems".

I do not actually dislike the analogy to ecosystems but what I find problematic is the use of the term (a) as though everybody intuitively understands what the term means and (b) that there is only one 'ecosystem' framework.

The key question you should ask whenever you read (...) ecosystem is what are we talking about.

Ecosystems

The first thing to consider is that the study of ecosystems is incredibly complex with a huge variety of sub-topics - boundary definitions, to ecosystem types (forests, deserts and marine etc), tropic levels, food webs system productivity, disturbance and resilience etc etc.





So parameters matter?


  1. energy into the system (sun) and water converted into other matter (plants)
  2. biomass - accumulation of living matter
  3. productivity - conversation of energy
Trophic structures


Miller & Levine Biology


Food webs and chains.



Miller & Levine Biology


A food web is entire food structure within a given ecosystem, but within the web there are specific chains - individual tropic levels.

Entrepreneurial ecosystems.


What are we talking about, is it population ecology - a critical mass of similar enterprises and the conditions under which they survive or fail?

Are we thinking ecosystem ecology - energy into the system and then a tropic level of success?

Generally, I think it is a nice fuzzy term where the interactions in the system don't need to be explained - we just have an ecosystem. 

I think there are really useful concepts that we could learn from ecology we just aren't.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Macro-Innov 12: innovation studies an assessment


Reading the blogs on innovation at the moment and you would believe that business innovation is all that matters. Read the academic journals articles at present (well for the last 10 years) and you would not be aware that we are in the midst of what is shaping up to be the most turbulent period of change in recorded economic history. The most pressing challenges contra to the journals are not measuring whether Universities are making a difference to 'innovation' commercialisation. Somehow we got stuck in the late 1980s.

Technology change and economic growth a poor fit


Innovation studies is primary couched within a standard economic reference point. True, the rebels have always wanted to reform economics - that old war cry that neo-classical models do not even include technology in growth models, but this reinforces a point I want to make the goal of the literature is trying to account for technology within framework that wasn't built for it. That is like trying to put a modern car engine into a Model T - it just doesn't work.

Some examples:


  • Long wave technology theories are used to explain economic growth cycles, yet there was never a single 'technology' being adopted, it was always a new ecology emerging which changed the nature of the economy has much as it changed growth;
  • Most of the effort on technology has been to explain 'competitiveness'; and
  • Even more work is focused on corporate success and strategies

The whole NIS excursion started as account of why some economies preform better (Japan and Germany - principally) and then wandered off into some interesting new territories which became unresolvable. The fact that Japan's economy fell apart for rather old fashioned boring macro-economics 101 reasons has never really been focused upon within innovation studies, nor has the other rather boring but rather important physical resources economy. Those same resources promote growth in the economies at the top of the tree and conflict at the bottom. This isn't just 'the resource curse' this is conflict minerals. We need to explain why Canada, Australia and Norway do well out of being resource economies and Argentina and Brazil for example do not do as well and the Congo does really badly.


  1. Technology and innovation change the character of economies, the way it works but we have no neat mathematical equation for this.
  2. Innovation (new combinations as well as new tech) seems to operate on an orthogonal plane to conventional economic management. At the same time that it changes the character of economies it does not violate the problems of managing national budgets and unemployment issues etc. There is no Schumpeterian economics in this sense - unlike some of what the ITIF seems to imply.

These two together mean that that we should stop the current labeling of a lot of current research as pessimistic or optimistic. If the technologies are genuinely new then it is fair to try and look ahead and ask what might they do to change the economy. Saying that 'pessimists' were wrong before is not legitimate debating.

I have never seen a stocktaking a meta study of innovation studies but lets try one.
I have organised it along the lines of ecological pyramids with actors (consumers of energy) at the top and resources and energy at the bottom.

Innovation Studies Assessment



Macro-economics



Concept
Inflation / interest rates/ monetary policy
Innovation studies has had little to say on conventional monetary policy.
Unemployment
Surprisingly, ‘innovation studies’ has been marginal in debates on unemployment except for policies that engage with new industries.
Fiscal policy
Other that policy mixes for support for industry or new technologies innovation studies has had very little to say on government finances in general.
Measures of economic growth
Has innovation studies contributed the new ways of calculating growth or decomposing growth. We now add R&D into national accounts but that is not even close to innovation.
Macro-economic money flows
Macro-economist have found it useful to track money flows in the economy between industry, households and government. Innovation studies has been largely disinterested in this.
Welfare
What does it mean for the rich to be getting richer – what are the social welfare implications of new technologies. Finally this is beginning to be an interest but still too little. For example there are very serious issues at stake with apps like Uber but there is still too much hype around the sharing economy. Conventional economies of course too varying degrees has been very bad as well.
Overall health of the economy
This can be conceived of in various ways, but at its simplest macro-economics has provised a conceptualisation of the issue.



Macro-economics
National Innovation Systems
Regional Systems + Clusters etc
Inflation / interest rates/ monetary policy
CCC
DDD
DDD
Unemployment
CCD
DDD
DDD
Fiscal policy / debt to GDP etc
CCC
DDD
DDD
Measures of economic growth/ what is growth
CDD
CDD
CDD
Macro-economic money flows
CCD
DDD
DDD
Welfare
DDD
CDD
DDD
Overall health of the economy
CDD
DDD
DDD


Actors

This is where innovation studies is strongest. It still has weaknesses in the global sphere but on producing data on institutional actors and how business innovative, patent etc there is a mountain of material.

Actors
Explanation
Business
Who innovates, how much do they spend, how do they network
Government
What is the involvement in the economy of evolving government systems?  Level of government, ‘national’ is still too little problematized scales of interaction are all problematic.
Non-profits and social innovation
Where do non-profits, charities, social innovation fit into the picture? There is an emerging focus on social innovation but we now little about it and we know even less about the world of non-profit organisations, foundations and charities.
Other actors
We know surprising little about people in the economy – macroeconomics treats them as numbers for the jobs machine but the institutions are changing and there is no way of accounting for that.


Macro-economics
Other Economics
NIS
RIS + clusters etc
Innovation Studies
Business innovation
D D D
D D D
C D D
CC D
CCC
Global business trade & patterns
D D D
C D D
D D D
D D D
C D D
Government innovation and promotion of innov
D D D
D D D
C D
C D D
CC    D
Non-profits
D D D
D D D
D D D
D D D
D D D+
Universities
D D D
D D D
CC D
CC D
CC D
Other actors – consumers etc
D D D
D D D
D D D
D D D
C D D




Innovation and New Combinations in Economic Orders

I increasingly have a sense that beyond traditional industrial structure measures there is an emerging sense of structure that we hardly have words to describe yet. We know that technology is very simply changing how the economy works  - even the Economist is talking like this but what do we measure and how do we measure. Here I am concerned with whether the innovation studies literature saw this development coming and expressed a concern before it emerged in the public discourse.



National Incentive structures
Why is that some economics get pulled in certain directions and others towards somewhere else. Physical geography, location on the globe resources access etc all seem part of the picture. On the assumption that economies move generally to the most profitable easiest wins – a somewhat contestable idea (but lets contest it) then whole economies could generally gravitate to particular trajectories. But how do we measure these inventive structures?
New products – share of economy
The Schumpeter idea of new products. Innovation systems has championed data collection and we know a lot more than we used to.
New Processes – influences on productivity and production geography
What are new processes how do we measure them – they keep changing. It was fashionable to do advanced manufacturing technology surveys and then they slowly faded because they weren’t that advanced anymore. It is an area of interest but not enough.
New Inputs
European surveys of innovation as I undertand it include this topic but never seen an analysis.
New markets
European surveys of innovation as I undertand it include this topic but never seen an analysis.
New Organisation of firms
Surveyed but does anyone use the data?
Configurations of labour markets
Configurations of new technology creation and marketing - entrepreneurship
There is obvious growing disquiet with the looming application of driverless cars and other machine age technologies but we need more serious foundations to work from.
Configurations of technological influences
Technology ecologies – there is growing interest. We have known about this for a long time but there beginning to be serious activity.
Configurations of economic organisation
The Schumpeterian idea of new combinations – but what are they? Technology – macro-economics still can’t really cope with technology on its own terms and innovation systems deals with technology not on its own terms terribly often but more usually as an economic class of activities (industries etc) that are valuable to sell. Very little of the literature has tried to understand how the nature of the technologies themselves were changing the way economies performed. In that way the existing macro =-economic assumptions were still underlying the thinking. Today, with books like the Second Machine Age there is real interest in system transformation, but that book hardly fits with the innovation systems paradigm.




Macro-economics
“Innovation Studies’ broadly
NIS
Regional Systems & Clusters etc
National Incentive structures
DDD
DDD
DDD
DDD
New products – share of economy
DDD
CCD
DDD
DDD
New Processes – influences on productivity and production geography
DDD
CDD
DDD
DDD
New Inputs
DDD
DDD
DDD
DDD
New markets
DDD
DDD
DDD
DDD
Configurations of labour markets
DDD
CDD
DDD
DDD
Configurations of new technology creation and marketing - entrepreneurship
DDD
CDD
DDD
DDD
Configurations of technological influences
DDD
CDD
DDD
DDD
Configurations of economic organisation
DDD
DDD
DDD
DDD

In reviewing the Handbook of Innovation Indicators and Measurement, edited by Fred Gault
Krishna Ravi Srinivas - Science and Public Policy 41 (2014) p. 405 doi:10.1093/scipol/scu021
Advance Access published on 17 April 2014 said this.

However, the volume has no chapter on how developing countries such as China are
addressing these issues, or on efforts in developing countries to revise manuals and enhance coverage of data. It tells us nothing about initiatives to assess and measure inclusion, access and equity in science, technology and innovation, or on measuring the gender dimension in that field. The breadth of indicators need not necessarily result in plural policy understandings and options as they are not explicitly oriented towards this. We need indicators that open up science and technology policy and these indicators should not result in narrow outputs from broad inputs. The normative choices and assumptions underlying these indicators need to be debated. This volume does not address such issues, giving an impression that revisions in methodologies and changes in data collection methods and the development of new indicators are sufficient. In that sense, it does not capture the full dynamics of the debate on science and technology indicators.

Natural Resource Issues


Innovation and Resource Economy
Just as natural economies (ecological systems) need resources to survive and thrive so to do human systems but innovation systems work rarely touches on these issues.
Natural resource flows
Innovation systems being captured by economics shows little interest in physics. While it is possible to argue that technological change moves the limits and structures we have actually done little to measure this. If the ‘limits to growth thesis’ was wrong what were the contributing technological dynamics. The field of industrial ecology exists which is trying to measure many interesting phenomena so innovation systems doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel, just ride it.
Resource cycles
We know that growth drives up prices and this creates the opportunities for new technologies. But we have seen classic studies of sailing ships etc that the old technologies hang on. More focuss on resource based activities would be appreciated.
Induced Innovation
What is the scale and when does induced innovation kick in.
Institutions research structures
Natural resource industries are not just a mine or a farm there is constant innovation at the elading edge but how are they adopted, where are they adopted etc


Macro-economics
“Innovation Studies’ broadly
NIS
Regional Systems & Clusters etc
Natural resource flows
DDD
DDD
DDD
DDD
Resource cycles
DDD
DDD
DDD
DDD
Induced Innovation
DDD
DDD
DDD
DDD
Institutions research structures
DDD
DDD
DDD
DDD

Energy


At the base of an ecological system there is of course energy. The majority of the innovation studies literature on energy focus on industries and the competitiveness between this location and that (Denmark and California for wind turbines. However, there is very little focus on energy itself.
Two exceptions. The first is not from innovation systems

The Sante Fe Institute  (SFI) http://www.santafe.edu/templeton/hidden-laws/ has been investigating for sometime now the biology of cities. This is fascinating work.
Here is an excerpt from the website.

In biology, comparing species as disparate as mice and whales reveals that much of their physiology and life history follow the same mathematical rules, but at different scales. For example, across mammalian species, metabolic rate -- the amount of energy needed per day to stay alive -- grows by only about 75% with each doubling of body size. Other measurable traits such as life expectancy and heart rate show similarly predictable patterns as species body size increases. In cities, analogous patterns are observed. With each doubling of city size, almost any socioeconomic statistic that is measureable (wages, patents, and crime rate, for example) increases by about 15% per capita on average. At the same time, the material infrastructural networks that facilitate city life (transportation systems, energy distribution, etc.) decrease in size by about 15% per capita, reflecting economies of scale. These systematic behaviors result from the increasing intensity of human interaction as city size grows.

The second piece of work that I know of is from John Foster an evolutionary economist (so from within the school).  J Evol Econ (2014) 24:209–238 DOI 10.1007/s00191-014-0348-6
Energy, knowledge and economic growth

John Argues.

that the explosive growth experienced in much of the World since the middle of the 19th Century is due to the exploitation and use of fossil fuels which, in turn, was made possible by capital good innovations that enabled this source of energy to be used effectively. Economic growth is viewed as the outcome autocatalytic co-evolution of energy use and the application of new knowledge associated with energy use. It is argued that models of economic growth should be built from innovation diffusion processes, unfolding in history, rather than from a timeless aggregate production function. A simple ‘evolutionary macroeconomic’ model of economic growth is developed and tested using almost two centuries of British data. The empirical findings strongly support the hypothesis that growth has been due to the presence of a ‘super-radical innovation diffusion process’ following the industrial deployment of fossil fuels on a large scale in the 19th Century. Also, the evidence suggests that large and sustained movements in energy prices have had a very significant long term role to play.

Overall

I worry that the excessive focus on business creativeness and innovation (actors) in this analysis fundamentally distracts from analysing what is happening. We don't have the tools because we have so far excepted that everything kinda fits into economics rather than economics fitting within the study of technology.