Energy, Kondratieff Waves, Lead Economies, and Their Evolutionary Implications

Author: Thompson, William R.
Almanac: History & Mathematics:Big History Aspects


One way to look at the evolution of technological innovation is to develop ways to convert various types of matter into successively greater amounts of energy to fill sails, to spin cotton or to drive automobiles and air conditioners. One approach to interpreting Kondratieff waves (K-waves), associated with the leadership long cycle research program, emphasizes the role of intermittent but clustered technological innovations primarily pioneered by a lead economy, with various significant impacts on world politics. This approach is further distinguished by asserting that the K-wave pattern is discernible back to the 10th century and the economic breakthrough of Sung Dynasty China. While K-wave behavior has many widespread manifestations, the question raised in this essay is whether explanatory power is improved by giving a greater role to energy and energy transitions in the K-wave process(es). Eight specific implications are traced, ranging from the interaction of technological innovations and energy to cosmological interpretations. Our argument reflects a general theory of the evolution of complexity in all processes predicated on energy consumption. All ‘natural entities’, spanning physical, biological, and cultural phenomena, extract energy for survival, maintenance and reproductive purposes or, alternatively, put for resisting entropy.

Keywords: Kondratieff waves, long cycle, energy, energy transitions, technological innovation, lead economy, evolutionary processes.