Let's go through the argument:
Standard measures tell us that real wages in the North Atlantic grew at an average rate of 1%/year in the 19th century and 2%/year in the 20th century.
But let's look at the price of light: it suggests that growth has been much faster:
A wax candle emits 13 lumens, a 100-watt filament bulb emits 1300 lumens.
- Hours of work to pay for one hour's worth of light from a 100-watt filament bulb:
Growth in lighting technology:
- A factor of 2000 since 1900: 7.6%/year
- A factor of 25 in the 19th century: 3.2%/year
- A factor of 8 in the previous 1600 years: 0.13%/year
- A cumulative factor since 1800 BC of: 400,000
How much of what we make is "like" light?
- Run-of-the-mill sectors: 28%
- Seismically-active sectors: 36%
- Tectonic-shift sectors: 37%