SPOTLIGHT: The advantages of backwardness

In the 1950s the economist Alexander Gerschenkron wrote about the "advantages of backwardness": Japan and Germany were destroyed during the Second World War, so that when they began to rebuild, they availed themselves of the latest technologies and industrial processes then available. In the process they leap-frogged the US and UK, the countries which won the war, because the winners were still using 1930s technology in their industrial plants. Thus, backwardness or destruction by war may help a country gain on its more advanced competitors. All this is relevant to our recent experience: Jim Louderback of PC Magazine writes that a friend of his is facing an intriguing problem: The home of that friend's mother was gutted by Hurricane Katrina, and he is rebuilding it for her with an eye to the future. "I need to know: What's the latest in wiring a house for super-duper digital?" that friend asked Jim. Article