Innovation and growth saves lives; take Uber, for example

Throughout the existence of the human race, innovation has been a big driver of change and growth. Hundreds of thousands of years ago, when humans were merely using stone tools for their daily lives, it would have been hard for them to imagine anything even remotely more sophisticated.

But through innovation came the Bronze Age and then the Iron Age, ages which were both then followed by periods that brought even more sophisticated innovations like the Industrial Age –– also known as the Industrial Revolution –– and much more currently, the Digital Revolution.

Most of these earlier periods were so much different from life as we know it today. In the Middle Ages, for example, children had a survival rate of 50 percent, the majority of individuals farmed, and most of the population lived in rural areas. Even the richest nobles did not live with a level of comfort or luxury that is close to what the average American experiences.

But we have come so far since then. Through the discovery and development of advanced life-saving tools like vaccines, and modern medicine techniques and technologies, life expectancy has gone up even in the poorest of countries. Infant mortality has decreased significantly in all parts of the world. Standards of living have gone up exponentially everywhere affording most individuals a much more comfortable life.

The advantages of innovation are undeniably all around us. The internet, computers, smart TVs, phones, air travel, cars and so many other things have all made our lives so much easier, safer and richer.

In recent years, some have questioned whether the economy really needs to keep growing by saying that after a certain level continued growth does not provide benefits. Indeed it is obvious, there are material benefits to growth –– when individuals have more income, they are able to afford more and better things.

Increased income, however, need not only be associated with material benefits and consumerism. Growing income also ensures that we are able to invest in discovering and producing new products or new ways of doing things, that can potentially be life-saving. Consider Uber, which was developed a little more than a decade ago.

Since its introduction Uber has brought numerous benefits. Apart from making life easier for a lot of people, Uber has also saved lives. Just recently, the National Bureau of Economic Research published a Working paper containing evidence showing that Uber has managed to reduce alcohol-related fatalities as well as accidents. The authors estimate that in dollar terms, such benefits can be estimated to range from $2.3 to $5.4 billion a year.

It is easy to dismiss the benefits of growth and innovation, especially when living in one of the most developed countries where widespread subsistence poverty is entirely a thing of the past. But in some parts of the world, increased economic growth would mean people are finally able to afford basic necessities like food and clothing.

But even in a high-income country like the U.S., a platform like Uber shows that it does not hurt to have enough resources that can be used to invest in producing new and better things.