In the past, I’ve praised Robin Hanson for his literalism. Now a compelling article on Straussian textual interpretation has inspired Robin to propose a new theory of the Industrial Revolution:

Modern growth began when enough intellectuals gained status not from ambiguity but from clarity, forming a network of specialists exchanging clear concise summaries of new insights.

In other words, the move from obscurantism to literalism saved us from poverty and misery.

Yes, it’s suspicious that one of Robin’s greatest cognitive strengths winds up being his explanation for two centuries of progress. But could he still be right?