That's clever the way he uses the word "apps" to get to a level he thinks the people who need to hear him will understand.
Anyway, Ferguson sounds pessimistic when he sounds the alarm about America in such articles as America’s ‘Oh Sh*T!’ Moment or How America Lost Its Way. And to put a little urgency to it, he says civilizations don't decline, historically they collapse in a very short order sometimes as little as a decade.
The killer apps he says propelled the West ahead of the rest are these:
1. Competition. Europe was politically fragmented into multiple monarchies and republics, which were in turn internally divided into competing corporate entities, among them the ancestors of modern business corporations.
2. The Scientific Revolution. All the major 17th-century breakthroughs in mathematics, astronomy, physics, chemistry, and biology happened in Western Europe.
3. The Rule of Law and Representative Government. An optimal system of social and political order emerged in the English-speaking world, based on private-property rights and the representation of property owners in elected legislatures.
4. Modern Medicine. Nearly all the major 19th- and 20th-century breakthroughs in health care were made by Western Europeans and North Americans.
5. The Consumer Society. The Industrial Revolution took place where there was both a supply of productivity—enhancing technologies and a demand for more, better, and cheaper goods, beginning with cotton garments.
6. The Work Ethic. Westerners were the first people in the world to combine more extensive and intensive labor with higher savings rates, permitting sustained capital accumulation.
(He talks about the topic in this Ted talk.)
Unfortunately, Western societies, and especially the U.S., are deleting their own killer apps. There's hope, but it won't do to sit around thinking there will be plenty of time to stop a slow decline. If/when it happens it will come rather suddenly and will be difficult or impossible to stop. What to do?
What we need to do is to delete the viruses that have crept into our system: the anticompetitive quasi monopolies that blight everything from banking to public education; the politically correct pseudosciences and soft subjects that deflect good students away from hard science; the lobbyists who subvert the rule of law for the sake of the special interests they represent—to say nothing of our crazily dysfunctional system of health care, our overleveraged personal finances, and our newfound unemployment ethic.
Ferguson wrote that two years ago. We need that reboot now.