Power and Progress: Our Thousand-Year Struggle Over Technology and Prosperity by Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson

Cover: Paperback
Sale priceUsh 70,000


If you are not already an addict of Daron Acemoglu and Simon Johnson's previous books, Power and Progress is guaranteed to make you one. - Jared Diamond

Acemoglu and Johnson would like a word with the mighty tech lords before they turn over the entire world economy to artificial intelligence. The lesson of economic history is technological advances such as AI won't automatically lead to broad-based prosperity - they may end up benefiting only a wealthy elite. Just as the innovations of the Gilded Age of American industrialization had to be reined in by progressive politics, so too, in our Coded Age, we need not only trade unions, civil society, and trustbusters, but also legislative and regulatory reforms to prevent the advent of a new panopticon of AI-enabled surveillance. This book will not endear the authors to Microsoft executives, but it's a bracing wake-up call for the rest of us. - Niall Ferguson, Milbank Family Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and author of The Square and the Tower

A bold new interpretation of why technology has all too often benefited elites - and how we must reshape the path of innovation to create true shared prosperity.

A thousand years of history and contemporary evidence make one thing clear. Progress is not automatic but depends on the choices we make about technology. New ways of organizing production and communication can either serve the narrow interests of an elite or become the foundation for widespread prosperity.

Much of the wealth generated by agricultural advances during the European Middle Ages was captured by the Church and used to build grand cathedrals while the peasants starved. The first hundred years of industrialization in England delivered stagnant incomes for workers, while making a few people very rich. And throughout the world today, digital technologies and artificial intelligence increase inequality and undermine democracy through excessive automation, massive data collection, and intrusive surveillance.

It doesn't have to be this way. Power and Progress demonstrates that the path of technology was once - and can again be - brought under control. The tremendous computing advances of the last half century can become empowering and democratizing tools, but not if all major decisions remain in the hands of a few hubristic tech leaders striving to build a society that elevates their own power and prestige.

With their breakthrough economic theory and manifesto for a better society, Acemoglu and Johnson provide the understanding and the vision to reshape how we innovate and who really gains from technological advances so we can create real prosperity for all.

Technology is upending our world--automating jobs, deepening inequality, and creating tools of surveillance and misinformation that threaten democracy. But Acemoglu and Johnson show it doesn't have to be this way. The direction of technology is not, like the direction of the wind, a force of nature beyond human control. It's up to us. This humane and hopeful book shows how we can steer technology to promote the public good. Required reading for everyone who cares about the fate of democracy in a digital age. - Michael J. Sandel, author of The Tyranny of Merit: Can We Find the Common Good?

In this brilliant, sweeping review of technological change past and present, Acemoglu and Johnson mean to grab us by the shoulders and shake us awake before today's winner-take-all technologies impose more violence on global society and the democratic prospect. This vital book is a necessary antidote to the poisonous rhetoric of tech inevitability. It reveals the realpolitik of technology as a persistent Trojan horse for economic powers that favor the profit-seeking aims of the few over the many. Power and Progress is the blueprint we need for the challenges ahead: technology only contributes to shared prosperity when it is tamed by democratic rights, values, principles, and the laws that sustain them in our daily lives. - Shoshana Zuboff, professor emeritus, Harvard Business School, and author of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism

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