A thousand years of history and contemporary evidence make one thing clear. Progress 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.
The wealth generated by technological improvements in agriculture during the European Middle Ages was captured by the nobility and used to build grand cathedrals while peasants remained on the edge of starvation. The first hundred years of industrialization in England delivered stagnant incomes for working people. And throughout the world today, digital technologies and artificial intelligence undermine jobs and 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 may 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.
With their breakthrough economic theory and manifesto for a better society, Acemoglu and Johnson provide the vision needed to reshape how we innovate and who really gains from technological advances.
Daron Acemoglu is Institute Professor of Economics at MIT, the university's highest faculty honor. For the last twenty-five years, he has been researching the historical origins of prosperity, poverty, and the effects of new technologies on economic growth, employment, and inequality. Acemoglu is the recipient of several awards and honors, including the John Bates Clark Medal, awarded to economists under forty judged to have made the most significant contribution to economic thought and knowledge (2005); the BBVA Frontiers of Knowledge Award in economics, finance, and management for his lifetime contributions (2016), and the Kiel Institute's Global Economy Prize in economics (2019). He is author (with James Robinson) of The Narrow Corridor and the New York Times bestseller Why Nations Fail.
Simon Johnson is the Kurtz Professor of Entrepreneurship at MIT and a former chief economist to the IMF. His much-viewed opinion pieces have appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, the Atlantic, and elsewhere. With law professor James Kwak, Simon is the co-author of the bestsellers 13 Bankers and White House Burning and a founder of the widely-cited economics blog The Baseline Scenario.