Chapter 14. Technology and Business as if People Matter

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It was 1930, at the start of the Great Depression, when famed economist John Maynard Keynes wrote the following words, in the same prescient essay where he coined the term “technological unemployment”:

We are suffering just now from a bad attack of economic pessimism. It is common to hear people say that the epoch of enormous economic progress which characterised the nineteenth century is over; that the rapid improvement in the standard of life is now going to slow down; that a decline in prosperity is more likely than an improvement in the decade which lies ahead of us. I believe that this is a wildly mistaken interpretation of what is happening to us. We are suffering, not from the rheumatics of old age, but from the growing-pains of over-rapid changes, from the painfulness of readjustment between one economic period and another….

The essay was called “Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren.”

Keynes was right, and he was wrong. Sure enough, after a punishing depression and a great World War, the economy entered a period of unparalleled prosperity. But in recent decades, despite all the remarkable progress of business and technology, that prosperity has been unevenly distributed.

Around the world, the average standard of living has increased enormously, but in modern developed economies, the ...

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