Andrew McAfee draws on a wide range of evidence to show that the world is already on the right track toward long-term health when it combines 1) technological progress, 2) capitalism, 3) responsive government, and 4) public awareness. That blend demonstrably gets humanity “more from less.” It dematerializes the economy and decouples it from exploiting nature while increasing prosperity for ever more people.
McAfee argues that dematerialization is occurring because of the combination of capitalism and tech progress (especially progress with digital technologies). Contested markets provide the motive, and tech progress the opportunity, to save money by swapping bits for atoms throughout the economy. But competition and computers don’t automatically deal with pollution or protect threatened ecosystems. Two other forces are necessary—public awareness and responsive government. When all four are present, societies can tread more lightly on the Earth and grow in confidence that both humanity and nature can thrive together into the future.
The reality of what works departs from every ideology out there. It also makes clear what needs to be further improved in the places where it’s working, such as the US, and what needs to be introduced in the places where it’s not working yet.
Andrew McAfee is a research scientist at MIT‘s Sloan School of Management and cofounder of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy. He is the author of More From Less (2019) and co-author (with Erik Brynjolfsson) of Machine, Platform, Crowd (2017) and The Second Machine Age (2014).