Two bestselling authors overturn conventional wisdom about how economies work–revealing the untold story of who wins and who loses the rewards of prosperity–in a work that fundamentally transforms how we look at and understand the world.
Throughout history, technological change — whether it takes the form of agricultural improvements in the Middle Ages, the Industrial Revolution, or today’s artificial intelligence — has been viewed as a main driver of prosperity, working in the public interest. The reality, though, is that technology is shaped by what powerful people want and believe, generating riches, social respect, cultural prominence, and further political voice for those already powerful. For most of the rest of us, there is the illusion of progress.
Daron Acemoglu (Why Nations Fail) and Simon Johnson (13 Bankers) debunk modern techno-optimism through a dazzling, original account of how technological choices have changed the course of history. From vivid stories of how the economic surplus of the Middle Ages was appropriated by an ecclesiastical elite to build cathedrals while the peasants starved, to the making of vast fortunes from digital technologies today as millions are pushed towards poverty, we see how the path of technology is determined and who influences its trajectory.
To achieve the true potential of innovation, we need to ensure technology is creating new jobs and opportunities rather than marginalizing most people, through automated work and political passivity. We need to use the tremendous digital advances of the last half century to create useful and empowering tools, and seize back control from a small elite of hubristic, messianic tech leaders pursuing their own interests.
With their breakthrough economic theory and manifesto for building a better society, Acemoglu and Johnson provide the understanding and vision to reimagine and reshape the path of technology and create true shared prosperity.
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 Ronald A. Kurtz Professor of Entrepreneurship in the Sloan School at MIT, where he is also head of the Global Economics and Management group. Previously chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, he has worked on global economic crises and recoveries for thirty years. Johnson has published more than 300 high-impact pieces in leading publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, and Financial Times. He is author (with Jon Gruber) of Jump-Starting America, and (with James Kwak) of White House Burning and the national bestseller 13 Bankers. He works with entrepreneurs, elected officials, and civil society organizations around the world.
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.