BACK TO RESEARCH

Workforce

Power and Progress: Our 1000-Year Struggle Over Technology and Prosperity

Daron Acemoglu and Simon Johnson

May 2023

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. A new book from Blueprint affiliate Daron Acemoglu and colleague Simon Johnson, Power and Progress: Our 1000-Year Struggle Over Technology and Prosperity, demonstrates that the path of technology was once—and may again—be brought under control. Cutting-edge technological advances can become empowering and democratizing tools, but not if all major decisions remain in the hands of a few hubristic tech leaders.

With their bold reinterpretation of economics and history, Daron Acemoglu and Simon Johnson fundamentally change how we see the world, providing the vision needed to redirect innovation so it again benefits most people.