If digital technology is so great, then why don’t we all feel richer and happier? The answer, I’ll explain, is that our fundamental social institutions — from the structure of the welfare state to the way our cities are built — aren’t equipped to manage the change. The disruption created by the digital revolution is therefore placing growing strains on society: in the form of rising inequality, stagnant living standards, and an erosion in the quality of job available to the typical worker. The talk will describe how the historical response to such stresses is a crisis or crises, which lead to political change, which lead to social reform and a world better suited to the new technologies.
The world economy seems to be stuck in the doldrums. Income and productivity growth are low, inflation and interest rates are near zero, the emerging-market boom has come to an end, and voters everywhere are increasingly fed up with globalisation and the elites who favour it. This talk will explain how the great trends of the last few decades — globalisation and the digital revolution — landed us in this mess. It will then go through the possible routes out, and the risks associated with each.
Ryan Avent is a senior editor and economics columnist at The Economist. He is the author of The Wealth of Humans and The Gated City. His work has also appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Atlantic, and the Guardian among other places. Before entering journalism, Ryan worked as an economic consultant and as an industry analyst for the Bureau of Labor Statistics. He has an economics degree from North Carolina State University, and an MSc in economic history from the London School of Economics. He lives in Arlington, Virginia with his wife and two children.