BCG Henderson Institute

Power and Progress with Simon Johnson

"I think if you look back over the last 1,000 years, very few societies have been well set up for automatic shared prosperity. I think it's always a fight — it’s always a discussion."

In his new book Power and Progress, Simon Johnson, along with his co-author Daron Acemoglu, challenges the techno-optimistic narrative that technological progress will automatically lead to shared prosperity.

Johnson, a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, takes us through a millennium of technological progress to show how the gains from advancements such as the agricultural and early industrial revolutions tended to benefit a narrow segment of interests. While technology can enable the kind of equitable growth that is heralded by techno-optimists, this requires an environment that mitigates the natural power imbalance between workers and owners of technology through regulation, labor organizations, and an active civic society. As we stand on the brink of a new wave of innovation from AI, it’s critical that we learn from the history of economic progress to ensure that this time, the gains are shared broadly in society.

In this episode of our Thinkers & Ideas podcast, Johnson joins BCG Henderson Institute Chairman Martin Reeves to discuss the incentives for corporate leaders to create technology directed at equitable growth, the potential impact of AI on society, and the effectiveness of government policies aimed at fostering shared prosperity.

Key topics discussed: 

[01:19] Motivation for the book
[02:03] Progress and shared prosperity
[07:29] Effectiveness of redistribution
[09:43] Directing innovation toward social good
[16:42] The impact of AI
[20:39] Role of corporate leaders and investors in directing technology

Additional inspiration from Simon Johnson:

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