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When less really is more

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A new book by MIT Sloan School Scientist Andrew McAfee challenges the notion that prosperity must inevitably destroy our planet. In his new book, he argues we’ve entered a new less resource intensive era.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., October 8, 2019 –– Since the first Earth Day in 1970, it has been common to believe that our path to prosperity is on a direct collision course with our ability to take care of our planet. Yet a groundbreaking new book, More From Less (Simon and Schuster, October 8, 2019), by Andrew McAfee of the Sloan School of Management at MIT, challenges that view.

MORE FROM LESS by Andrew McAfee

Using an evidence-based approach, Andrew McAfee, principal research scientist at MIT Sloan and cofounder of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, demonstrates in his provocative new book, that we are now able to grow even our most developed economies while taking fewer resources from the earth. America — a large, high-tech country that accounts for about 25% of the global economy — is now generally using less of most resources year after year, even as its economy and population continue to grow. This less resource intensive capitalism is a direct result of our switch to a digital economy where growth is now more likely to be dependent on bits than on atoms.

“In the past,” argues McAfee, “we engaged in a lot of resource dependent capitalism and growth. The point that I am making is that the game is working differently now. I think we are demonstrating that it is possible to grow an economy, grown more prosperous while taking fewer resources form the earth. We can do this in large part because of the invention of the computer. Digital tools are now letting us swap bits for atoms, all over the economy. That’s good news for the planet and for the prosperity of future generations.”

“The notion that we have to pick between a healthy economy and a healthy planet is wrong and harmful,” continues McAfee. “Unwarranted and uninformed pessimism will lead us to make bad choices or even worse cause us to give into despair.”

Still, says McAfee, there are real and important environmental issues that must be addressed — including global warming and species extinction. “I am not being a Pollyanna here,” says McAfee. But he sees these as difficult, but solvable, problems.

As a result, McAfee, remains upbeat about the future: “The trade-off between human prosperity and planetary health is in the rear-view mirror.”

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