The Wealth of Humans by Ryan Avent

As we say goodbye to 2016, commentators are suggesting that the past 12 months have been a threshold year. It could be that the twentieth century ended in 2016 in the same way as historians regard the nineteenth century as ending at the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. One of the transformations we’ll undoubtedly see in this brave new 21st century is in the kinds of, and quality of, work.

Digital technology is transforming every corner of the economy, fundamentally altering the way things are done, who does them, and what they earn for their efforts. In The Wealth of Humans, Economist editor Ryan Avent brings up-to-the-minute research and reporting to bear on this major economic question of our time. Can the modern world manage technological change which will be every bit as disruptive as that which shook the socioeconomic landscape of the 19th century?

Traveling from Shenzhen, to Gothenburg, to Mumbai, to Silicon Valley, Avent investigates the meaning of work in the twenty-first century: how technology is upending time-tested business models and thrusting workers of all kinds into a world wholly unlike that of a generation ago. It’s a world in which the relationships between capital and labour, and between rich and poor will be shaken.

Past revolutions required rewriting the social contract. This one is unlikely to demand anything less. Avent looks to the history of the Industrial Revolution and the work of numerous experts for lessons in re-ordering society. The future needn’t be bleak, but as The Wealth of Humans explains, we can’t expect to restructure the world without massive dislocation to people’s lives.

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288 pages in Allen Lane

First published 2016

ISBN  978-0241201039

Ryan Avent

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