Human Capitalism: How Economic Growth Has Made Us Smarter-- and More Unequal

Human Capitalism: How Economic Growth Has Made Us Smarter-- and More Unequal

Human Capitalism: How Economic Growth Has Made Us Smarter-- and More Unequal

Human Capitalism: How Economic Growth Has Made Us Smarter-- and More Unequal

Excerpt

[Things were so much simpler back then …]

If you've reached a certain age—your forties? thirties? twenties?—you've doubtless uttered this familiar, plaintive refrain at some point or another.

And you were right. Because the fact is—and it's an extremely important fact—our world is getting more and more complicated all the time.

There are many reasons, but economic growth is the biggest. Growth means a more far-flung, more intricate, more highly specialized division of labor. It means continued additions to the immense accumulation of knowledge and know-how dispersed throughout society. And it means proliferating choices along virtually every dimension of human existence. Put all that together and you get one of the defining characteristics of contemporary America: its overwhelming, incomprehensible complexity.

Of course, as society grows more complex, many particular aspects of life are dramatically simplified. Recall Alfred North Whitehead's observation, [Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking of them.] To take just one example, finding one's way in a car used to involve poring over maps, asking for directions when lost, and so on, whereas now GPS technology allows us to type in an address and then just do as we're told. Yet life overall has grown more complex in two important ways. First, as I will describe later, work generally involves much more complex tasks than it once did. And second, life now presents us with far more choices than

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