A Critique of Techno-Optimism: Efficiency without Sufficiency is Lost

I have been doing some work recently with the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, and have just published the first of a number of working papers, entitled “A Critique of Techno-Optimism: Efficiency without Sufficiency is Lost”. An abstract is posted below and the full paper is available here.

ABSTRACT: “Technological optimists believe that humanity will be able to solve environmental problems primarily through technological application and advancement, while continuing to focus attention on economic growth. From this widely held perspective, sustained growth of the global economy will eliminate global poverty and raise living standards for all, without destroying the necessary ecosystems that sustain life as we know it. There can be no doubt that this promise of technology is seductive – material abundance for all, while solving environmental problems. But is this promise credible? If not, what are the implications? This paper presents an evidence-based critique of techno-optimism, arguing that the vision of progress it promotes is unrealisable due to the limits of technology and the inherent structure of growth economics. The considered application of technology is, without doubt, an essential part of any transition to a just and sustainable world, but it is argued that there must also be a value-shift away from growth economics toward a ‘post-growth’ or ‘steady state’ economy based on material sufficiency.”

Full working paper available here.

3 Responses to “A Critique of Techno-Optimism: Efficiency without Sufficiency is Lost”

  1. SJ says:

    I guess that I believe that the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Whilst I make a living in technology, in my private life I live low tech and simply, growing much of our own food, getting our water from the rain and much of our power from the sun. But on the dry land that I live on, and share with the wild life, we couldn’t collect water without metal roofing and gutteres and I need a pump or two. I use solar panels and poly pipes, chicken wire and many other items from the technological age in order to live off the land. So I think we should value the technology that is useful but be careful not to take up technology for it’s own sake or wasetfully.

  2. Rick says:

    I would agree with you except for one issue.. The idea of sustaining any sort of “Economy” based on any monetary system is simply doing the same things, expecting different results. Or more clearly, true insanity.
    A world based on a global structure which is driven by technology produced from managed resources, is somethinf we can do. The question is really are we willing to do it? Someday we will hit a bottom deep enough where we will say, either we should have, or we will from now on. If mankind can survive such a catastrophe being that we have never imagined, on such a scale , before in our history.

  3. Rick says:

    I have no idea of going backwards to sustenance farming, and living in mud rooms.We’ve been there, and done that which is not where, we need to return to. We have the ability to create a new future or destroy it.
    One men were thought insane because they insisted someday man will fly, or walk on the moon. That same ignorance, keeps us using money, which causes stratification, which causes the control of resources, which causes greed, which causes borders, which causes politics, which always leads to wars and other barbaric behavior. If we are to truly change, we need to truly change everything. De construct the controlling element which, at literally every level, gets to MONEY.

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