Is the world becoming a better place? Carlota Perez does not respond to this question. Instead, she explains how we are making it better. And hope is ignited in the eyes of the young members of the audience during Debatt i Lund.
“The threat of climate change can be turned into an opportunity. Green economic growth will provide lots of new jobs and a good life for people, not only in the West but all over the world. If we take the right decisions now, this may be the solution to climate problems and poverty, as well as reduce the flow of refugees”, says the 77-year-old Venezuelan.
Analyses are important, but we also need positive visions. In this respect, the professor at the London School of Economics Carlota Perez delivers. The world can be saved, she explained at Café Athen which was packed to the brim when the first science week of the jubilee year began in early March.
“All of society needs to be steered in a green direction. The challenge is to get politicians to catch the drift and come together to take joint action. Right now we have an amazing opportunity presented by the potential of digital information technology. It is ready to be converted into innovations that can stop global warming and at the same time boost the economy. We have 20–30 years to do so.”
Technological revolutions follow a historical pattern, explains Carlota Perez. The first implementation phase is characterised by “creative destruction” when outdated production systems and mindsets fall by the wayside. It involves major new challenges for some, while others make big money and quickly. The period is marked by “bubbles”, i.e. the market can operate without major restrictions, and politics plays a subtle role.
After the initial phase, the technology spreads widely in society, and that is where we are now – in the midst of the digital revolution. This is a turning point.
Carlota Perez compares it to the mass unemployment and depression in the 1930s that followed the industrial revolution.
“Our time is similar to the 30s in many ways. Pessimism, stress and anger, expressed through the election of Trump and other populists, for example. However, what we need when the old society collapses are not the reactionaries but wise and courageous political leaders who can take advantage of new technological opportunities.”
Previous technological revolutions show that, after the turning point, market forces have never managed to make technology blossom into a golden age where all of society can reap the benefits, argues Carlota Perez. Today, as in previous technological shifts, the government must play a larger and more active role in the economy. She compares it to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s major reform programme “New Deal” that ensured that unemployed Americans got a job and could afford to buy products of the manufacturing industry.
Text & photo: Britta Collberg