GMU Economist Makes Case For An Improving World | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

WAMU 88.5 : News

Filed Under:

GMU Economist Makes Case For An Improving World

Play associated audio
NASA

Roshan, one of Afghanistan's first mobile phone companies, has not only transformed the way Afghans communicate — it's changing everything from healthcare to banking. The company came on to the scene in Afghanistan in 2003 when there was virtually no mobile coverage in that country; now, they serve 5.5 million customers.

"Mobile phones are the most rapidly spreading, most powerful technology humanity has ever experienced, the only technology of even remotely comparable power that's ever reached the village level in the same way is the transistor radio, and prior to that, arguably, it was fire," says Philip Auerswald, an economist at George Mason University and author of the book The Coming Prosperity.

It can be hard for Americans to see the influence of technology, he says, because a lot of the major changes are happening in other countries.

"For a 64-year-old Korean who has experienced what that country has gone through since they were born, the magnitude of change as measured in per capita GDP is comparable to what an American would have experienced had he or she been born in 1830," says Auerswald.

Money transfers are one example. One study of hundreds of Mexicans found that every single person had a story of violence and theft related to picking up their pay checks. But now, people can make money transfers through their cell phones.

"The vulnerability that people experience on a daily level ... you think about if you had to go to an unsafe neighborhood to pick up your monthly paycheck in cash," Auerswald says. "So by having the transfer go to a mobile phone, it really can be a life-changing experience."

And for skeptics of this optimistic worldview, Auerswald has answers. For those that bring up overpopulation?

"The growth of population has been accompanied by an improvement in human well-being. More people have led to more prosperity, more ideas, more exchange."

And climate change?

"The reason we have a climate change problem is very simple: we have too much fossil fuel. It's a paradox of prosperity. It's a concern not because of resource scarcity, but because of resource abundance."

This optimism, Auerswald says, comes from the power of innovation. And as a way to ensure America continues to be a leader in global innovation, he and a group of colleagues are proposing a space on the National Mall devoted to celebrating American technology and manufacturing.

"Let's tell a story that's about all Americans, that's about the future, and that's about the creative possibilities of people," he says.

Auerswald believes that the National Mall shouldn't just be a place for American history, it should also be a place to celebrate America's role in a global future.

NPR

Like 'Dynasty' On Ice: The Nancy Kerrigan And Tonya Harding Museum

Why would a couple of comedians build a museum in their hallway dedicated to figure skaters in 1994? Because the story of their rivalry, Kerrigan's attack and the media frenzy is just so American.
NPR

This Robot Chef Has Mastered Crab Bisque

The system, a pair of robotic arms, learned to cook by mimicking the motions of a top chef. Even though it can't smell or taste, its maker says the robot should be able to make 2,000 meals by 2017.
WAMU 88.5

Morale Is Low Among Government Workers, But What Can Be Done?

Lawmakers are awaiting the results of a Government Accountability Office on low morale across federal agencies. But can Congress help fix a problem they played a large part in creating?

NPR

VW Camper Van Gets An Electric Makeover

Talk about a time warp! The iconic VW camper is getting a modern reboot. This time, it's electric.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.