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Will Technology Save the World?

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It’s easy to take a doom-and-gloom attitude when considering our planet’s environment, but there may be reason for optimism. Many major issues the world has faced, humans have resolved with ingenuity and diligence.

So says Andrew McAfee, co-founder and co-director of the Initiative on the Digital Economy, principal research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and author of the book “More From Less: The Surprising Story of How We Learned to Prosper Using Fewer Resources — and What Happens Next.”

“We haven’t come up with a problem yet that we can’t solve,” said McAfee in his keynote speech at Micron’s Insight 2019 conference. Many of the solutions, he added, have been unintentional and enabled by advances in technology.

For example, he said, the first Earth Day celebration in 1970 arose out of a growing concern that consumption would deplete our planet’s resources. The “de-growth movement” emerged in response — but American consumers did little to curb their appetites.

And yet, progress has been made:

  • The use of water and fertilizer in agriculture has declined even as our farms produce more food.
  • The use of paper and timber is in decline in large part because of digital computing and smartphones.
  • The use of metals has decreased even while manufacturing and industrial production have risen.
  • Energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions have not increased but have remained flat since 1970.

"We are learning to tread more lightly on the planet,” McAfee said. Technological advances are a large part of the reason why.

But the onus isn’t completely on technology to provide the fix: Humans play a pivotal role as well. (See Micron’s sustainability report to learn how the company is doing its part.) Watch McAfee’s keynote to learn the one thing each of us can do to help preserve our planet and enhance quality of life for future generations.

The views and opinions expressed in this video are those of Andrew McAfee and not those of Micron Technology, Inc. “More From Less: The Surprising Story of How We Learned to Prosper Using Fewer Resources — and What Happens Next” is the work of Mr. McAfee; Micron is not a sponsor of this book.   

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