Kirkus Reviews QR Code


How Innovation Keeps Proving the Catastrophists Wrong

by Robert Bryce

Pub Date: May 13th, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-61039-205-1
Publisher: PublicAffairs

A celebration of innovations that have produced cheaper and more abundant energy, faster computing, lighter vehicles and other technological benefits.

Manhattan Institute senior fellow Bryce (Power Hungry: The Myths of "Green" Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future, 2010, etc.) vehemently rejects the views of catastrophists (from Bill McKibben to Greenpeace and the Sierra Club) who cry out about scarcity and shortage and warn against technology and industrial development as threats to the planet. Instead, he argues that entrepreneurs and innovation are creating a world where “more people are living longer, healthier, freer, more peaceful lives than at any time in human history.” Innovation is allowing us to do more with less, he writes: “We are continually making things and processes Smaller Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper.” Bryce surveys innovations from the printing press and the jet turbine to digital communications and new medical technologies, examining each in terms of its smaller-faster-etc. attributes. Due to widespread innovation, for example, computers are smaller and faster; food packaging is lighter, farms are denser, and goods and services are cheaper. And so on. In time, cheaper computing, high-speed Internet connectivity, wireless communications and 3-D printing may foster yet more innovation. “[O]ur future depends on embracing technology,” he writes. The author’s huge compendium of innovations and his fresh way of looking at them will interest many readers. His topics include the Panama Canal, oil drilling bits, the density of cities and online learning, and he writes at length about the critical importance of cheap, abundant, reliable energy, emphasizing the need for more natural gas, oil, nuclear energy and coal.

Though Bryce often sounds like an unabashed booster for business and technology, he makes many intriguing arguments in this “rejoinder to the doomsayers [and] rebuttal to the catastrophists who insist that disaster lurks just around the corner.”