The Techno-Optimist Case for Addressing Sustainability and its Grounding in Capitalist (Market) Incentives

19 Pages Posted: 6 Jan 2023

See all articles by Daniel R. Cahoy

Daniel R. Cahoy

Pennsylvania State University - Mary Jean and Frank P. Smeal College of Business Administration

Date Written: January 4, 2023

Abstract

The effort to create a more sustainable society touches on many facets of the environment, public policy and social responsibility. We seek solutions to the negative impacts of climate change, a lack of access to medicines, environmentally friendly sources of energy that will permit continued economic progress, and sufficient food to feed a world of ten billion people. Many say that a conservation-based approach that restores humanity to a more natural state is the best path forward. But to others, the only way out of our predicament is the way we got in: technology. A “techno-optimist” mindset views sustainability issues largely as problems that can be solved through invention and investment. But is techno-optimism a realistic strategy for creating a more sustainable world? This chapter first explores the nature of techno-optimism as a contrast to "eco-pessimism," considering how the former pushes technology-based solutions while the latter focuses on conservation and reduction. The chapter then demonstrates the fundamental connection between technology incentives and capitalism, looking particularly to increasingly harmonized legal systems that have created an ever-broader base for innovation. Finally, it considers evidence that technology-based solutions are more than a distraction or palliative by looking at the contexts of disease, food security, water and energy production.

Keywords: sustainability, climate change, emissions, carbon capture, access to medicines, clean water, food security, techno-optimism

JEL Classification: O30, O34, O38, Q10, Q18, Q20, Q40, Q42, Q54, Q55

Suggested Citation

Cahoy, Daniel R., The Techno-Optimist Case for Addressing Sustainability and its Grounding in Capitalist (Market) Incentives (January 4, 2023). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4317805 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4317805

Daniel R. Cahoy (Contact Author)

Pennsylvania State University - Mary Jean and Frank P. Smeal College of Business Administration ( email )

310 Business Building
University Park, PA 16802
United States
814-865-6205 (Phone)
814-865-6284 (Fax)

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