WES 2022: Michael Spence on technology and inequality in a pandemic

Updated: Mar 3

As part of the 21st annual Warwick Economics Summit, Michael Spence delivered a riveting keynote address to our virtual audience on 5th February, 2022.


Below, you will find our official Summit Press Release for the event, which summarises the speech's highlights, and is accompanied by a collection of the very best quotes from Michael Spence at WES 2022.

 

PRESS RELEASE:


On 5th February, Michael Spence, co-recipient of the 2001 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, addressed the Warwick Economics Summit 2022 - meaning that WES, in its various editions, has now hosted each joint winner of the 2001 Economics Nobel Prize. He leant his economic expertise to a discussion of recent major transformations in the global economy.


Particularly, the global economy has been more reliant than ever on digital technologies, in part because "the pandemic essentially left us in many dimensions with no choice". This has meant that "we were forced to experiment with technologies that we perhaps had under-utilised before". Education, for instance, will continued to blend technology into the classroom long after the full resumption of in-person teaching.


Spence went on to discuss inequality, which has worsened during the pandemic due to a poor and highly unequal global vaccine rollout, made worse by existing struggles to direct economies to inclusive growth patterns.


In response, Spence rendered the powerful conclusion that our key, collective lesson from the pandemic should be the strengthening of our institutional structures, such that "even when we forget the crucial lessons that moments of crisis provide, our institutions will remember them, with structures and practices in place that insure us against disaster".

 

KEY QUOTES:


  • "We all know that we are in a multi-year - even multi-decade - process of increasingly building economies on digital foundations. But that process, and the speed of that process, is gated by the behaviour of institutions and individuals, and that tends to be characterised by a certain amount of inertia."


  • "The pandemic essentially left us in many dimensions with no choice, because we relied on digital technology to keep our economies running to the extent we could."


  • "We were forced to experiment with technologies that we perhaps has under-utilised before, and that overcame the inertia."


  • "I think we'll see a kind of permanent up-shift in the range of inputs and the quality [of education and other services]. The underlying concept here is quite simple. In the pandemic, we were forced to use technology as a substitute; but its natural role in many, many aspects of life is as a complement, rather than a substitute."


  • "The pandemic did make inequality (which is a negative and multi-decade trend in many countries) worse."


  • "We had a problem trying to direct our economies to more inclusive growth patterns, and the pandemic was a setback in that regard, and elevates the urgency of that agenda."


  • "Even when we forget the crucial lessons that moments of crisis provide, our institutions will remember them, with structures and practices in place that insure us against disaster."

 

Press release written by Natalia Tronina


VIDEO RECORDING OF THE TALK:


You will find the video recording of Michael Spence's full talk, delivered at WES 2022, here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/onpn6vmjv9dknaj/AAA7TvalX1wmjFDjtgO_F9Nfa/Day%202?dl=0&preview=Michael_Spence_Day2.mp4&subfolder_nav_tracking=1

 

A NOTE ON PRESS RELEASE REDISTRIBUTION:


If you, or any organisation which you represent (media, educational, or otherwise) would like a bespoke press release regarding Michael Spence's WES 2022 talk - or any of our other 2022 talks - please get in touch with our Press and Communications team at presscoordinator@warwickeconomicssummit.com

We are also able to provide full event transcripts, or bespoke collections of quotes from Michael Spence's (or any other WES 2022) talk upon request.


Any press release or promotional material issued relating to Michael Spence's talk at WES 2022 must explicitly mention Warwick Economics Summit by name. Where this requirement has been upheld, third parties are free to produce and distribute their own press releases at will.

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