Engaging Complexity in Business and Technology: Rethinking old Ideas Humanistically and Ecologically
Thomas J. Burns, Tom W. Boyd, Colleen M. Burns

Even after more than two centuries, classical economic thought--and its neo-classical derivatives--continue to influence ways of doing business. Many of those ideas, albeit timely and innovative when first conceived, have degraded over the years, and now have significant perverse human and ecological consequences.A number of ideas that underpin contemporary business enterprises make sense on some level, yet become toxic when taken to extremes. Most notably, these include: the emphasis on economies of scale, hyperspecialization, the “law” of comparative advantage, the reification of the “invisible hand” of the market, and the tendency to externalize latent aspects of the production process. In a related vein, technological innovations, many of which do contribute to society, often have unanticipated consequences with particular regard to human well-being and the natural environment. We examine these interrelated strains of modernity through a humanistic lens, and conclude with ideas about how a balance among business interests, technological innovation, and humanistic concerns can facilitate cultural integration on the human level, and lead to a more mature and sustainable relationship between human society and the natural environment.

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