cover image The Code Economy: A Forty-Thousand-Year History

The Code Economy: A Forty-Thousand-Year History

Philip Auerswald. Oxford Univ., $29.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-19-022676-3

Auerswald, associate professor of public policy at George Mason University, ambitiously provides a 40,000-year history of human productivity, from the simple to the complex, in his sophisticated study. He calls this progression “the advance of code” and focuses on how abstract concepts—code—are turned into actual things. Auerswald asserts that we cannot “understand the dynamics of the economy—its past or its future—without an understanding of code.” His interpretation of code ranges from the obvious (computer code) to the less so (cooking recipes). He seeks to even out the imbalance in the way economics is currently taught, focusing on “code and production” as well as “choice and consumption.” Auerswald offers up three key ideas: the creation and refinement of code is an essential human activity, progress in developing code is what drives the economy, and these developments produce not just new products but new ways of seeing and experiencing the world. He divides the book into three sections: “The Advance of Code,” which examines the past and how code has evolved; “Code Economics,” which explores economic studies; and “The Human Advantage,” which looks at the relationship between code and human experience. Those who study the field of economics will find Auerswald’s arguments to be cogent and sound. (Feb.)