Rebound effects of progress in information technology

Poiesis and Praxis 4 (1):19-38 (2006)
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Information technology (IT) is continuously making astounding progress in technical efficiency. The time, space, material and energy needed to provide a unit of IT service have decreased by three orders of magnitude since the first personal computer (PC) was sold. However, it seems difficult for society to translate IT’s efficiency progress into progress in terms of individual, organizational or socio-economic goals. In particular it seems to be difficult for individuals to work more efficiently, for organizations to be more productive and for the socio-economic system to be more sustainable by using increasingly efficient IT. This article provides empirical evidence and potential explanations for this problem. Many counterproductive effects of IT can be explained economically by rebound effects. Beyond that, we conclude that the technological determinism adopted by decision-makers is the main obstacle in translating IT’s progress into non-technical goals
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