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How new technology is changing the geopolitical landscape of power

People show their smartphones on December 25, 2013.
People show their smartphones on December 25, 2013.

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Smart phones, tablets, newfangled tech gadgets: they are not just today’s must-have new toys, they literally contain the key to who gets to control an increasingly important natural resource, a new book argues.

What these gadgets have in common are the rare metals that power them. David S. Abraham is a natural resource strategist and previously oversaw natural-resources programs at the White House Office of Management and Budget. His new book breaks down why the natural resource of rare metals are critical to the future of energy and consumerism. In “The Elements of Power: Gadgets, Guns, and the Struggle for a Sustainable Future in the Rare Metal Age,” Abraham reveals more about why the fate of the planet depends on using rare metals in a responsible way.

Abraham says that even though rare metals have become essential for electronic and military technologies, there are still a number of economic and environmental costs that need to be addressed if it’s truly going to revolutionize the modern era.

Where are do these rare metals come from? Why are they so essential to our modern wares? How will they define today’s markets in the same way that oil and bronze did previously?


David S. Abraham, author of “The Elements of Power: Gadgets, Guns and the Struggle for a Sustainable Future in the Rare Metal Age” (Yale University Press Books 2015). He is also the overseer of the Technology, Rare and Electronic Materials Center

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