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Joel Mokyr

were awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry, is to Leeuwenhoek’s microscope what a thermonuclear device is to a firecracker. The same can be said for telescopy, where the revolutionary Hubble telescope is soon to be replaced by the much more advanced James Webb space telescope. Two powerful scientific tools that have only recently become available and that represent complete breaks with the past are fast computing (including practically unlimited data storage and search techniques) and laser technology. Both, of course, have found innumerable direct applications in

International Monetary Fund. Communications Department
This paper focuses on smart policies that can alleviate the short-term pain of technological disruption and pave the way for long-term gain. As computing power improves dramatically and more and more people around the world participate in the digital economy, care should be taken about how to devise policies that will allow us to fully exploit the digital revolution’s benefits while minimizing job dislocation. Digital technology will spread further, and efforts to ignore it or legislate against it will likely fail. Even with short-term dislocations, reorganizing the economy around revolutionary technologies generates huge long-term benefits. The digital revolution should be accepted and improved rather than ignored and repressed. Given the global reach of digital technology, and the risk of a race to the bottom, there is a need for policy cooperation like that of global financial markets and sea and air traffic. The history of earlier general-purpose technologies demonstrates that even with short-term dislocations, reorganizing the economy around revolutionary technologies generates huge long-term benefits.