suzman5_YE  AUNG  THU_AFP_Getty Images_farming technology Ye Aung Thu/AFP/Getty Images

Digital Disruption’s Silver Lining

For much of modern history, export-driven industrialization and natural-resource wealth were viewed as the only mechanisms for sustained growth in developing countries. But today, new technologies are giving countries more control over their social and economic fortunes.

SEATTLE – Technology is often oversold as either a panacea for the world’s problems or an unshakeable curse inflicting disruption and displacement on the most vulnerable. But historically, neither of these characterizations is accurate. From the steam engine to the personal computer, inventions have transformed societies in complex ways. On balance, however, technology has always created more jobs and economic opportunities than it has destroyed. That trend is likely to continue.

Why am I so upbeat? Because everywhere I look, leaders are repositioning their economies to ensure that technological change and automation are assets rather than liabilities. As the University of Oxford-based Pathways for Prosperity Commission recently observed, with “optimism and collective action,” so-called frontier technologies can empower even the poorest countries.

For much of modern history, export-driven industrialization and natural-resource wealth were viewed as the only mechanisms for sustained growth in the developing world. But today, new technologies, and the ability to combine them with old innovations, have given people more say over their economic fortunes.

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