A Road for Prometheus: Technological Disruptions and Infrastructure Investment in History

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Author
Murphy, Tommy E.
Date
Jan 2020
This article reviews some of the literature on technological disruption and infrastructure investment over the long run, looking at how service provision was affected by that interaction. Although less common in pre-industrial times, since the Industrial Revolution technology disruption has been a regular feature. There are no reasons to think it will be different this time around. Evidence suggest these technological changes tend to be positive in the long run, but the short-term distortions they generate tend to create a series of anxieties and opposition. Because of this, part of the society will be negatively affected, will oppose change, and could delay adoption of otherwise welfare-enhancing advancements. This is particularly important when technological improvement interacts with infrastructure, as government involvement and regulation could play a major role to make the transition smooth, or even possible.