Looking at the industrial revolutions of the past
You would imagine that by now, being in the midst of our fourth industrial revolution, we would be able to predict what’s waiting on the other side of it. However, this is no ordinary revolution; it is, in fact, the first in history that wasn’t caused by the discovery of a new energy.
The First Industrial Revolution began in Britain in the late 1700s and was primarily caused by new manufacturing techniques using water and steam power. This saw a huge rise in jobs, population and age expectancy. On to the second industrial revolution about 100 years later, we discovered the power of coal, electricity and petroleum: giving us trains, telephones and motion pictures. The third industrial revolution was, again around a century later, when we discovered nuclear energy, which gave us the biggest boost in technology as we know it today, causing a rise in computers and space explorations.
The digital revolution
So here we are, only 50 years later and already onto our fourth revolution – based on digitalisation. However, this one is certainly the most unpredictable. This digitalisation enables us to build a new virtual world from which we can steer the physical world. So far, manufacturers are using artificial intelligence and automation to improve their output, and almost anyone has quick and easy access to almost anything they want wherever it is in the world. Healthcare is having its own revolution within this revolution, we understand biology more than ever and in turn, understand how to give more accurate and cost affective healthcare. Education is more accessible than ever, and with a future in augmented classrooms and virtual training, we can expect to benefit from a wave of more skilled and knowledgeable people in our societies. Even our buildings and infrastructure will rely on the advancements this revolution will bring, they will last longer, be more adaptable and cheaper to build.
Simply put, this isn’t just an industrial revolution; it’s a societal revolution too.
We should utilise this opportunity we have to drive this limitless revolution in the direction we want.
The potential impacts
It is feared that the increase in automation will lead to loss of jobs in more labour driven sectors and therefore create more inequality. On the other hand, this could lead to an increase in safer and more rewarding jobs. All of he previous revolutions have certainly had positive and negative implications, but we should remember that worldwide our standard of living has only ever increased.
Additionally, a welcome irony is that with this revolution being the first not based on the discovery of new energy, it could, in fact, be the first to deviate from the energy greed trend. Manufacturers, developers and innovators are all using this revolution to explore sustainable resources. We have been slowly integrating more and more possibilities to power our output processes with alternative resources. It’s reasonable to anticipate that the cities, roads, factories and homes will be powered by wind, solar and geothermal energy – all good news for our future planet.
We can use technology and automation to empower people, to free people and to live life on their own terms. As long as we keep this revolution human centred and take charge of its direction we could be about to witness the most vital era of human history.