I’ve been asked what the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ is all about.
People know about the ‘Agricultural Revolution:’ the period of technological improvements and increased crops productivity in Europe during the 18th and early 19th centuries.
But: Industrial Revolution – and, a fourth one, at that? They ask... While there’re four Industrial Revolutions so far, Historians also argue that there were NOT one, but several Agricultural Revolutions in History – including the Green Revolution, complete with new chemical fertilisers, synthetic herbicides and pesticides!
The first Agricultural Revolution was at around 10,000BC: roughly at the time of transition from ‘hunters-and-gatherers’ to ‘stationary farming.’
This was followed by the 18th Century Revolution when European agriculture shifted to new farming techniques: crops rotation; large-scale wheat, maize and potato-growing; wealthy landlords pushing small farmers to metropolises in search of jobs in the emerging Industrial Revolution...
The First Industrial Revolution largely involved new manufacturing processes in Europe and the US from about 1760CE-to-1820CE. The transition included going from hand-to-machine production; new chemical and iron production processes; increased use of steam and water power; development of machine tools and mechanized factory systems.
Textiles manufacturing dominated, with jobs creation, output values, invested capital and modern production methods.
Prior to the Industrial Revolution, the largest workforce was in Agriculture, mostly as labourers. Then came the Second Industrial Revolution/‘Technological Revolution,’ from about 1870 to 1914.
This was rapid advancement of mass production and transportation – making life a lot faster, easier. That was also when “cities grew, factories sprawled – and people’s lives became regulated by the clock rather than the Sun rising and setting.” [/www.history.com/news/second-industrial-revolution-advances>].Rapid advances in the creation of steel, chemicals and electricity fueled mass production of consumer goods and armaments.
Ideas and news spread via newspapers, radio and telegraph...But, that Revolution was also the dawning of Child Labour, industrial action/strikes...
Roughly a century later, the Third Industrial Revolution dawned with the emergence of nuclear energy, whose potential surpassed its predecessors. It was the age of electronics, starting with transistors, microprocessors, computers and vastly-improved telecommunications.
That’s to say nothing of space research and biotechnology, as well as high-level automation in production – thanks to automatons and robots.
While the First Industrial Revolution (1765 onwards) used water and steam to mechanize production – and the Second (1870 onwards) used electricity to create mass production – the Third Industrial Revolution (1969 onwards) used electronics and info-tech (IT) to automate industrial production. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is steadily but surely unfolding with the dawn of the current Millennium, the ubiquitous Internet and digitization/digitalization amid such thingamajigs as ‘Cloud Technology/Cloud Computing,’ ‘Big Data Analytics’ and the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT).
Cloud Computing is the on-demand availability of computer system resources – especially data storage and computing power – without direct active management by the user.
‘Big Data Analytics’ is the complex process of examining large, varied data sets to uncover information that helps to make informed (business) decisions.
‘Industrial Internet of Things’ is, of course, the interconnection via the Internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data.
Are we on the cusp of the Fifth Industrial Revolution (5IR) – or is it already upon us, pray? Cheers!