The Fourth Industrial Revolution Paperback – January 12, 2016
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About the Author
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The central theme of the 2016 meeting of the Forum focused on the Fourth Industrial Revolution as defined and discussed by Professor Schwab in a lengthy essay published in Foreign Affairs in 2015. This book is essentially an expanded version of that essay plus some added material which are the results of canvassing the meeting participants regarding when various technological breakthroughs will reach their respective tipping points. Some of the results of this survey is included in the Appendix of this book.
This book provides a thorough discussion of the possible future impacts of these changes. The author is willing to acknowledge the possible detrimental results, but then he goes on to say the others predict more optimistic outcomes. I get the impression that the author was trying to be objective, but consequently his reluctance to advocate for a particular position makes this book dry reading material.
I was very dissatisfied with the chapter titled "The Way Forward" near the end of the book's message. I was looking forward to some sort of recommended plan for making the necessary adjustments for society to adapt to the coming economic changes. Instead the message I took from that chapter were generalities such as the following:
"... we must adapt, shape and harness the potential of disruption by nurturing and applying four different types of intelligence:
— contextual (the mind) ...
— emotional (the hear) ...
— inspired (the soul) ...
— physical (the body) ..."
The author elaborates on these, but I found these discussions to be lacking specifics.
The following is a listing of the anticipated future technological advancements and their respective tipping point dates based on a survey of 800 business executives. They were asked to gage when they anticipate that these game-changing technologies will break into the public domain to a significant degree. The percentage listed next to the items below is the percentage of survey respondants that believed that the tipping point would be achieved by the year 2025.
1. Implantable Technologies—82%
2. Our Digital Presence—84%
3. Vision as the New Interface—86%
4. Wearable Internet—91%
5. Ubiquitous Computing—79%
6. A Supercomputer in Your Pocket—81%
7. Storage for All—91%
8. The Internet of & for Things—89%
9. The Connected Home—70%
10. Smart Cities—64%
11. Big Data for Decisions—83%
12. Driverless Cars—79%
13. A.I. & Decision Making—45%
14. A.I. & White-Collar Jobs—75%
15. Robotics and Services—86%
16. Bitcoin & the Blockchain—58%
17. The Sharing Economy—67%
18. Governments & the Blockchain—73%
19. 3D Printing & Manufacturing—84%
20. 3D Printing & Human Health—76%
21. 3D Printing & Consumer Products—81%
22. Designer Beings—vote result not shown
23. Neurotechnologies—vote result not shown
Each of the above anticipated technological advances are thoroughly described in the Appendix along with the above survey results.
Numbering of the Revolutions
In my opinion there is no fourth industrial revolution. What this author is calling the fourth industrial revolution is simply a continuation of the third. I get the impression from this book that he thinks the current situation deserves its own label because of the speed of change. But exponential rates of change occurred during the Third Industrial Revolution; it's just that at this point in time the changes appear really fast. That's what exponential rates do.
The following are the definitions of the various industrial revolutions as used by this book:
1. The Machine Age (1760-1840): The Steam Engine, Railroads
2. Mass Production (late 19th - early 20th c): Assembly Line Manufacturing, Electricity
3. The Digital Revolution (from mid 1960s-): Computers, Semiconductors, Internet
4. The Fourth IR: Ubiquitous Mobile Internet, Internet of Things (IoT) with Sensors, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Gene Sequencing, Nanotechnology
An advantage of the book is that it is succinctly written, so a quick read but covering core ground.
Readers looking for more depth on particular technological or economic aspects of the fourth revolution will need to dig further, but the book provides some good leads.
Top international reviews
A rather unsatisfying collection of material that feels like a curated collection of Google searches. Given the past failures of these types of predictions there should really be some sense of self doubt or reflection - but I do not see that at all.
I am not sure that the author understands his sources? For instance he references 'The Second Machine Age' but did not seem to get the power of computer assisted human thought (for example, SMA describes how two amateur chess players used laptops to beat many Grandmasters in a free form competition)
There are some points where the book swallows pop sentiment at face value and so it can leave the reader with the sense that the author has had 'one too many Napoleon Brandies at Davos'.