Every Industrial Revolution follows the same pattern…
With this post I hope to prove that history repeats itself and that we are bound for not only continued and more severe industrial disruptions, but that we should also expect civil and/or global warfare. Hopefully I can convey that message with the following notes rather than a PhD level dissertation, understanding that you may be left with questions. I’m also hoping curiosity will lead you to your own research and continuing the conversation with me on twitter!
Technology Innovation –> Industrial Disruption –> Economic Unrest –> War
The tech innovations of our industrial revolutions led to disruptions inconceivable to most at the time. Now times may be differnet and people may not be struggling anymore with an industrial pointing device for example, but people don’t like change and massive economic unrest followed in all cases, culminating in warfare and geopolitical crisis that impacted civilization for all time (although warfare isn’t a consequence of industrial pointing device!).
 The First Industrial Revolution: (late 18th to early 19th century)
- Tech Innovations: Steam power and the steam boat (steamships), the spinning jenny, the cotton gin, railroads, advancements in steel, the telegraph, the flying shuttle, the mule, the weaving loom.
- Industrial Disruptions: New forms of manufacturing activities emerged. For the first time, substitution of some animal and human labor via mechanization. Hemp replaced by cotton. The petroleum industry was revolutionized. There was a massive expansion of newspaper and popular book publishing. Transportation changed forever.
- Economic Unrest: Industrial cities of various specialized functions arose, such as steel, textiles, and tools. Society expanded, but shifted from rural to urban. 40% of deaths among the urban working class were from turberculosis.
- War: The Civil War
 The Second Industrial Revolution: (late 19th to mid 20th century)
- Tech Innovations: The “Age of Invention.” Electricity, traffic lights, air brakes for cars, dynamite, the telephone, the light bulb, the typewriter, the elevator, the first skyscrapers, motion pictures, refrigerators, washing machines, the first automobile, the first airplane, barbed wire, Christmas lights, the Hershey Bar, the flashlight, the zipper, the Gatling Gun, the torpedo, and the Colt .45, just to name just a few.
- Industrial Disruptions: The Second Industrial Revolution is also called the “American Industrial Revolution.” New technologies caused massive disruptions in communication, transportation, and industrial production. Mass production, economies of scale, and assembly lines. Continued growth of specialization and interdependence in manufacturing, which created industrial regions and manufacturing belts. The first transcontinental railroad.
- Economic Unrest: Created the American Middle Class. For the first time many Americans found themselves working for a large company rather then themselves. Women entered the work force. Child labor became a major issue. Labor unions were formed due to unsafe work conditions. Led to massive, but unstable economic growth and the Great Depression. Massive growth of human resources in the US: between 1860 and 1900, fourteen million immigrants came to the US. First trade wars as the US government adopted policies to protect American industry from foreign competition.
- War: World War I, World War II
 The Third Industrial Revolution: (second half of 20th century)
- Tech Innovations: Introduction of IT Technologies. The integrated circuit, the digital revolution, and the internet. Further advanced manufacturing capabilities allowed for unparalleled global communication. Automation. Logistics and transportation improvements. Minimization of input costs, particularly related to labor.
- Industrial Disruptions: The rise of Globalization, or global production networks, as an outcome of trade liberalization and lower transport costs. New levels of efficiencies achieved that had never before been seen. Automation increased productivity while lowering the need for direct human labor costs.
- Economic Unrest: The Third Industrial Revolution destroyed the American Middle Class as a great divide opened up between a skilled and wealthy few and the rest of society. Incomes fell and families were no longer able to reach their financial dreams by just “working hard.” The U.S. became a nation of renters, rather than property owners. Demographics shifted in developed nations such that an aging population has become a REAL concern for future growth prospects. At the same time that this shift happened in America, globalization also led to a global power shift towards Asian states, particularly China, which unleashed market forces and allowed for tremendous growth rates as China entered it’s own Industrial Revolution (the Chinese economy is on track to overtake the United States around 2025).
- War: The War in the Middle East, the War Against Terror
 The Fourth Industrial Revolution: (NOW)
- Tech Innovations: Artificial intelligence, machine learning, deep learning, cognitive computing and cognitive cybersecurity, IOT, drones, blockchain, cryptocurrencies, fintech, agtech or agritech, medtech, biotech, robotics, ecommerce, wearables, mobile and social gaming, social media, nanoparticles, cybernetics, energy storage, smart cities, clean tech or green energy, autonomous vehicles, and the next era of space exploration, to name just a few. Broadly, the tech innovations of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or the “Pillars of Disruption,” as I call them, can be grouped as:
- IOT & Artificial Intelligence (in all its forms)
- Life Sciences & Agtech
- Military Technologies
- Industrial Disruptions: Since the Third Industrial Revolution we’ve seen disruptions in every place we look. Agriculture has been disrupted, forcing the merger of giant ag companies such as Bayer and Monsanto, or Dow Chemical and Syngenta. New inventions have been manufactured and released to the market such as the Screw Conveyor, and machinery keeps getting bigger and better. The stock market is shrinking in offerings, and investors’ choices are fewer and fewer every year. The number of public companies plunged by 37% to 5,734 as of June 2016 from a peak of 9,113 in 1997, according to the Center for Securities Research at the University of Chicago. In fact, today the U.S. has roughly as many public companies as in 1982. Disruption in the financial sector, for example, has been devastating to small, community banks, as mergers and acquisitions allowed for the creation of “The Big 4 Banks,” forcing “Too Big to Fail” and Dodd-Frank. What future disruptions will the tech innovations of the Fourth Industrial Revolution bring?
- Economic Unrest: What are your thoughts? What effect will expected disruptions bring to our economy and people?
- War: to be determined… North Korea? Russia? Other?
Please sign up for your free copy of “The Global View,” curating the most important #4IR tech innovation and disruption news daily!
Thanks for reading!
Follow me on Twitter and continue the conversation.