The Fourth Industrial Revolution, and what will become of us

According to convention, the digital age, or the fact that the economy and our lives now run on or by the Internet, represents the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The first one was the one unleashed by the steam engine in the early 18th century; it was followed by the era of technology and mass production, or the second one; the third one was marked by the rise of electronics and information technology. And now, we are on the edge of a massive transformation of how we live, communicate and work. An in-depth dossier of Foreign Affairs magazine outlines the challenges ahead, and the little big changes that will add up to a revolution, for lack of a better word: from the economic possibilities opened up by 3D printers, the Internet of Things, mobile finance, and Big Data. It is said the “have” and “have not” divide will be determined by skills and knowledge. Unskilled workers will suffer greatly, but so will those—one may gather—who will no longer respond to the demands of the new economies that will emerge: how many professions will go the way scribes did after the movable type printing press or, as Foreign Affairs wonders more dramatically, “Will humans go the way of horses?” A lot of emphasis is placed on the need to “be prepared.” It is sound advice, yet we really never are when history takes us by assault. One drawback for our age may very well be how hedonism makes us vulnerable to greater shock should these changes come with trauma, as they are bound to.

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