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Reflections on the Prospects for the Fourth Industrial Revolution

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The world began to change drastically in 1760, when the First Industrial Revolution began in Britain. Society began to rely more and more on mechanized production, followed by mass production (due to electric power) during the Second Industrial Revolution (1880-1950), and automotive production (due to new technologies and electronics) during the Third Industrial Revolution (1950’s-2000’s). Industrialized countries with capital are currently entering the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the digital revolution. According to Klaus Schwab, we will begin to see the world drastically change, with the “fusions” of different technologies, the new innovation will completely transform the world in ways we never thought possible or could have ever predicted. The split between socioeconomic classes and the power gap between industrialized countries and less developed countries will continue to grow.

The possibilities for the future are endless. Technology has come so far since the steam engine during the First Industrial Revolution. During the Third Industrial Revolution in the 1960’s when Star Trek was on the air, people saw Captain Kirk on a remote planet talk to Scotty who was aboard the Enterprise with his communicator. The idea of a mobile phone was revolutionary, it was something from the future. In today’s world it is uncommon to not have a cell phone in industrialized countries. Cell phones have radically improved since 1973, all technology has been expanded upon and improved throughout the twentieth century and even more so during the twenty-first century, and will only continue to.

People are more connected with new and more powerful technology. There is a greater access to knowledge and the possibilities are unlimited. Every single industry and market are evolving with technology. Markets will become more efficient with the new innovation the Fourth Industrial Revolution will have to offer, and will be able to exponentially produce more supplies. New markets will emerge (markets that do not adapt to technology will become obsolete) and industrialized economies will continue to grow due to more effective global supply chains and cost of trade lowering because of innovation and competition (prices in transportation and communication will decrease and distribution will increase because of intensified globalization). The battle to meet the new demands for superior production and service quality, speed, and cost will be the driving force for new and better innovation amongst competitors. Consumers are more engaged in the digital “on demand” economy, and businesses will have to become more transparent and innovative to meet the new societal norms of consumerism. There will be greater competition and between industrialized countries and emerging states for resources, markets, and labor (global power). Meanwhile, highly indebted poor countries will remain exploited (similar to colonies for many reasons; “and by the slowing rate of population growth in most of the industrial world, which inevitably increased competition for workers. At the same time, population explosions in much of Asia, Africa, and Latin America extended the possibility of finding workers whose desperation would drive them to accept abusive conditions” (Sterns 2013, pg. 231) and not able to have innovation on the same scale because innovation requires capital (investment) to create change and expand markets. They will remain indebted and in bondage while industrialized countries improve their processes, products, and transform their technology. “Capital moves almost instantaneously into countries with stable governments, progressive economies, open accounting, and honest dealing, and out of countries lacking those qualities” (Waltz 2006, pg. 336; Schwab, 2015; Benney Class 13, 15, 16).

There will be an innovation boom in industrialized countries like the United States, there has not been this big of a boom since 1850-1915 (Benney Class, 16). There will be new innovation and growth in the economy and inequality. The middle class is currently disappearing, and new innovation will create a larger divide in the job market. It will “increasingly segregated into “low-skill/low-pay” and “high-skill/high-pay” segments, which in turn will lead to an increase in social tensions” (Schwab 2015, pg. 2). There will be a large displacement of labor by mechanization, machines will eventually replace low skill workers. The wealthy will be the beneficiaries, they have the liquidity to invest their capital, while the lower socioeconomic classes’ (the majority of the population) incomes will become stagnate and, or decrease. The job market will demand a more educated labor source and lower skilled jobs will be eliminated over time (Schwab, 2015).

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Increased communication and connectivity through this new form of digital globalization will also increase social tensions through the spread of information. “More than 30% of the global population now uses social media platforms to connect, learn, and share information” (Schwab 2015, pg. 3). Propaganda and different ideologies spread through social media like wildfire, and it will change how we identify ourselves and with the world. Our privacy, patterns of consumption, work and leisure time, relationships, and governments will be affected. New legislature and regulation policies (which could allow for more or less innovation) will have to be created nationally (to maintain the growing wage gap) and internationally (to maintain security and protection in cyberwarfare, war has always been a strong source of innovation). Industrialized countries will have to have their public and private sectors collaborate, it will take both the government and regulatory agencies (example: EPA) to work together to maintain socioeconomic success (Schwab, 2015).

Collaboration within the private and public sectors is crucial. We can compare the success of Denmark and the failure of the United States to successfully collaborate in their renewable wind energy (turbines) programs. Both countries began to develop wind energy in 1977, but the United States only used their private sector. They were unable to have innovative success even though they had an advantage in capital, resources, and space. No standardizations were made and therefore commercialization was a failure and there was little investment. The projects became too costly for the private sector to handle alone. Denmark was successful because they allowed for slow growth (they balanced the supply and demand), had further research, garneted a competitive price, established subsides (public sector), supported the wind energy market with investment targets (private sector), and standardized quality (public sector). Their wind energy program was a part of the global market (developed countries do most of their international business, trade, and investing with each other. This is one more reason their dependency for products they cannot produce is lowered, it is not on the same scale as less developed countries because they still have a lot of purchasing power (Benney Class 16; Waltz, 2006).

The role of the state will drastically change, it will have to become more involved to achieve innovative and economic success (commitment to internal change, a combination of political resources to support the process, shared public and private vision, specialized facilities for research, and standardized policy) (Benny Class 16). The compromised, modern welfare state (according to Lindert, 1999), welfare expenditures do not create a loss in productivity or efficiency, which means there is no loss in innovation has changed the standard of living and the stigma associated with receiving state aid. The state will have to play a more active role in the protection and promotion of their citizen’s socioeconomic wellbeing with increasing innovation. States that can adapt to survive in the fierce competition in the digital globalization age will have the biggest advantage (countries with strong economies do most of their business in-house). The states that can not adapt (the least developed countries and highly indebted poor countries) will remain dependent on industrialized states’ purchasing power (Waltz, 2006; Benny Class 14, 15).

The industrialized welfare states that have a great deal of self-reliance will have a very broad range of markets and industries that will fuel consumerism and motivate capitalism. They will always seek the cheaper labor sources (their standards of living are higher which means higher wages and the population rate is lower) in other less developed countries (Waltz, 2006; Sterns, 2013). Competition for lower skill labor will increase, with more of those positions being terminated by electronics. It will become extremely hard for less educated people to have a career, they will be working to live while the upper-class thrive (similar to the Bourgeoise lifestyle). The conditions for lower class citizens of every country will become worse as jobs disappear. It is much easier to exploit people in a much higher desperation for a job. The power gap between industrialized countries and developing countries will continue to grow while industrialized countries have more class separation internally.

Klaus Schwab is absolutely correct. The Fourth Industrial Revolution will be like nothing the world has ever seen. Technology is improving exponentially, before it was developing on a linear path. Technology is a constant surprise. Where new innovation and technology will take us can not be predicted. There will be continuous debates about the use of technology with the growing polarization of the world, especially in industrialized countries like the United States. There will revolutions of all kinds and people will have to reexamine their morals and economic stature. The wage gap has already begun to increase and the middle class is disappearing, but there is hope through government and regulatory agency intervention (and the combination of public and private sectors) to shape the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Our survival depends on the capability of industrialized governments to adapt; maintain transparency, efficiency, and productivity. We still have the chance to create a world with more economic liberty and equality through our means of consumption (we can balance demand and supply to create innovative success and ensure more equality).


  1. Benny, T. (2018). Third Wave, The Rise of Global Capitalism, Class 13. [PowerPoint and Oral Notes].
  2. Benny, T. (2018). The Role of the State, The Rise of Global Capitalism, Class 14. [PowerPoint and Oral Notes].
  3. Benny, T. (2018) Economic Development, The Rise of Global Capitalism, Class 15. [PowerPoint and Oral Nots].
  4. Benny, T. (2018) Innovation and Growth, The Rise of Global Capitalism, Class16. [PowerPoint and Oral Notes].
  5. Schwab, K. (December 12, 2015). The Fourth Industrial Revolution What It Means and How to Respond. The Magazine ~ Science & Technology file:///C:/Users/Sbithell/Downloads/Schwab%20(2015)%20The%20Fourth%20Industrial%20Revolution.pdf
  6. Stearns, P. N. (2013). The Industrial Revolution in World History (Vol. 4th ed). Boulder, CO: Routledge.
  7. Waltz, K.N. (2006). Globalization and Governance. Enduring Concepts and Contemporary Issues (Eighth Edition), International Politics. Pearson and Longman. file:///C:/Users/Sbithell/Downloads/Waltz%20(2006)%20Globalization%20and%20Governance.pdf

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Reflections on the Prospects for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. (2022, August 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved January 29, 2023, from
“Reflections on the Prospects for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” Edubirdie, 25 Aug. 2022,
Reflections on the Prospects for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 29 Jan. 2023].
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