The Fourth Industrial Revolution

The Fourth Industrial Revolution

Extracts from Klaus Schwab’s text, The Fourth Industrial Revolution had me both excited and terrified about the impact of technology on the landscape of future media economies — not to mention other related sectors of governance, questions of ethics and society at large. There are so many ideas in this text, that to dissect them all at this time would be inefficient, not to mention near impossible for a busy, always-connected and apathetic young millennial such as myself.  So here are my takeaways and condensed thoughts;

Digital megatrends. Schwab discussing the popularity of the Uber model, which shows no signs of slowing down with so many new apps and services popping up every day. And the premise is simple, by connecting two interested parties, a consumer and a provider of goods or services in a very accessible and low cost way. And all made possible through digital technologies of course.

The nature of work. Schwab’s assertion of the “human cloud” was pretty bang on, and one that I’ve seen emerging in practice already as media industries outsource work to freelancers across digital platforms. And whilst I haven’t got the on-demand skill set of say, a web developer or coder — what I’ve typically seen outsourced, I do do freelance social media work for a small startup, completed offsite. My entire work interaction occurs online from the comfort of my own home, or bed as it usually goes. The pros and cons of this new on-demand economy is all laid out pretty well by Schwab, but I was perhaps most drawn to the challenges that we’re faced in respect to “increasing levels of fragmentation, isolation and exclusion across societies” (p. 49). And then on another note, the challenge of the importance of purpose. It is that sense of purpose that we are all forever chasing that I fear (along with Schwab) will be unachievable for most. But I too do not want to work at a meaningless soul-crushing corporate job all my life, so what do we do about that?

Questions of governance, ethics and security/privacy are delved into with quite a lot of thought but no definitive answers. It all seems rather terrifying to give governments any kind of authority in a digital space, but also pretty terrifying if we don’t. So perhaps how we negotiate legislation around emerging technologies will never be cut and dry.

And that brings us to society and the individual. Perhaps the most thought-provoking portion of the reading for me. One of my favourite lines; “a world of greater connectivity and higher expectations can create significant social risks if populations feel they have no chance of attaining any level of prosperity or meaning in their lives” (p. 93). This hits home, and I strongly do believe that our increased connectivity, an ever pervasive media and incessant flow of information, only increases our expectations, and hinders our self satisfaction. This and others sorts of philosophical questions, such as the impact of digitisation on human connection, really intrigue me. I’m not sure how we combat that.

Bringing this back to our ever evolving media industry, it’s clear to see that there are some big ideas and questions around how we tackle a new media economy. More thoughts on this at a later time I’m sure.