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The Fourth Industrial Revolution

A new transformation in technology and industry

By Klaus Schwab
12-minute read
Audio available
The Fourth Industrial Revolution by Klaus Schwab

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (2016) tells the story of a new transformation in technology and industry. These blinks explain the major industrial revolutions of the past and go on to tell how a current industrial revolution is spawning new technologies that fuse previously separate fields – with incredible results.

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Klaus Schwab was trained as an economist and engineer. He’s the founder of the World Economic Forum, an independent organization that brings together people from the fields of politics, business and academia to improve the world. He’s also the author of Modern Enterprise Management in Mechanical Engineering (1971).

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The Fourth Industrial Revolution

By Klaus Schwab
  • Read in 12 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 7 key ideas
The Fourth Industrial Revolution by Klaus Schwab
Synopsis

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (2016) tells the story of a new transformation in technology and industry. These blinks explain the major industrial revolutions of the past and go on to tell how a current industrial revolution is spawning new technologies that fuse previously separate fields – with incredible results.

Key idea 1 of 7

Three industrial revolutions have already transformed our world, and humanity is now experiencing a fourth.

Some 10,000 years ago, a massive shift in the history of humanity took place: humans began to farm. This move away from foraging and hunting was profound. Indeed, it marked a revolution in human history – the agrarian revolution.

This was but the first in a series of revolutions, each of which would transform life on Earth. Over the course of human history, there have been three industrial revolutions. The first occurred when we began using mechanical power rather than sheer human muscle. It happened between 1760 and 1840, spurred in particular by the development of steam power and construction of railroads.

The second industrial revolution dawned with the rise of mass production in the late nineteenth century and continued into the first half of the twentieth. The hallmarks of this industrial shift were the assembly line and electrified power.

And, finally, the third industrial revolution is often referred to as either the computer revolution or the digital revolution. Its contributions were the advent of computers, as well as semiconductors and the internet, which was developed in the latter half of the twentieth century.

But that wasn’t the last industrial revolution to date. In fact, we’re currently experiencing a fourth industrial revolution, which began early in the twenty-first century. This revolution brought about a much more mobile internet, as well as better, cheaper and smaller sensors that are enabling the development of new technologies. It has also seen the rise of machine learning and artificial intelligence.

However, this new industrial revolution isn’t only about smart machines. It encompasses a number of different fields as well, from material science to nanotechnology, energy to biology. What really separates this fourth industrial revolution from those that preceded it is that it merges these fields and connects them across digital, physical and biological platforms.

Naturally, there are a number of other characteristics that distinguish the fourth industrial revolution. In the next blink, we’ll explore this shift in greater detail, teasing out how it’s truly distinct from those that came before it.

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