How Learning From Past Industrial Revolutions Creates An Optimistic View Of Industry 4.0
Everywhere you look today there’s a new headline about Industry 4.0 – the fourth industrial revolution – filled with buzzwords like “Big Data.” The pervasive worry is that new technology, such as artificial intelligence (AI), will wipe out most jobs in the near future. Despite our best predictions, future innovations and their impact on industry are still indefinite. However, we may best prepare for the effects of the fourth industrial revolution by looking back on the first, second and third industrial revolutions. Workers worried about unemployment today need only reflect on the past several hundred years to see that history repeats itself.
Yes, new technology makes many jobs obsolete. But history shows us that the most dangerous and repetitive jobs are typically the first to go. Consider Ernest Shackleton’s storied classified ad for his Imperial Trans-Antarctic expedition in 1914: “Men Wanted for Hazardous Journey. Small Wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful.” Then, treacherous work for low wages was an accepted reality. Slightly over 100 years later, technological advancements have made such working conditions unacceptable and much less of a reality.