The fourth industrial revolution

The fourth industrial revolution is already underway. It is a stage characterized by the enormous development of technology, of such profound transformations that it will change the world as we know it.

So he predicted, in 2016, Klaus Schwab, economist and founder of the World Economic Forum, in the book “The Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

In Schwab’s view, the fourth industrial revolution It comprises a set of new technologies that merge the digital, physical and biological.

The impact of the convergence of technological developments will be seen in all disciplines, economies and industries. Will have consequences in the way we live, work and relate to each other. Even for the economist, the fourth industrial revolution will challenge ideas about what it means to be human.

Why are we talking about a new revolution?

Technological advances have been the drivers of the industrial revolutions that humanity has experienced.

  • First industrial revolution (1786): it meant radical changes in the means of production by incorporating the steam machine to industry and transportation.
  • Second industrial revolution (mid-19th century): the most significant advance was the development of electricity which allowed mass production.
  • Third industrial revolution (mid-20th century): it was driven by the development of the computing and the digital technologies.
  • Fourth industrial revolution (early 21st century): its main characteristics are a internet more present everywhere, the evolution of artificial intelligence and the machine learning.

Can the technological advances that are taking place be considered as an extension of the third industrial revolution, characterized by the development of information technology and the Internet? Schwab answers this question, giving three reasons why the fourth industrial revolution would be a different process:

  • Speed: In a more connected world, evolution is exponential, unlike previous industrial revolutions. New technology, in turn, begets newer and more powerful technology.
  • Width and depth: its basis is the digital revolution and the combination of multiple technologies. Unprecedented paradigm shifts are taking place in the economy, business, society and people. It is changing the “what” and the “how” to do things, and also the “who we are”.
  • Systems impact: transformation of the complex systems of countries, companies, lobbies, industries and society as a whole.

According to these characteristics, the changes that are taking place fit into the concept of revolution. They represent a profound transformation of current economic systems and social structures.

New developments and technologies

The new developments and technologies that are driving the fourth industrial revolution are interconnected. Advances in one technology are used by other technologies to continue evolving.

  • Physical technologies: autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, advanced robotics and new materials.
  • Digital technologies: internet of things, blockchain, artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, computing and data storage.
  • Biological technologies: genetic engineering, neurotechnologies.

Impacts of the fourth industrial revolution

The changes of the current technological revolution will impact on the existing economic, political and social models.

In the economic:

Employment could be one of the areas most affected by the automation growth as a substitute for labor. The nature of work in all industries and occupations will have to change due to the emergence of new technologies.

The economies of developing countries run the risk of falling further behind with respect to the most advanced. It is one of the global challenges that countries will have to face during the fourth industrial revolution in pursuit of global stability and security.


the disruptive changes of the current revolution are causing governments and public organizations to redefine their way of operating. They force us to adapt and find new ways of approaching and collaborating with citizens and the private sector. The technological advances of this era could make more transparent and efficient government management.

In the social:

Societies will be challenged to assimilate and adapt to a new stage that questions their belief systems and traditions. There is a danger that radical groups will emerge that oppose technological progress through the use of violence.

In the individual:

The fourth industrial revolution is transforming who we are and how we relate to others. The changes will have consequences on the sense of privacy and property, consumption habits, the balance between work and leisure and education. They will also impact how we meet other people and how we cultivate relationships.

There is concern that the growing individual and collective relationship with technology negatively affects our social skills and empathy.

What can we expect for 2025?

According to a report by the World Economic Forum (2015), specific technological changes, with an impact on society, could manifest as early as 2025. Some of those considered most feasible by experts are the following:

  • 10% of people will wear clothes connected to the internet.
  • 90% of people will benefit from free, unlimited ad-sponsored storage.
  • 80% of people will have a digital presence on the internet.
  • The first 3D printed car will be produced.
  • For the first time, a government will replace the population census with one based on Big Data.
  • 5% of consumer products will be 3D printed.
  • 90% of the population will use smartphones.
  • 90% of the population will have regular access to the internet.
  • The first transplant of a 3D printed liver will take place.
  • For the first time a government will collect taxes using blockchain.

Technologies for people

Schwab is convinced that in the fourth industrial revolution control is in our hands. To exercise this control, the premise that must move decisions is that new technologies are tools “Made by people for people.”

It is up to leaders and citizens to think of a future where people come first, taking advantage of the advantages and opportunities of technology for the well-being of all. Collective responsibility has to focus on the human being.

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