We live in interesting times. The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanize production establishing the factory system supported by new transportation systems (canals and railways) for people and freight, which was the source of unprecedented economic and population growth and a newly contested way in which its gains might be distributed.
The Second Industrial Revolution used electric power and the internal combustion engine to create mass production and new forms of transportation, multiplying the effects of the First. It also included some democratic progression in contesting how economic gains should be shared among the people. It also saw the revolutionary creation of socialist states aimed at returning power to the people.
The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production and computerise calculation, accelerating the speed of change in areas such as molecular and genetic engineering and enabling the coordination of physical, digital and biological developments to produce exciting new products and processes, demand for which now appears to be maturing. That revolution coincided with the collapse of the socialist experiment which had mutated into totalitarian communism. It also signalled the takeover of the world by the neoliberal witchcraft and institutional truths – the lies people are persuaded to buy into in order to prosper in their chosen careers.
Since then the world has been largely controlled by the self-perpetuating organised money establishment, as, according to Roosevelt, it was prior to the 1929 crash and through the austerity driven Great Depression. That organised money establishment comprises the leaders of monopolistic corporates, finance, the media, strands of academia and politics, including the neoliberal think tanks and lobbyists, all lubricated by the revolving doors enabling migration between those sectors and government itself.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), building on the Third, is based on further developments in digital technology and communications, artificial intelligence, robotics, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science and renewable energy and its storage. It is enabling the unprecedentedly rapid development of such digital corporates as Amazon, Facebook, Google etc (alphabetic order) and the platform entities such as Uber which comprise the gig economy. 4IR is providing real answers to global sustainability, but is mired in its alternative creations of fake news propaganda and post-truth politics, working for the best short term interests of organised money.
These are the interesting times we live in. Government by organised money is not a criminal conspiracy to destroy the world for the benefit of the few. Those industrial revolutions are the natural result of human creativity, motivated by the innate desire to achieve and progress. But human beings are clearly corruptible and require persuasive guidance to keep their creativity on the straight and narrow path to sustainability. That is the responsibility they owe to their fellow human beings of this and future generations.
While revolutions are in progress, things happen fast, and the 4IR is faster than any previously. During this time, while regulation, the law and democratic government, lags so far behind the technology, sustainable achievement appears so far away and these interesting times appear so cursed. But all revolutions eventually come to an end. Then regulation will catch up and sanity will be restored and neoliberal politics, sponsored by organised money to dominate governments, will be ditched.
The only question is, will it happen in time to save the world? And what about 5IR?