Original Article Published on TechCrunch.com
The world seems to be going mad with division. Religious fundamentalism versus the modern world. Nationalism versus openness. Old versus young. Us versus them. In each case, a group that used to have the upper hand is now angrily despondent at its place in society and future prospects.
In the Middle East, cynical leaders are taking advantage of the desperation and deep sense of insecurity in unemployed young men who are struggling to find a place of belonging and a source of pride. In Britain, racism and bigotry are flourishing spectacularly as the older generation seeks a scapegoat for their growing irrelevance in the modern, globalized economy. In the U.S., what was once a great political party has become an unrecognizable collection of resentments and prejudices.
This has been a steaming kettle for years, but is now peaking with the rise of political phenomenon that threaten to upend the progress of our civilization. If we dig a layer deeper to try to understand the real cause, it becomes clear that technology advancement is the real culprit.
The Agricultural Revolutions swept through different regions at different times and took hundreds of years to fully transform society. The First and Second Industrial Revolutions truly changed the standard of living in a period spanning more than 150 years. The Digital Revolution has been enriching our lives for the past three generations, while at the same time boiling the metaphorical frogs of our economic system.
While many blame the decline of U.S. manufacturing on trade agreements, in reality, a major cause is the gain in productivity. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity for the manufacturing sector almost tripled from 1990-2007 compared to 1973-1990, with the great recession slowing things back down.
The jobs that left the U.S. and Europe to lower-cost areas in China and Southeast Asia are never coming back. Instead, they are going to continue the natural progression and move on to the next cheaper stop, except it won’t be another less-developed region, but rather robotics and AI.
All of these changes are culminating in what’s coming next: the Third Industrial Revolution. It promises unimaginable advances in technology and quality of life, and at once an economy that will seem unrecognizable to anyone today — a many-orders-of-magnitude jump compared to the slow buzz of the Digital Revolution… and all within the span of one generation.