Prepare for the age of the driverless car and the robot that does the housework. That was the message from the World Economic Forum (WEF) earlier this year as it hailed the start of a new industrial revolution. According to the WEF, the fourth big structural change in the past 250 years is upon us.
The first industrial revolution was about water and steam. The second was about electricity and mass production. The third harnessed electronics and information technology to automate production. Now it is the turn of artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, 3D printing and quantum computing to transform the global economy.
“The speed of current breakthroughs has no historical precedent”, the WEF said. “When compared with previous industrial revolutions, the fourth is evolving at an exponential rather than a linear pace.”