The Second Industrial Revolution and How You Can Recover
You have been thought that The Industrial Revolution has been the most influential development in history. Today, you are living through a second, comparable revolution. The Industrial Revolution changed how people used their bodies to perform physical labor. This current revolution is changing how people use their minds to perform conceptual labor.
Unlike the steam engine or electricity, the second machine age technologies continue to improve at an exponential pace, replicating their power with digital perfection and creating even more opportunities for combinatorial innovation, Digital Customer Experience we at Neosperience focus on being just an example of these.
A decade after Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) “first Grand Challenge” to spur people “to build a completely autonomous vehicle”, Google produces cars that drive themselves in traffic, that you will be soon able to choose from a Digital Car Showroom.
Similar advances have emerged in language processing and the use of general knowledge, including shifts in how people view computing and in robotics. Developing devices to perform tasks once considered “difficult” and conceptually challenging have proved easier than designing machines to complete manual labor. And machines that can complete cognitive tasks are even more important than machines that can accomplish physical ones.
But adapting to new technology is challenging. For example, when electricity was new, people applied it as a straightforward substitution: They removed steam engines and put electric motors in their place. But they did not change the design of factory layouts. This made no sense since steam engines required a specific arrangement of machines around “a single massive engine,” while electricity called for placing smaller, electric motors at each machine. With a steam engine, the equipment that needed the most power had to be closest to the engine. Once electric motors were available, managers reorganized factories according to “workflow,” not energy needs.
That shift took 30 years, and only then did productivity surge as the result of electricity. The same phenomenon occurred with computers and the internet, and today with smartphones and tablets: firms made minimal initial changes in productivity, but later they undertook widespread efforts to integrate computers and generate surges in productivity, eventually giving birth to new and disruptive business models.
The constant increase in productivity led to the belief that technological advances help everyone. In a striking historical discontinuity, wages and productivity decoupled in our age of technology. But while average income rises, indicating an increase in overall productivity, median income is falling, indicating that most people earn less. Only a few people harvest the wealth generated by increased productivity.
Creativity and organizational redesign are crucial to proper investments in digital technologies. Education must change to fit contemporary needs, moving away from the industrial age ideal of standardization toward methods that promote creativity, curiosity and adaptation. We have to increase the quality of and opportunity for primary education. Encourage experimentation. Use technology where useful and change how schools deliver education. Help customer choose. Transform marketing in a game. Make people work less, and better, but promote communities in which people work: whether rich or poor, these are healthier than communities in which people do not, as we all gain “self-worth” from working.
Technology is not your destiny. You shape your destiny. Find your blue ocean and change the world.