Can Society Mitigate the Negative Effects From the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

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INTRODUCTION

An overview of my project and my interest in the potential negative outcomes from the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Source: Prendergast, B. “Credential Success in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” Kryterion Global Testing Solutions, 30 Jan. 2020, www.kryteriononline.com/credentialing-success-in-the-4th-industrial-revolution. 

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

A brief history of the first three Industrial Revolutions as well as the current Fourth Industrial Revolution in which we now live

Sources: Industrial Revolutions Explained

NEGATIVE OUTCOMES

A look back at some of the negative consequences that past Industrial Revolutions had on employment, working conditions, and wage inequality

Impact on Farm Labor

Industrial Revolutions had the most profound and immediate impact on farm labor.  The United States was primarily an agrarian economy before the First Industrial Revolution, with close to 70% of the labor force involved in some type of agriculture activity.  As the country industrialized through the first two industrial revolutions, millions of farmers and farm labor were displaced and lost their jobs.  Within a century, farm labor was well below 10% of the workforce.  

Source: Gallman, Robert E., and Thomas J. Weiss. “The Service Industries in the Nineteenth Century.” In Production and Productivity in the Service Industries, ed. Victor R. Fuchs, 287-352. New York: Columbia University Press, 1969. 

Urbanization, Unsafe Working Conditions, Income Inequality

After the Civil War over the next century, the Second Industrial Revolution created great economic growth but also ushered in the “Gilded Age,” where there were extremes of both wealth and poverty.  Millions of people migrated to U.S. cities seeking jobs within the booming manufacturing sector but often were faced with highly dangerous working conditions, low wages, little benefits, and low job security as the economy moved from craftsmen to assembly workers.  

From the Industrial Revolution came the Robber Barons of the Gilded Age… Carnegie, Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, and JP Morgan… men who controlled entire industries and amassed enormous wealth. Even during depression years when millions of people suffered through job loss and misery. For decades income inequality was severe, with 40-50% of total U.S. income in the hands of 10% of the population.  

Source: Piketty, T., and E. Saez. “Home – WID – World Inequality Database.” World Inequality Database, 2011, wid.world/

The Rise of “Technological Unemployment” & Widening Gap Between Skilled and Unskilled Labor

The Third Industrial Revolution took from the 1960s onward with the invention of the integrated circuit, microchip technology, and of course, computers.  New industries and products were created, resulting in geometric growth in the electronics and software industry even before the introduction of the internet in the 1990s.  While overall economic growth was exceptional, there was also a significant shift in labor, resulting in a more polarized market with highly skilled, well-paying jobs at one end and lower-skilled, low-wage jobs at the other.  The concept of “technological unemployment” came into being, which described those employees unable to upgrade their education and skill levels losing their jobs and earning power.  As the chart on the left shows, the wage gap between college-educated and non-college-educated started to widen greatly in the 1990s as society both paid more for those equipped for higher-skilled jobs at the same as paying less for those with low skills and less education.

Source: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2017. Information Technology and the U.S. Workforce: Where Are We and Where Do We Go from Here?. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/24649.

Engels’ Pause & Society’s Challenge

Named after the German philosopher Frederick Engels, “Engels’ Pause” refers to a fifty-year period at the beginning of the First Industrial Revolution when, despite tremendous increases in productivity and economic output, workers’ wages remained relatively flat.

Eventually, wages did start to increase, but only after a long period when workers lost jobs or had reduced wages due to improvements in automation and technology.

Society’s challenge is to avoid or shorten Engels’ Pause during the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Source: Garcia, Cardiff. “Jobs, Automation, Engels’ Pause and the Limits of History.” Financial Times, Financial Times, 9 Mar. 2015, www.ft.com/content/da0e22f9-dbb0-3c2b-acca-cc7dcf766470. 

“FOR NOW” RESPONSE

There is no stopping the advancements of technology. Overall, all past Industrial Revolutions have been a benefit to the world, and the Fourth will be no different. However, as a society, we need to do better to support those who are vulnerable to these changes.

Macro Solutions

Mitigating the unemployment caused from the Fourth Industrial Revolution will not be easy.  It will require cooperation from the public sector, the private sector, and other non-profit organizations to help prepare people for the future and also help those who have lost their jobs to get back on their feet. 

Public Research & Awareness

Mitigating the unemployment caused from the Fourth Industrial Revolution will not be easy.  It will require cooperation from the public sector, the private sector, and other non-profit organizations to help prepare people for the future and also help those who have lost their jobs to get back on their feet.  

Government Support & Incentives

Mitigating the unemployment caused from the Fourth Industrial Revolution will not be easy.  It will require cooperation from the public sector, the private sector, and other non-profit organizations to help prepare people for the future and also help those who have lost their jobs to get back on their feet.  

Labor Support & Training

Mitigating the unemployment caused from the Fourth Industrial Revolution will not be easy.  It will require cooperation from the public sector, the private sector, and other non-profit organizations to help prepare people for the future and also help those who have lost their jobs to get back on their feeet.  

Source: “Fourth Industrial Revolution – World Economic Forum.” Facebook, 2021, www.facebook.com/fourthindustrialrevolution/.

 

Micro Solutions

Government and business support can play a huge role in mitigating unemployment, but individuals must also do their part.  People can devote their time and resources to help the unemployed and vulnerable.  Those with technical skills that employers value, can volunteer with nonprofit and educational organizations to assist with retraining efforts.  Those who are financially able to do so, can donate money and resources to organizations who work with people who have lost their jobs to assist with retraining and job search efforts.  Volunteering in church and civic organizations dedicated to assist the poor is a tremendous contribution to society.

Source: “Clip Black And – Community Health Clipart – Free Transparent PNG Clipart Images Download. ClipartMax.com.” ClipartMax.com, 2021, www.clipartmax.com/middle/m2H7G6b1G6d3i8A0_clip-black-and-community-health-clipart/. 

COMMENTS

Thanks so much for reading my presentation on Mitigating the Negative Effects of the 4IR. I welcome your feedback and suggestions.  In my comments section, please include your ideas for how you can contribute to minimizing the negative effects on others.

9 Comments
Christian_40

Christian_40

Student at Head-Royce School, Oakland, CA USA

9 comments

  1. Very interesting. I had not thought too much about what the individual can do to help this situation before, but I do think that you have provided some reasonable steps to take in order to help mitigate the negative effects. This will be something that I will keep in mind moving forward.

  2. This was a great read/watch on a very relevant and important topic facing our society today.

  3. Hi Christian, What a fabulous project! Understanding the social implications of the “fourth industrial revolution” we’re living through is a challenge, because, well, we’re in it. But you drew excellent historical parallels, backed them up with data, and offered meaningful macro solutions that were clearly explained. The micro solutions are band-aids, understandably, so I hope people don’t read those and conclude that’s all they need to do. Finally, the design of your page was really good, and I appreciated that you opened with a mini-lecture that made this complex topic accessible from the get-go. I hope this topic continues to sustain your interest so that you can leverage your knowledge into action over the longer term. Bravo!

  4. Hi Christian, I really enjoyed learning about your topic! I enjoyed how you offered many solutions and went into depth, which furthered my understanding. I also liked how you included explanatory videos, and essays, which I found very interesting. Your topic is current, which provides even more ways for us to contribute.

    Great work!

  5. Christian,

    Really well researched and thought provoking project! Good to see your recommendations focusing on society working together for the betterment of all.

    Good job!

  6. Great job Christian!
    Enjoyed reading your project. It is always interesting to see how the younger generation ‘sees the world’.
    Keep up the great work

  7. Excellent job, Christian! You clearly put a lot of effort and thought into your project. I especially enjoyed your presentation on the history of the Industrial Revolutions. Again, well done on conveying your message and concerns about the 4IR.

  8. Hi Christian! Great job! I really enjoyed reading your project, and I think it did a great job of connecting the fourth industrial revolution to previous industrial revolutions because it highlights the likely problems that will come with this one.

  9. Fascinating project, Christian! I appreciated your intellectual and empathetic approach to this issue. As you continue pursuing this topic, I wonder if you can expand on the macro solutions. Your text repeats under your “macro solutions” header, but your essay has some great ideas. I especially appreciated that you encouraged patience, of both individuals and corporations, with laborers learning the new skills required of them in this latest industrial revolution.

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