Current Problems Associated With The End Of The Third Industrial Revolution by Wim Grommen

Abstract

This paper advances a hypothesis of the end of the third industrial revolution and the beginning of a new transition. Every production phase or civilization or human invention goes through a so- called transformation process. Transitions are social transformation processes that cover at least one generation. In this paper I will use one such transition to demonstrate the position of our present civilization. When we consider the characteristics of the phases of a social transformation we may find ourselves at the end of what might be called the third industrial revolution. The paper describes the four most radical transitions for mankind and the effects for mankind of these transitions: the Neolithic transition, the first industrial revolution, the second industrial revolution and the third industrial revolution.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) Index is the only stock market index that covers both the second and the third industrial revolution. Calculating share indexes such as the Dow Jones Industrial Average and showing this index in a historical graph is a useful way to show which phase the industrial revolution is in. Changes in the DJIA shares basket, changes in the formula and stock splits during the take-off phase and acceleration phase of industrial revolutions are perfect transition-indicators. The similarities of these indicators during the last two revolutions are fascinating, but also a reason for concern. In fact the graph of the DJIA is a classic example of fictional truth, a fata morgana.

History has shown that five pillars are essential in a stable society: Food, Security, Health, Prosperity and Knowledge. At the end of every transition the pillar Prosperity is threatened. We have seen this effect at the end of every industrial revolution. Societies will have to make a choice for a new transition to be started.

1 Introduction

Every production phase or civilization or other human invention goes through a so called transformation process. Transitions are social transformation processes that cover at least one generation. In this paper I will use one such transition to demonstrate the position of our present civilization. When we consider the characteristics of the phases of a social transformation we may find ourselves at the end of what might be called the third industrial revolution. Transitions are social transformation processes that cover at least one generation (= 25 years).

A transition has the following characteristics:

– it involves a structural change of civilization or a complex subsystem of our civilization

– it shows technological, economical, ecological, socio cultural and institutional changes at different levels that influence and enhance each other

– it is the result of slow changes (changes in supplies) and fast dynamics (flows)

Examples of historical transitions are the demographical transition and the transition from coal to natural gas which caused transition in the use of energy. A transition process is not fixed from the start because during the transition processes will adapt to the new situation. A transition is not dogmatic.

2 Transitions

In general transitions can be seen to go through the S curve and we can distinguish four phases (figure 1):

  • a pre-development phase of a dynamic balance in which the present status does not visibly change
  • a take-off phase in which the process of change starts because of changes in the system
  • an acceleration phase in which visible structural changes take place through an accumulation of socio-cultural, economical, ecological and institutional changes influencing each other; in this phase we see collective learning processes, diffusion and processes of embedding
  • a stabilization phase in which the speed of sociological change slows down and a new dynamic balance is achieved through learning

A product life cycle also goes through an S curve. In that case there is a fifth phase:

the degeneration phase in which cost rises because of over capacity and the producer will finally withdraw from the market.

Figure 1. The S curve of a transition

Industrial revolution

Four phases in a transition best visualized by means of an S curve:

Pre-development, Take-off, Acceleration, Stabilization.

The process of the spreading of transitions over civilizations is influenced by a number of elements:

  • physical  barriers: oceans, deserts, mountain ranges, swamps, lakes
  • socio cultural barriers: difference in culture and languages
  • religious barriers
  • psychological barriers

When we look back over the past, we see four transitions taking place with far-reaching effects.

1.1 The Neolithic Transition

The Neolithic transition was the most radical transition for mankind. This first agricultural revolution (10000 – 3000 BC) forms the change from societies of hunter gatherers (20 – 50 people) close to water with a nomadic existence to a society of people living in settlements growing crops and animals. A hierarchical society came into existence. Joint organizations protected and governed the interests of the individual. Performing (obligatory) services for the community could be viewed as a first type of taxation. Stocks were set up with stock management, trade emerged, inequality and theft. Ways of administering justice were invented to solve conflicts within and between communities and war became a way of protecting interests.The Neolithic revolution started in those places that were most favorable because of the climate and sources of food. In very cold, very hot or dry areas the hunter gatherer societies lasted longer.

Several areas are pointed out as possible starting points: southern Anatolia, the basins the Yangtze Kiang and Yellow river in China, the valley of the Indus, the present Peru in the Andes or what is now Mexico in Central America. From these areas the revolution spread across the world. The start of the Neolithic era and the spreading process are different in each area. In some areas the changes are relatively quick and some authors therefore like to speak of a Neolithic revolution. Modern historians prefer to speak of the Neolithic evolution. They have come to realize that in many areas the process took much longer and was much more gradual than they originally thought.

1.1 The First Industrial Revolution

The first industrial revolution lasted from around 1780 tot 1850. It was characterized by a transition from small scale handwork to mechanized production in factories. The great catalyst in the process was the steam engine which also caused a revolution in transport as it was used in railways and shipping. The first industrial revolution was centered around the cotton industry. Because steam engines were made of iron and ran on coal, both coal mining and iron industry also flourished.

Current Problems Associated With the End of Thethird Industrial Revolution