The Rise Of The Fourth Economy
Back in 2016 Klaus Schwab, the founder of the World Economic Forum, described how humanity was on the cusp of a fourth industrial revolution. In the 1800s we invented machines powered by coal and steam. Then in the early 20th century electricity powered our new production capabilities, which eventually led to the automobile. By the late 1900s computers (and more specifically the PC), forever changed the way we work and communicate. Now we’re at the dawn of a fourth transformation which will be powered by the mobile internet, robotic automation and artificial intelligence.
I know this sounds like a sci-fi daydream, but we’re actually closer to the Fourth Economy than you might realize. This in-depth WSJ article breaks down several stats which are early markers of this new era. Need some examples? How about the prediction that more mobile devices and greater connectivity will create a 5-fold increase of internet traffic within just the next three years. Then consider the fact that a job in eComm will be created for every job lost in B&M over the same period. And my favorite stat of all – the robot population will approach half a million worldwide by the end of this year. (I can’t wait to get my own robot someday!)
If we could all get in a time machine and be transported 50 years into the future, what would the Fourth Economy be known for? One guess is the transformation of human work itself. As you can see in the graphs below, the number of manufacturing jobs in the US has been flat-to-down over the past 20 years, while our nation’s productivity is actually increasing. This means work which used to be done by humans is now being handled by automation – those darn robots again! I’m guessing this trend line is just the start of a massive transformation which will become evident several decades from now.
My only question about this new Fourth Economy is what will we do with all of our free time? Maybe hang out with our new robot buddies? 🙂