Why there is no technological revolution, let alone a ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’

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Academy of Science of South Africa
We are told by the powerful that we live in, or are about to live in, a Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). Seemingly, this revolution is about deep-seated, rapid, digitally powered techno-scientific change. It is the age of smart machines; it is a new information technology (IT) revolution. However, in this article I suggest that examination of the history of technologies that are often held up to be proof of the 4IR, in fact shows that there is no contemporary technological revolution. The research methodology that I employ here is conceptual analysis and a focused review of literature on the history of particular technologies. An industrial revolution, as its three historical instances have demonstrated, is the fundamental transformation of every aspect of industrial society, including its geopolitical, cultural, macro-social, micro-social, economic and technological strata. It certainly entails a technological revolution, but it is more than just that. In this article, I am not concerned with the broader ensemble of socio-economic changes – it seems increasingly clear that the ‘brave new world’ of the 4IR is not really happening – but simply ask the question: is there currently a technological revolution? The answer seems to be that there is not.
Digital, Industrial revolution, Technological revolution, Information technology
Moll I. Why there is no technological revolution, let alone a ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’. S Afr J Sci. 2023;119(1/2), Art. #12916. https:// doi.org/10.17159/sajs.2023/12916