A robot revolution is on the horizon, but it’s not the apocalyptic uprising you see in Hollywood movies. This revolution—like the three that preceded it—will instead fundamentally change the nature of work as we know it.
The First Industrial Revolution began in Europe in the 18th century, driven by the invention of the steam engine and machines that allowed for the mass production of goods in factories. People moved from a life of farming in rural areas to factory work in urban areas, and while working conditions for many were pretty terrible, the iron and textile industries transformed the economy and made goods more affordable and accessible.
The Second Industrial Revolution began in the late 19th century, with electricity powering the expansion of existing industries and creating new ones. It brought us the light bulb, the telephone, and the internal combustion engine. The invention of the automobile and its mass production on assembly lines kick-started a revolution in transportation and commerce. And the world was further transformed by developments in communications, with undersea cables and radio transmissions linking countries and continents.
The Third Industrial Revolution, which occurred at the end of the 20th century, saw the advent of digital technologies, such as computers, global telecommunications systems, and the Internet. Robots joined the assembly lines in the automotive industry and other advancements in automation soon followed, allowing workers to move away from dull, repetitive tasks to ones requiring more skill.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is being driven by technological breakthroughs in fields such as quantum computing, biotechnology, autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence, and robotics—breakthroughs that will transform the way people interact with machines.