We live in an age of technology. Technology surrounds us, consumes us. We use technology in almost every facet of our daily life. From the days of discovering fire and crafting spears and weapons to make hunting easier during the dawn of humanity, to creating supercomputers and robots in the 21st century, humanity has always been inclined to innovate and produce better and better technology.
Technology makes life simpler and more efficient. Historians argue there were three periods of history that fundamentally transformed the way humans lived. The first was the invention of farming, which allowed humans to grow their own food, instead of relying on hunting and gathering. In turn, humans settled down and formed communities, which formed the basis of civilization.
Fast forward 10,000 years and there were two industrial revolutions within the same century, the first beginning in Britain around 1760, then spread throughout Western Europe and the United States in the early 1800s. The first industrial revolution was marked by the creation of factories and machinery to complete tasks.
Technologies such as the steamboat and many other innovations transformed the way people traveled, traded, and produced things. People moved away from their farms into cities, where the economy was centered around working in factories. Divisions of labor formed and capitalism as we know it arose.
The second industrial revolution started around 1870 and lasted until the early 1900s. Doing this time-period, the use of electricity became widespread, as did railroads, and the telegraph, among other technologies. Some of these inventions may seem ancient, but they revolutionized the way in which society operated and how people lived. Fast forward to the 21st century.
The third industrial revolution was the most recent transformation that has changed the way we live. We are all currently living in the midst of it. The third industrial revolution was marked by the invention of the Internet and usage of electronic devices, thus, leading to inventions such as computers, smartphones, and other high-tech devices that have fundamentally changed how the world operates, how we store information, and how we communicate with each other.
This has lead to an interconnected world, where we are no longer bound by distance. We can send a message to people on the other side of the world with the push of a button. We have unlimited information at our fingertips. Thanks to this recent wave of technology, the population of the world have skyrocketed, and many people have been able to achieve a quality of life that would be physically impossible to achieve just a century ago.
Many experts predict humanity is on the brink of another technological revolution, calling it the fourth industrial revolution. This next technological revolution may be more revolutionary than all the previous ones combined. Technology is like an avalanche. At first, it starts out gradually, but then it expands until there is no stopping it.
It took humans hundreds of thousands of years to discover farming, then another 10,000 years for the first two industrial revolutions to occur, but just 100 years from there for the third industrial revolution. The more technology progresses, the faster it keeps progressing. Imagine trying to explain what the Internet is to even the smartest person in the world living 200 years ago. It would be impossible.
The same can most likely be said about the future, no one alive today can even begin to imagine or comprehend what future technologies will exist. Despite this, experts have made some predictions about the technologies and societal structures they think will start to emerge during the fourth industrial revolution. According to the World Economic Forum, the fourth Industrial Revolution will be characterized by the advent of “cyber-physical systems”, meaning humans and machines will merge.
I know this sounds crazy, but many of these technologies are already being developed. Some of these technologies may consist of genetic editing, replacement of limbs with machinery that may give people who have lost the ability to walk or move the ability to do so again, breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, among many others. The early stages of many of these technologies are already here.
Harnessed And Embraced
Technology should not be feared but harnessed and embraced. Every great technological leap forward has improved the lives of humanity. The real fear shouldn’t be the fear of technology itself, rather, who controls this technology.
Technology has the power to improve our lives but left in the wrong hands, could be damaging. We have already seen great abuses of technology from powerful sectors of society, such as the government, corporations, as well as certain individuals. It is up to society to ensure these technological advancements are rolled out carefully and with the intent to do good.
Our everyday decisions and actions on what we chose to tolerate or not tolerate from these powerful sectors of society will influence how technology will be used in the future. We have the power to ensure technology is used for the advancement of the many, not the few. The future is here, we are currently living in one of the most revolutionary times in human history. The future can be one of greatness and prosperity, or one of inequality and the choices we make now will determine how the future plays out.