Are We On The Verge Of The Next Industrial Revolution?

Ok, so perhaps in this day and age ‘industrial’ would be better replaced with ‘technological’, but the sentiment is the same.

The smartphone has defined the last decade in terms of technological advancements and has also spawned the potentially more valuable ‘app’ space which has seen several companies go from ‘start up’ to $1bn+ valuations almost overnight.

My own personal view (and it is just that), is that while these apps and other technologies are undoubtedly valuable, I’m not sure they have always made us more productive in business (think Facebook, twitter etc).

Please don’t get me wrong, new technology has undoubtedly driven greater efficiencies in business, however my feeling is that this will pale into insignificance compared to what is to come next.

My view is based on two interlinked new technologies, driverless cars/vehicles and artificial intelligence (AI).

A recent study in the USA suggested that we spend around 1 hour and 40 minutes driving each and every day. A disconcerting feature of my car is that it keeps a tally of all the time I have spent driving. The result – 41 days in the past 18 months – more than 1/18th of my entire life!

If we then factor in the volume of time spent by people driving for business (think taxi’s, HGV’s etc), then the numbers must be huge. Imagine the increase in company and personal productivity when all of this time can be used for something else!

If we also consider the potential for AI to begin to make a significant dent in our boring and laborious tasks, then the economic benefits could be huge.

While these technological changes will undoubtedly cause some people to have to look for new employment, we have been through several of these ‘revolutions’ in the past and history tells us these people can be redeployed in the economy with great new skills and insights. When all of this time spent driving and doing simple IT tasks can be replaced with other productive, or leisure activities, we will surely see a new era of economic growth.