The Third Technological Revolution and Its Possible Socioeconomic Consequences

The Third Technological Revolution and Its Possible Socioeconomic Consequences

We are today on the rising slope of a third technological revolution. It is a rising slope, for we have passed from the plus-minus stage of invention and innovation into the crucial period of diffusion. The rates of diffusion will vary, depending upon the economic conditions and political stabilities of societies. Yet the phenomenon cannot be reversed, and its consequences may be even greater than the previous two technological revolutions that reshaped the West and now, with the spread of industrialization, other parts of the world as well.

NB: I make a distinction between a technological revolution and its socioeconomic consequences. The early phrase “the industrial revolution” obscures two different things: the introduction of steam power as a new form of energy and the creation of factories to apply that energy to machines for the production of goods. The reason for the distinction is that there is no necessary, determinate single path for the use of the new technologies. The ways in which technologies can be organized vary widely, and these are social decisions, which can be made in a conscious way. No one “voted in” the first industrial revolution—in the way that political revolutions, such as the French and the Russian Revolutions, were shaped by active minorities. The industrial revolution moved along the path of least resistance because it generated profits and provided goods at cheaper prices. Yet the social costs were rarely reckoned or dealt with. Today we have a greater awareness of the


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