The Fourth Industrial Revolution in Full Flow
In this epochal change that we characterize as the “digital revolution,” not only digital technologies but also physical and biological technologies all converge. This contributes to a cultural transformation of enormous moment. Our ways of life, work and relationships are changing.
The processes underway – let alone their dizzying speed – are probably without parallel in those of other eras. Not that there were fewer problems before, but there were more certainties and interpretative narratives on a global level that today have given way to uncertainty and perplexity. Insecurity and an awareness of vulnerability – both at the macro and micro-personal levels – have increased, and with them temptations, such as those of abandoning oneself to the emotion of the moment or letting oneself be carried away by the potential for growth have escalated. This is demonstrated by the populist and extremist reactions that today can be seen in various forms and in numerous places.
Our technological civilization is crisscrossed by tension and marked by acute ambivalence. It is capable of producing incredible advances in Artificial Intelligence, making impressive diagnoses and curing diseases, or producing driverless vehicles and generating clean energy. At the same time, however, it is incapable of preventing the deaths of thousands of children a day from malnutrition and curable diseases, or preventing millions of refugees from living in subhuman conditions. We have achieved the incredible, but we do not know – or do not want to know – how to resolve fundamental issues in which human dignity is at stake.
We are direct witnesses of a historical era in which no one can predict the extent and depth of economic, political or social changes, how privacy, cyber security and changes in consumer habits will be affected, or how we humans will relate to ourselves or others. Human identity itself is called into question, since today’s acceleration of science and technology in areas such as genetics, neuroscience and artificial intelligence leads to talk about the advent of “posthumanism,” with its promises to transform the physical and intellectual capacities of human beings, or to exponentially increase the capabilities of certain organs, such as the bionic eye or ear. It is a comprehensive revolution that will exert its influence, using big data, not only on social control and the future of work, but also on the ways of being human. And even if we find it difficult to believe, this does not mean it is a matter of science fiction.