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The New Industrial Revolution – According to the WSJ

by Andrew White  |  November 13, 2018  |  Comments Off on The New Industrial Revolution – According to the WSJ

The insert in today’s US print edition of the Wall Street Journal is called The New Industrial Revolution. The paper updates and adds new data to the promise, made by Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum, that in 2016 were were entering the fourth industrial revolution.

The first revolution was driven by coal and steel; the second by electricity and the automobile. The third was driven by computers or computing. This new phase is wrapped up in the mobile internet, automation and AI. I am not sure that the internet has gone mobile; more likely the miniaturization of computing and the refactoring of work, once associated with desks and sitting down, are now moving and at the same time more compartmentalized or more narrowly defined.

Though mobile gaming is a big market and growing, the scope of gaming in mobile devices is actually a step backwards in some respects.  Visual immersion is a far cray when compared to what can be achieved on the trusty PC platform.  About the only capability on the mobile platform that beats the best a PC can offer is the higher volume of networked, even peer-to-peer connections, for players sharing a memory space.  But I am being negative.

The article includes some interesting charts about growth of various things that give weight to the claim of a new digital age. Smartphone growth (though that peaked around 2015); Tech-related jobs; internet traffic; cell sites in US (slowed around 2012); most impressive is the number of shipments of industrial robots (little sign of slowing). The benefit? As manufacturing employment in the US has fallen steadily (now flat from about 2009), US manufacturing productivity has increased. But even that peaked around 2009-2010 and has since plateaued. Oops. Forgot to explain that one. And the bases used for that chart was 2012.

The most interesting chart for me is chart 10- comparing domestic spending on research and development between the US and China. Based on the chart one would expect China to surpass the US by around 2018-2019. That’s a scary data point. Funding in R&D is one of the contributing factors to subsequent productivity growth and thus improved standard of living. Clearly intelligent R&D is needed, not just brute force spending; federal primary R&D; vocational training linked across education and business; tax incentives for secondary R&D and innovation; and so on. The fact that China may outspend the US in this area is notable; it means we should experience more competition for ideas and maybe more choices, down the road. Uncle Sam will have to reach down and pull his socks up.

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Category: digital-business  digital-economy  innovation  research-and-development  

Andrew White
Research VP
8 years at Gartner
22 years IT industry

Andrew White is a Distinguished Analyst and VP. His roles include Chief of Research and Content Lead for Data and Analytics. His main research focus is data and analytics strategy, platforms, and governance. Read Full Bio

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