The four Industrial Revolutions (IR)
1IR: from manual power to (water and steam) machine power
The First and only real Industrial Revolution happened when handmade manufacturing transformed into machine-powered manufacturing. Streaming water was initially the main source of power and ‘industrialization’ progressed slowly.
But it went exponential after the invention and improvement of the steam engine and its application in the textile industry in the imperial England at the end of the 17 hundreds. Throughout the 18 hundreds, the process of mechanizing the factory systems, replacing hand production with machine production processes, and the growing uses of water and steam power all contributed to the industrialization first of Britain and soon of the rest of Europe and the United States.
The invention and development of the steam locomotive was the next giant impulse for further industrialization, specially in the US.
2IR: mass production and its push for mass consumption
This is where Big Mass Production took off and triggered the push for Big Mass Consumption.
Time and motion studies
In 1911 Frederick Winslow Taylor published his book “The Principles of scientific management” concerned with reducing process time of factory workers. At its most basic level, his time studies involve breaking down each job into component parts, timing each element, and rearranging the parts into the most efficient method of working.
In the same period Frank and Lillian Gilbreth conducted motion studies for improving work methods. These studies went as far as even defining jobs that could be executed by for example blind men or men with only one arm.
The combined time and motion studies were massively implemented by Henry Ford, considered the man who definitely turned mass production into a final reality. The assembly line wasn’t always rewarding to him. It cost him workers, as many found the job boring because they concentrated on one or two tasks repeatedly.
As may be obvious, Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times was inspired, in a brilliant and at the same time ironic way, by this kind of “progress”, which might have been good for business but clearly not for human beings. A curious note is that the factory worker is commanded through video by the boss. One might think Chaplin copied that from the all-seeing eye of Big Brother in Orwell’s 1984. But Modern Times is from 1936 while “1984” is from 1949.
After this explosion of mass production for the first time in humanity production far outweighted demand or consumption. This is where the new management tools and sciences start to gain an ever growing role: publicity and marketing. And so consumption starts being pushed not by spontaneous consumer want or need, but by producer push.
3IR: computers, internet and smart phones
This is where mass consumers are starting to be consumed themselves, by their screens. In fact, a strange slow degradation of “the client” seems to have ocurred over time, going from client (who used to be king), to customer (one of many buyers), to consumer (rather a statistical element) down to “user” (that has a sense of facelessness and total passiveness) and to finally being sold as a product himself for “Big Data”.
4IR: ‘smart’ homes, ‘smart’ traffic, ‘smart’ cities, ‘smart’ everything?
…and deHumanized people… if we let them get away with Zhe Fogs Industgial Gevolusiun.
- The new normal
- Why did the industrial revolution start?
- How did the industrial revolution actually happen?