THE THIRD INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
INTRODUCTION: This century has seen a quantum leap in science and technology. The last decade has especially witnessed a revolutionary change in the field of microelectronics and computers. The transition to this high-tech age is referred to us the third industrial revolution.
DEVELOPMENT OF THOUGHT: The third (industrial) revolution—transition to the high-tech age—began in the second half of the 1980s and was characterized by computer-controlled production facilities in the factories of industrial nations. Politically, the third Industrial Revolution is characterised by the end of the East-West confrontation. More importantly, micro-electronics, with its revolutionary technological developments, is increasingly becoming a strategic industry in the leading industrial nations. They are achieving a computer-controlled dimension of production wherein quantitative growth is being replaced by a qualitative one. Many of mankind’s pressing problems can be tackled using new scientific and technical advances.
CONCLUSION: The high-tech revolution will improve the quality of life in advanced industrial nations but may lead to a further economic gap between the affluent North and the developing South.
The year 1985 saw the start of mass production of the I-megabit chip with a memory capacity of one million characters, which led to revolutionary developments in microelectronics. It gave rise to new and more powerful computer generations, including the Cray YMP super-computer with a performance capacity of one billion computer operations per second. The I-megabit chip is made in Germany by Siemens, and it can now be bought on the German market for seven Deutsch marks.
This quantum leap in micro-electronics is comparable to the launch of a space rocket which rises slowly, steadily gains speed and climbs to unknown heights, and whose destination will be somewhere in the boundlessness of the universe. Although we do not know it, we are actually sitting in this rocket. We are discovering its secrets and getting to know the new technologies which made the launch possible.
We are entering a computer-controlled age, which will change the face of our earth radically within a few decades, produce new political, economic and social structures and require new security structures. The most important productive force of this age will be science. This transition to the high-tech age we refer to as the Third Industrial Revolution.
Production methods and living conditions have been subjected to revolutionary changes throughout history. The Neolithic revolution occurred at an early stage in the history of the human race. It is defined as the transition from the acquisitive to the productive form of organising life and economic activity. This term was coined by V.G. Childe in 1936.
Over a period of up to 10,000 years, beginning from the 7th to the 8th millennium B.C, during which there were great regional differences, nomadic cavemen began in varying degrees to settle down in one place to cultivate the land and raise livestock. It is now thought that the elevated plains of south-west Asia were the first place where wild cereals were cultivated and sheep and goats domesticated. The first fairly large settlements (Harappa, Mohenjo-Daro, Catalhuyuk) came into being.
This period saw the invention of the wheel—and also of the potter’s the wheel. In Mesopotamia, irrigated farming was introduced and early forms of writing developed. The first metal weapons, made of bronze, meant that man was now better armed than ever before. He also learned the art of building fortifications. The city of Jericho, which was built around 7500 BC, was probably the first large stone fortress in history.
Until then there had been a division of labour between men and women, and now this division of labour was deepened by the emergence of occupations, such as livestock raising and land cultivation and the occupations of the potter, the blacksmith, the trader and the warrior.
Ideology and the sciences were the preserve of the priesthood. Their prominent role in society is clear in such large buildings as the Ziggurats of Mesopotamia. The Gilgamesh epic, the masterpiece of Babylonian literature, was the first great work of poetry passed down to us. The political consequence of these radical economic, military and social changes was the emergence of city-states. Sargon of Akkad, the “king of four world regions”, who reigned between about 2350 and 2295 BC, conquered the first great empire in world history.
The next revolutionary change to production methods and living conditions comparable in significance to the Neolithic revolution was the first Industrial Revolution. It is defined as the transition from an agrarian to an industrial society and started in Great Britain around 1760 and then caught hold in virtually all European countries, North America and Japan.
It extended into the beginning of the 20th century, with wide regional variations. The introduction of the steam engine, the emergence of the factory as the main centre of production, the building of the first railway lines and the use of telegraphy anti-electricity were milestones in the development of industrial societies.
From the military point of view, the first Industrial Revolution was characterised by the making of long-range guns, machine-guns, the first tanks and aeroplanes and large fleets of armoured warships. The social consequence of these revolutionary changes was the liberation of peasants from feudal dependence. In 1861, Russia became the last European country to abolish serfdom.
The mass poverty of the pre-industrial period decreased. The new occupation of the paid factory labourer emerged. Politically, the first Industrial Revolution was characterised by the collapse of old feudal empires. The first bourgeois, nation-states came into being following bourgeois revolutions, the wars of independence in North America and the declarations of human rights. The new great power created extensive colonial empires and carved up the world in fierce competition with each other.
The second Industrial Revolution was the revolutionary change which industrial societies underwent as a result of the transition to the atomic age. It began with the first ever dropping of an atomic bomb over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, which resulted in 200,000 dead and 100,000 injured. Mankind had succeeded in harnessing atomic power, the most powerful source of energy that it had thus far had at its disposal.
The atomic age lasted until the middle of the 1980s. The MCA (maximum credible accident) at the Chernobyl nuclear power station paved the way psychologically for the renunciation of atomic power on a worldwide basis. The economic features of the second Industrial Revolution were euphoric programmes for the civilian use of nuclear power and the building of increasing numbers of nuclear power plants.
The first generations of computers were created. The start of space travel (on October 4, 1957, the first artificial earth satellite, Sputnik I, was launched; on April 12. 1961 Yuri Gagarin, a Russian was the first man to orbit the Earth in the Vostok I spaceship; Neil Armstrong and E. Aldrin, two Americans, were the first men to walk on the moon on July 21, 1969) launched the -era of the fulfilment of one of mankind’s oldest dreams—venturing into the boundlessness of the universe, the greatest and most enticing adventure that had ever awaited mankind.
However, the second Industrial Revolution was also the period of development in mankind’s history which inflicted the greatest environmental damage on the planet. Military development manifested in the building of nuclear and hydrogen warheads, strategic intercontinental missiles, nuclear submarines and strategic bombers, gave the two major opposing military coalitions, NATO and the Warsaw Pact states, the ability to destroy the Earth several times over. This capacity for self-destruction through the military use of atomic power represented an unreal level of armaments.
Social contrasts receded in industrial, nations during the second Industrial Revolution, whilst they intensified in the countries of the Third and Fourth World. Only in a few isolated cases did those countries manage to catch up with the level of technological development of industrial nations.
Politically, the second Industrial Revolution was characterised by the deepening of the division of the world into groups of states at loner’s heads in Third the East-West conflict as well as by its subdivision into the First. Second, Third and Fourth World as a result of economic developments.
The Third Industrial Revolution, the transition to the high-tech age. began in the second half of the 1980s. Science became the most important productive force. This development was characterized by computer-controlled production facilities in the factories of industrial nations.
Attention was turned to efforts to repair the damage done to the environment. The technical groundwork for the move from near-Earth space travel to the exploration of the whole solar system began. High-tech weapons first used in great numbers in the second Gulf war—in the “Desert Storm” operation at the beginning of 1991—are increasingly replacing nuclear weapons. The nuclear arsenals of Russia and the USA are undergoing a process of disarmament as a result of the conclusion of the START II Treaty.
The social and political gap between North and South is continuing to widen. Whilst living standards in the industrial nations are constantly rising large areas of the Third World are becoming increasingly impoverished.
Politically, the third Industrial Revolution is characterised by the end of the East-West confrontation. The communist bloc collapsed because it could no longer hold its own in the technological race with the Western industrial nations and because it was not prepared to grant its citizens more civil rights and liberties.
Micro-electronics, with its revolutionary technological developments, is increasingly becoming a strategic industry in the leading industrial nations. In other words, the economic efficiency of a country or economic area is increasingly dependent on the degree of development of its micro-electronics sector.
For this reason, not ‘only do economic ministries constantly focus their attention on this sector, but leading producers are also increasingly forming national and international alliances in order to secure a leading position in the capital-intensive scientific and technological race for the technologies of the future.
A new response time world record of 20 billion bits (the smallest digital information unit) per second was achieved using silicon chips in September 1990 (the working group of Professor Hans Martin Rein of Bochum in cooperation With the Hewlett Packard Company of Palo Alto, California). The growing efficiency of the microelectronics sector makes it possible to scale new heights in many fields of research.
Science is gaining access to new areas with the potential to turn into reality, technologies which have long been the stuff of dreams. A few examples will suffice: at the beginning of November 1991, in the English town of Culham nuclear fusion was maintained for several seconds for the first time (the Joint Torns Project). In 50 years it may be possible to use this method of “taming the sun’s fire” to solve mankind’s energy problems.
In photovoltaic’s (turning the sun’s energy into electric power), a quantum leap in technical applicability has also been achieved thanks, for example, to the development of new superconductive materials which offer electricity virtually no resistance. Experts hope in the foreseeable future to be able to store the energy collected in summer using photovoltaic’s and then not call-on it until winter.
The traffic problems of the industrial nations have been alleviated using a computer-controlled traffic monitoring and control system known as “Prometheus”.
Digital traffic radio and computer road maps controlled via contact strips in -the roads are intended to facilitate intelligent traffic management with individual traffic control. Automatic speed guidelines and distance warnings could help to prevent traffic jams. Car manufacturers could equip new ears with the necessary electronics by 1995. However, it is doubtful whether the contact slides required can be fitted on roads by then. “Prometheus” is now about to be tested.
New technological advances have also been used to develop and produce high-tech weapons systems. In the second Gulf War, the USA for the first time used cruise missiles, “intelligent” medium-range missiles, which can fly below the radar system and destroy their targets with great precision.
The US Air Force’s Stealth programme grew out of the “Have Blue” research programme of the early 1970s. The First photograph of a Stealth plane, which can barely be placed up by the radar system, was published in November 1988.
The B-2 strategic bomber, first flown in 1989, is at the development stage. The idea behind this plane, an ATB (advanced technology bomber) with Stealth properties, is that it should be guided by a laser and radar installed on a satellite so that the electromagnetic waves of its own target pick-up equipment cannot “give it away”.
Virtually every household appliance, modern car or up-to-date production system in a factory today contains micro-electronic components which are decisive for its efficiency. The striking progress in communication technologies, air and space travel and medicine and in the increasing scope for using new technologies to clean up the environment should not be overlooked either.
The Third Industrial Revolution is giving impetus to the dynamic economic .development of the leading industrial nations. They are achieving a computer-controlled dimension of production, which is giving rise to a new economic structure. Quantitative growth is being replaced by qualitative growth. Many of mankind’s pressing problems can be tackled using new scientific and technical advances.
The quality of life of those living in the high-tech states will continue to improve. The negative implications include the widening economic gap in levels of technological development between the high-tech states and most Third World countries, which will accentuate still further the political tensions between the North and the South.