We are on the brink of a fourth industrial revolution that will produce rapid and momentous changes to our society and economy, according to a technology leader who will speak next Thursday at Livermore’s Bankhead Theater.
Every person and organization will be affected by the changes, and those who plan for them are far more likely to prosper than those who do not, according to the speaker, Jonathan Reichenthal.
Reichenthal is an author, teacher and podcast host with nearly 30 years of experience advising governments and companies about emerging technologies and trends.
His talk, titled “The Fourth Industrial Revolution: Winners and Losers,” is scheduled to start at the Bankhead at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 10. It is part of the Rae Dorough Speaker Series.
Reichenthal believes there have been three industrial revolutions to date, with the fourth just starting to emerge.
He traces the first to the introduction of the steam engine in the 1700s. Dramatic workplace changes altered entire societies, from living patterns to education to agriculture and health, he believes.
The introduction of electricity a century later drove the second industrial revolution, whose effects are still with us, he believes.
“Without electricity, there’s no such thing as the modern world,” he said in a recent interview. “It’s powering everything that’s happening right now.”
We are experiencing the third industrial revolution today, he says. It began with the introduction of computers and has proceeded in waves, such as dramatic changes in communication technologies and the growth of electronic commerce.
Only about half the world has participated in this revolution, however, Reichenthal said in a recent talk. “It’s very different to have 3.6 billion people connected (via the Internet) versus a number approaching 8 billion.”
The fourth industrial revolution is beginning to emerge from the third as more of the world is connected, he believes.
The new revolution will see not merely continued growth of digital technologies, but their exponential rise and application everywhere.
Commercial and communications trends that once took decades are starting to happen within days and hours, he says.
As an example, he cites decreasing lengths of time for different industries to reach a client base of 50 million people.
It took 64 years for the airline industry to develop 50 million customers, he says. It took 12 years for the mobile phone industry to see that many customers; one year for the Chinese messaging app WeChat; and 19 days for the augmented reality game Pokemon Go.
He observed that a few lines of innovative code introduced in Silicon Valley can drive changes in computer controlled systems all over the world in hours.
Industries and nations that foresee and take advantage of opportunities in robotics, artificial intelligence and additive manufacturing will prosper. For example, he forecasts the economic rise of Vietnam, the Philippines and Nigeria.
He believes that governments will be forced to change the way they provide services, as constituents demand the convenience of digital communications and processing. He cites California’s DMV, with its long lines and paperwork filled out by hand, as an example of an agency that will eventually have to be streamlined.
On a topic that is currently driving passions around the world, he believes that businesses and governments will be forced to factor in extreme weather, flooding and other consequences of climate change as they plan for the future.
Reichenthal is the former chief information officer for Palo Alto, one of the top digital cities in the U.S. He has won a variety of awards and honors for his technology forecasting.
For example, according to an online biography, he was named one of the top 20 most influential chief information officers in the U.S. in 2016. The following year, he was chosen one of the top 100 CIOs in the world.
He is a writer and an adjunct professor at San Francisco State University. His work has been featured in broadcast media as well as in print, including NBC and CNBC television, CBS and National Public Radio, the Wall Street Journal and Computerworld magazine.
He is cohost of the podcast, “Drinking Wine Talking Tech.”
Tickets for his Bankhead talk are available online at http://raedoroughspeakerseries.org/speaker1/. They may also be purchased at the Bankhead Theater box office, 2400 First Street, Livermore, Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 6 p.m., or by calling (925) 373-6800.