Towards Human-Centric Futures: Machine Capabilities & Coordination as a Basis for a Reformulated 4IR
Posted: 6 Jan 2021 Last revised: 5 May 2021
Date Written: May 1, 2021
The fourth industrial revolution (4IR) describes productivity-enhancing industrial innovations enabled by rapid technological progress and combinations of digital technologies. Hundreds of information systems articles and thousands in other disciplines invoke this techno-economic 4IR narrative uncritically. The result is a limited understanding of relevant phenomena, such as damage to humans and impacts on ecological sustainability. To address this problem, we develop an alternative formulation of the current era of technology-enabled change. Our approach is based on a nomenclature conceptualization involving features and affordances. We propose two principal facets of the current era of technology-enabled change: machine capabilities (enhanced decision making, human-centric interactions, and generativity) and machine-to-machine coordination (extensible resource sharing and system fusion). We explore implications of the new 4IR framing from various perspectives, including the need to develop research focusing on damaging impacts, opportunities for industry, and potential criticisms. We conclude that the current era of technology-enabled change may indeed come to be understood as the beginning years of a new industrial revolution - for good and ill.
Keywords: Fourth industrial revolution, machine capabilities and coordination, damage, value.
JEL Classification: M15, O30, O32
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation