Towards Human-Centric Futures: Machine Capabilities & Coordination as a Basis for a Reformulated 4IR

Posted: 6 Jan 2021 Last revised: 5 May 2021

See all articles by Nigel P. Melville

Nigel P. Melville

University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business; University of Michigan, College of Engineering

Lionel Robert

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - School of Information

Date Written: May 1, 2021

Abstract

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

Melville, Nigel P. and Robert, Lionel, Towards Human-Centric Futures: Machine Capabilities & Coordination as a Basis for a Reformulated 4IR (May 1, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3728052 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3728052

Nigel P. Melville (Contact Author)

University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business ( email )

701 Tappan Street
Ann Arbor, MI MI 48109
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.nigelpmelville.com/

University of Michigan, College of Engineering ( email )

Ann Arbor, MI
United States

HOME PAGE: http://isd.engin.umich.edu/graduate-degree-programs/design-science/

Lionel Robert

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - School of Information ( email )

4388 North Quad
105 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1092
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.si.umich.edu/people/lionel-robert

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