If you’ve been paying attention to the current developments of Industry 4.0, you’re aware that it is seeking to capitalize on the assets of the information age in the hopes of making all things smart. It’s no longer just about your phones, but your homes, cars, cities, and farms.
But where is this smart technology and innovation going? Will it ultimately be the digitization and integration of all vertical and horizontal value chains across all domains? Imagine the ability to synchronize all of this within a society. What if the cyber-physical reality can make smart humans – the dawn of the transhuman age
Thinking about our past…
Recently after reading a book entitled, “The Unsettling of America” by Wendell Berry, I was forced to wrestle with some tough questions I wasn’t prepared for. As he unpacked the historical realities of exploitation in the conquest of the Americas by various European countries, he began to highlight what was necessary to ensure their European ideals, including an ever-expanding economy. There was an insatiable appetite for more. The goal was imperialism. It now became almost a foreign idea to settle and come to rest in a place – in fact it was simply unimaginable. Why constrain yourself if there was more that was within reach?
Greed and selfishness marked these conquests. It was buried deep in the heart of the movement. But what intrigues me most is what is in the DNA that has moved us from a largely agrarian society to that of an industrial one? What has driven society out of the countryside and into the cities? One major contributor was the thought experiment which eventually became capitalism. Imperialism and capitalism were great business partners, and they have continued to feed each other in a closed system.
One of the major results of the agricultural and industrial revolutions was the sudden surplus of economies of scale. There were huge savings in costs gained by an increased level of production. At one point crop production grew 5 fold in Great Britain with the introduction of the Jethro Tull’s seed drill in the 1700s. Other inventions like the seed drill began to spring up across other domains as well and workshops grew into factories. With these new realities, would a greater segment of the population be able to experience the lifestyles of those in government and the wealthy nobles?
Market economies have existed since the beginning of time, through the simple idea of trade of goods or services for something that was needed or wanted. By the 19th century, the concept of free markets developed organically. It was first described as laissez-faire or hands-off (in terms of government control). There was an “invisible hand” which seemed to create order out of the supply and demand.
Economies of scale had greatly enhanced the ability to supply goods and services. This lowered the price and simultaneously increased demand because it was now more affordable to a broader market. Now almost three centuries later we’re beginning to struggle with the implications of an ever-expanding economy. Is it healthy? Why has this closed system been able to continually feed itself and flourish? Is there an end to it?
How long can we continue to pursue these ideals of affluence, comfort, mobility, and leisure? More pointedly can/should this concept go on indefinitely?
What is at the heart of an economy anyways, and would it always have some degree of selfishness, greed, and exploitation? and what should keep these things in check?
Looking into the future…
There is an exhilarating promise made in the gospel (good news) of the industrial revolution, that is similar to that of a muscle car. You lift the hood on that sleek and sexy candy apple red warrior, while your friend romps on the gas pedal, and your heart almost skips a beat in the mouth of that roaring lion. And if you’re ever in the driver’s seat on a long straightaway and you mash it to the floor… well it’s sure to put a smile on your face, a lump in your throat and you’ll be gripping the steering wheel real tight!
The gospel of industrialization has continued to tout the most epic economic engines of all time. When given enough straight away they have catapulted whole societies with their gains in productivity, economic growth, and capacity for business success. And now the Gospel of Industry 4.0 is here.
Cognizant says, ” With its vision of seamless connections, insights, and workflows from the factory floor to product delivery and beyond, the promise of Industry 4.0 is compelling: to unlock hidden business value through the merging of the digital and physical worlds. ”
The merging of digital and physical worlds will unlock hidden business value – that is the promise.
Across the whole world, the continued progressive industrialization has not only taken root but has become a fully grown tree bearing much fruit. Ironically, as industrialization has continued to rise, the Church and its Gospel of the Kingdom of God have retreated further and further into the marginal fringes of irrelevance. To that end, the vast majority of that modern world goes about their daily affairs oblivious to any practical implications of the rule and reign of God. In a relatively brief 250-year history, industrialization has marched ever forward into the future uniting the clans, in its evangelistic conquest to subdue and have dominion over all domains.
In the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray he says, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” But now in our day, the church is largely silent in revealing what God’s kingdom looks like in practice across almost every domain. People don’t get to see what the will of the Father looks like on earth as it is in heaven. It would appear that we’re too afraid of being on the wrong side of history.
Here are the questions I find myself struggling with:
Are the motives of this campaign and the objectives of this Industry 4.0 still imperialism?
What is the prevailing view of an ever-expanding segment of mankind regarding their relationship with work and play, and how has it fueled Industry 4.0?
What is our current mindset towards the cornucopia of affluent recreation and leisure?
And to what point, to what end, will there ever be a point when we settle down into peaceful societies that are both sustainable and viable… living as simply as possible and no less?
Is it just me, or does it not seem that the intent of Industry 4.0 might be the undermining of the rule and reign of God’s authority over all of creation? Is it bent on stripping the story of God found in the Bible of any relevance?
What if God’s will creates a platform for economies and markets that are marked by different values and principles than the ones which we are currently building upon?