The “Fourth Industrial Revolution” also known as 4IR is a term coined in 2016 by German economist Klaus Schwab. It’s often used to describe the technology revolution that the world is currently going through.
But there is growing criticism, particularly in the global south, of how it’s framed. Many are questioning whether it should be considered a revolution at all.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution, according to one view, is a very simplistic narrative that advances a distinct political agenda. It is a kind of exploitation that is being sold as progress. The narrative is being advanced to achieve a specific economic outcome – at the expense of many people in the global south.
Many innovations are happening in the digital technological space. But do they reorganise production and social relations, or do they just entrench past forms of inequality?
Consider the case of the ride-hailing app Uber. It may sound like enticing work for drivers, but there’s more to it. Drivers may face bad working conditions, penalties and other challenges without the security of human resources behind them.
In a podcast, Ruth Castel-Branco, manager of the Future of Work(ers) research project at the University of the Witwatersrand, joins Nanjala Nyabola, a storyteller and political analyst, in taking us through the seductive idea of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.