The Third Wave of Industrialization

Alf Rehn is is Chair of Management and Organization (Åbo Akademi University) and formerly Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (KTH, Stockholm), and in a recent column he postulates the future for Finland, and by implication the rest of the world. 
 
Rehn writes of the growing troubles in our world today, including climate change, financial crises and globalization where the solutions are starting to be redefined in quite a different manner than before. He says: 
 
the old chestnuts of ‘high-tech will save us’ and ‘innovation will reign supreme’ are starting to look suspiciously worn out. Increasingly, the starting-point of the economy of the future looks like a perfect storm, one in which the most fundamental truths of business need to be questioned. 
 
His conclusion is that we are moving into an "Economy of Less", in which we consume more economically, seek sustainability, produce locally, etc. He proposes that we're moving into a third wave of industrialization, after the first wave (The Service Economy) and the second wave (The Information Economy). The Third Wave, he says:
 
will be defined by a move away from corporations prescribing the framework within which consumption occurs, a move where control over communication can no longer be upheld and where control over production moves much closer to end consumers. 
 
But how will this happen?
 
The real story is that technology and society are developing together in a way which makes old notions of control and lock-in effects outdated. Instead, we’re seeing how technologies that are now seen as marginal and/or hypothetical – things such as fabbing, 3D-printing, synthetic biology, ubiquitous computing and so on – are pointing to a future in which the quest for sustainability and advanced technology have together created a situation where the old industrial model of mass production for mass consumption has given way to something far more decentralized and thus less easy to control. 
 
And that's where it gets a little scary, as existing industries will get protective.  

 

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