The current free market economy is centrally managed. It is mainly governments and multinationals that call the shots. Goods are produced centrally and then distributed worldwide. Again and again we see multinationals controlling the market, whether it's search engines (Google, Bing), soft drinks (Coca Cola, Pepsi), social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram), bananas (Dole, Chiquita, Fresh Del Monte), pharmaceuticals (Pfizer, Novartis, Roche) or agricultural seeds (Monsanto, Syngenta). But change is imminent, because thanks to things like internet, new players are getting the space they need.
Almost every day, innovative start-ups are seeing the light of day. Sometimes they fizzle out, sometimes they create a new reality. The heady growth of Airbnb for example, broke open the traditional hotel industry. The same is true for in the taxi branch. Both services took-off through the internet. In the future we are going to see more of this type of initiative. We, the consumer, benefit from that. On the one hand through innovations in supply, on the other because increasingly customization will be the norm. The rise of robots, 3D printing and the use of big data play an important role in this.
In the 20th century globalization was the thing, in the 21st century there is more room for the local. ‘Glocalization' is the new motto, we are citizens of the world, with local roots. It is no surprise that many restaurants present themselves with ‘authentic dishes’ and ‘local ingredients’. With this development, the role of the city will only get bigger. By combining high value knowledge (big data) and technology (3D printing, robots) the city is given the opportunity to produce at local level. The city of the future has a circular character and is less dependent on long supply lines for raw materials and (end) products.
Whether it's food, energy or consumer products, the fourth industrial revolution will change our lives. And yes, that causes us to question, and be somewhat sceptical. It is not self-evident that all changes will be good for the quality of our lives. We will have to keep a sharp eye on the social effects, for example, of robotics or artificial intelligence. Still, there's more reason to embrace the future than to fear it. The previous industrial revolution – the rise of the steam engine – was viewed suspiciously, but that was mainly because of it being unknown: people didn't know what to expect. In the end, the benefits were undeniable: shorter working hours, healthier work, more and better food, better housing and ultimately a lower death rate. In short: more quality of life.
In general, the fourth industrial revolution will make our lives more pleasant. Think of the self-driving car, the care robot and the vacuuming robot. Even preparing meals can be outsourced, because the first robot chef has already arrived. If robots do most of the work, we will all work less hours. There will be more time for social relationships and personal development. That's the biggest gain from the new industrial revolution: more room for the individual, more room to follow your passion, more quality of life. Let the future begin.
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