The reason for this title was that we are now facing the 4th Industrial Revolution and one that will present us with major challenges. However, in the last two such revolutions we have failed to fully address these challenges in a proactive manner. Rather we have followed Einstein’s definition of stupidity that it is ‘doing the same thing and expecting a different result’! This book seeks to highlight the need for an entrepreneurial approach to tackling these problems this time and not to make the same mistake.
Although the word entrepreneur has been around for a few centuries now, it has only recently become accepted as a respectable concept to be admired rather than ignored.
For a long time the basis of entrepreneurial activity was the slightly mad boffin. Indeed, Trevor Baylis, the inventor of the clockwork radio that allowed health information to reach remote African villages once remarked that there was a good reason that inventors were called mad scientists.
Trevor pointed out that the patent laws meant that one could not talk about an idea until it had been patented, otherwise patenting would not be allowed. Therefore, the only person that the inventor could talk to was himself or herself. By definition, people that go around talking to themselves must be mad!
Although not termed entrepreneurs at the time, those that took the invention of the steam engine to produce the manufacturing facilities of the First Industrial Revolution were probably the first modern day entrepreneurs.
The second industrial revolution became known as the technological revolution because of its use of electricity and petroleum to fuel major industrialisation. Again, the entrepreneurs were the ones that saw the potential of these new forms of power to increase industrial production.
The most obvious example from this time was the Ford Motor Company, where Henry Ford used the new technologies, together with the conveyor belt already used elsewhere, to mass-produced the Model T Ford.
The third industrial revolution was the computer revolution, where the use of computers created a further impact on industry. We suddenly saw computers used to deliver complex control systems and for robotic machines to take the place of workers on the production line.
All of these three revolutions had impacts far greater than in just the industries themselves. Each had major social implications and disadvantages as well as benefits.
As a consequence, these revolutions all created impacts for individuals as well as for governments, and both were equally slow to identify potential impacts and to react to them.
We now face the fourth industrial revolution that could arguably become the most significant of all. This is the revolution that incorporates robotics, voice recognition, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, the Internet of things and mobile computing amongst others.
Clearly, it is impossible to respond to the challenges that each of the first three industrial revolutions presented so long after the event, but it is possible to learn from them and to identify the failure to respond quickly in the past so that we maximise the opportunities of the 4thIndustrial Revolution and minimise the potential risks.
Many of the potential risks are already beginning to appear but to date there is little evidence that there is sufficient action being taken to control or eliminate them.
Each revolution in the past has created major social change as well as increased wealth for many and unemployment for others. In its wake it has created reactive solutions and minor tweaks to existing provision at a government level and an ostrich like mentality in the majority of individuals.
But each of these three previous industrial revolutions took place at a time of relatively stable world order, with a less well-informed younger population and a less technically knowledgeable youth.
There is every indication that most parents and people in governments are lagging behind in understanding and awareness of what is happening and the speed at which it is happening.
This book looks at the lessons of the past, the concerns for the future, the potential benefits for the future and the actions that need to be taken in order to maximise benefits whilst minimising the potential risks.
Clearly, changing governments is not the role of a single book, but it is possible to put entrepreneurship back into a position where it helps to solve the problems rather than creating them.
Therefore this book will seek to widen the view of entrepreneurship to cover areas such as sustainability, creative arts, social entrepreneurship and combinations of these. It will not denigrate the work of entrepreneurs that are capable of creating large numbers of employment opportunities, nor will it attempt to change the education system; much as it may need it.
But it will seek to encourage people to see not only the value of alternative forms of entrepreneurship but, in some cases, demonstrate the longterm benefits over what has become to be recognised as traditional entrepreneurship.