Profound & Systemic Change

Before I jump into this week’s topic I would like to take a moment to recognize the efforts of our cofounder Dr. M.A. Greenstein as she steps down as Chief Innovation Officer next week.

RotoLab exists because of her efforts and I will never forget the conversations we had during the years building this company. Best of luck to you back east and with your next venture.

One of Dr. G’s many gifts to RotoLab was her ability to write, and coordinate writers, something I am now venturing into at a more public scale than ever before. As I transition into the role of editor it is my goal to build on the style and structure Dr. G pioneered with new topics and new contributors to reflect the ever-evolving mission of our company.

This blog has been built upon a combination of reporting on related events, new technologies, and near future, speculative fiction showcasing such talent as Madeleine Löfberg and Mark Onspaugh.

Under my leadership I plan to add  to these staples a renewed focus on the humanities, and otherwise human-centered pieces, reviews on books we’re reading that frame the conversation surrounding our mission goals, and original research on key topics. If you are interested in becoming a contributor please contact me.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution

“Of the many diverse and fascinating challenges we face today, the most intense and important is how to understand and shape the new technology revolution, which entails nothing less than a transformation of humankind.”

By Klaus Schwab

After reading Schwab’s book i felt it provided the perfect outline for me to speak on RotoLab’s purpose namely, producing turnkey solutions to wicked problems through the design and management of mission specific, cross-sector teams, supported by original research and private funding.

I will do this in two parts. This time I will outline the changes and the drivers pushing them forward and next time we will discuss solutions, again, focusing on human centered design, new technology development and innovation at an urban scale. We’ll also take a peek inside the EDGE program at SCI-Arc to learn their thoughts on these issues.

Profound and Systemic Change

We are at the beginning of a revolution that is fundamentally changing the way we live work learn and play. Connectivity, processing power, information accessibility, AI, robotics, virtual & augmented reality, IoT, 3D printing, quantum technology, and nanotechnology each have the ability to change life as we know it.

Nearly every stage of a product’s lifecycle has been disrupted from changing production through automation, robotics, etc, consumption of realtime digital and on-demand content, and automated and on-demand transportation and delivery of goods.

How is (or rather should) the role of government change in light of these lifestyle changes? What can education do to keep up with, and in more cases than not, compete with on-demand information?

The sheer scope of this revolution means all stakeholders will need to work together to design and implement new trajectories lest they be forced to respond to those imposed upon them by the technology itself.

What is different about this new world? Velocity is exponential, not linear. Breadth and depth of innovation is not only changing what and how we do things but also who we are. The impact of changing systems and new platforms means that unified change happens simultaneously on a global scale.

Technology & Society (Humanities)

The problem we have set before ourselves is human centered, not a task for any one stakeholder or sector but rather a multistakeholder coop across academic, social, political, national and industrial boundaries.


The first Industrial revolution happened from 1760 – 1840 CE and produced steam power, railroads and some of the first automated machines.

The second industrial revolution took place in the 19th and 20th centuries and introduced mass production, assembly lines and mass customizability.

The third industrial revolution or otherwise called the digital revolution began in the 1960’s with the invention of the modern computer, punch cards, floppy disks and eventually the personal computer.

What identifies the fourth industrial revolution as its own movement independent from the digital revolution is the sheer magnitude of computation and the breadth of applications from ubiquitous computing in IoT devices such as your toothbrush or refrigerator, smart factories, smart cities and in general global computation in line with that described by Benjamin Bratton in The Stack:

“Its properties are generic, extensible, and pliable; it provides modular recombinancy but only within the bounded set of its synthetic planes. It is an autogenerative parametric typology, but one that grows precisely through an initial subdivision of technologies into planar layers and then through an autocratic consolidation and rationalization of these through internal interfaces and protocols…

It is a machine literally circumscribing the planet, which not only pierces and distorts Westphalian models of state territory but also produces new spaces in its own image; clouds, networks, zones, social graphs, ecologies, megacities, formal and informal violence, weird theologies, all superimposed one on the other.”

As with its predecessors this industrial revolution is not without its negative components. In general the world lacks a common narrative for understanding the impact of 4th Revolution products. Information goods for example:

Detroit 1990

Market Cap $36B

Revenue $250B

1.2M Employees

Silicon Valley 2014

Market Cap $1.09T

Revenue $247B

137,000 Employees

Additionally, leadership needs to catch up to 4th Revolution models and begin seeing opportunity in disruption to implement future social reforms such as universal basic income.

“It’s not am I going to be disrupted but when and by whom.”

Drivers of Revolution

“Tangible innovations that result from interdependencies among different technologies are no longer science fiction. Today digital fabrication technologies interact with biology and some designers are mixing computational design, additive manufacturing, and synthetic biology to pioneer systems that involve the interaction among micro-organisms, our bodies, and even the spaces we inhabit.”

Klaus Schwab


The Fourth Industrial Revolution parallel’s our own list of change agents though we go further.*


  • Autonomous Vehicles
  • 3D Printing
  • Robotics
  • New Materials


  • Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Distributed Ledger Technology (Blockchain & Tangle)
  • On Demand Services


  • Human Genome Project
  • Synthetic Biology
  • CRISPR/Cas9

Impacts of Revolution

In such a rapidly evolving working environment, the ability to anticipate future employment trends and needs in terms of the knowledge and skills required to adapt, becomes even more critical for all stakeholders. These trends vary by industry and geography and so it is important to understand the industry-and country-specific outcomes of the fourth industrial revolution.

Klaus Schwab



It goes without saying that massive technological innovation generates massive economic growth. Who benefits from that growth is not so clear cut.

Age is a key factor in the fourth industrial revolution as people are living longer. Our current global population of 7.2 billion is expected to reach 8 billion by 2030 and 9 billion by 2050.

However as people are living longer they are still retiring at the same age leaving more years they must be supported by those still working.

Despite the number of new productivity tools being created everyday, productivity itself has remained stagnant. As the primary determinant of long term economic growth, this is an area to watch out for.

The economy itself is changing. Only 0.5% of the US workforce is employed by jobs created under the fourth industrial revolution while low skills begin disappearing in favor of higher skills capable of adapting to the changing market.

The nature of work itself is changing before our eyes. Rather than retain employees for the long term many companies are instead relying on the human cloud of freelance labor. Indeed many workers themselves prefer being independent contractors and this trend in turn supports the rise of such things as coworking, incubators and hubs.

Our Response

Next week we will review what is being done by us and other technology and design firms response to Fourth Revolution effects on the body, mind and culture of humanity.

Let me leave you with this. Beyond artificial intelligence we also need to focus creativity on emotional intelligence (hearth), inspired intelligence (soul), and physical intelligence (body) if we plan to emerge improved from where we stand today.


*RotoLab Drivers of Change will be available at in the coming weeks


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