How did industrial technology change the world?
Posted On June 18, 2021
Posted March 10, 2019 11:05:47A little over two years ago, a group of American engineers and scientists founded the Industrial Revolution Institute (IRI), a think tank focused on the future of industrial technology.
The institute, which is based at the University of California, Berkeley, was launched by the US government in December 2020 to promote the idea of “innovation in information and communication technology” (ICT).
Its inaugural report, titled “The Industrial Revolution and the Future of Information and Communications”, said the industrial revolution would “have profound and transformative consequences for human societies, as well as on our ability to live with the challenges of the 21st century”.
It was intended to “help guide policymakers and the public in making informed decisions about how to shape the future”, and was backed by US President Donald Trump.
The IRI report was published on March 13, 2020, by the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank founded by Republican businessmen and billionaires.
It focused on US policy priorities for the next decade, and was based on a 2015 assessment by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
The OECD has since issued a more comprehensive assessment of the impact of the industrial era on the world economy.
The latest edition, which covers the period from 2020 to 2040, published in December, also identified the need for “new approaches to managing and sharing information and communications technology”, which were “critical to ensuring that the information and data that people share and use are reliable and useful”.
“Information technology, like all forms of innovation, is a complex field,” the report said.
“The challenges and opportunities that will shape this future will depend on how effectively we manage the information technologies we use, as we transition to a new era of data and information technology.”
This is the first time the IRI has been published in English.
The group has a long history of pushing its agenda, which includes promoting the idea that the “first industrial revolution” was the result of human invention and that “inventors created the first modern industrial technologies”.
It argues that technology will “change society” in ways that will “contribute to betterment and prosperity”.
The report was released after a decade of debate on how to respond to the rise of the Internet and social media, which are often described as a “game changer”.
But it was also criticised by some scientists for failing to mention the social impacts of technology on workers and the environment.
“What this report lacks in breadth it more than makes up for in depth,” said Richard Smith, a professor of engineering and information science at the US Air Force Academy and the director of the Institute for Social and Policy Innovation at the Rand Corporation, a think-tank.
“I think the IRII needs to be updated to reflect this, as it fails to acknowledge the enormous economic impact of technology.”
“The IRII fails to recognise that the industrial Revolution is about creating a new social and political order that is not reliant on a technology-driven society, but rather on a culture that respects, values and uses the creative potential of human ingenuity and innovation,” Smith told The New York Times.
“It fails to consider the impact that a society can have on its own environment and how that will impact upon the well-being of those living in it.”
The IRII report also focused on a range of issues that the organisation has highlighted as “key challenges” for the future, including climate change, globalisation, trade and cybersecurity.
In an interview with The Guardian, its president and co-founder, Richard Painter, argued that the report was “biased in favour of the benefits of technology” and “skeptical” about the benefits and dangers of artificial intelligence.
“One of the most insidious things about this report is that it takes its cues from the mainstream media and assumes that everyone is following the same path,” Painter said.
“[The] mainstream media has not given us enough information about what is happening, what is actually happening, the risks and the rewards of this technology.”
The report also questioned whether the industrial revolutions were just about technology, or whether it was a broader cultural shift that would affect everyone, from the top down.
“A cultural shift is the inevitable result of an economic system that relies on large numbers of people working in the same place, doing the same job,” Painter wrote.
“If this process is reversed, we would have a much different world, a far different future.”
The most recent edition of the report has also been criticised by the president of the Industrial Research Association (IRA), who called the report “a waste of time” and a “sad reflection on the direction of the organisation”.
“The real purpose of the IRIA is to promote an inclusive and forward-looking vision for the Industrial Age and to help shape the world of tomorrow,” IRA president Tom McGovern told the New York Daily News.
“IRI has become a propaganda arm for Big Tech and a way to promote a climate