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Technological revolution


A technological revolution is a period in which one or more technologies is replaced by another, novel technology in a short amount of time. It is an era of accelerated technological progress characterized by new innovations whose rapid application and diffusion typically cause an abrupt change in society.

The consequences of a technological revolution are not necessarily positive. For example, innovations, such as the use of coal as an energy source, can have negative environmental impact and cause technological unemployment. Schumpeter described this contradictory nature of technological revolution, creative destruction. The concept of technological revolution is based on the idea that technological progress is not linear but undulatory.

The most well-known example of a technological revolution was the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, the scientific-technical revolution about 19501960, the Neolithic revolution, the Digital Revolution and so on. The notion of "technological revolution" is frequently overused, therefore it is not easy to define which technological revolutions having occurred during world history were really crucial and influenced not only one segment of human activity, but had a universal impact. One universal technological revolution should be composed of several sectoral technological revolutions (in science, industry, transport and the like).

Every revolution utilizes something that is cheap. For instance, the Industrial Revolution had cheap coal for iron steam engines which led to production of Iron railways. The same applied in the technological revolution where there was cheap microelectronics for computers which thus progressed the internet. A combination of low-cost input and new infrastructures are at the core of each revolution to achieve their all pervasive impact.

The phrase Fourth Industrial Revolution was first introduced by Klaus Schwab, the executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, in a 2015 article in Foreign Affairs, "Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution" was the theme of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2016 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland. On October 10, 2016, the Forum announced the opening of its Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in San Francisco. This was also subject and title of Schwab's 2016 book. Schwab includes in this fourth era technologies that combine hardware, software, and biology (cyber-physical systems), and emphasizes advances in communication and connectivity. Schwab expects this era to be marked by breakthroughs in emerging technologies in fields such as robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, quantum computing, biotechnology, the internet of things, the industrial internet of things (IIoT), decentralized consensus, fifth-generation wireless technologies (5G), 3D printing and fully autonomous vehicles.

Sometimes the notion of "technological revolution" is used for the Second Industrial Revolution in the period about 1900, but in this case, the designation "technical revolution" would be more proper. When the notion of technical revolution is used in more general meaning it is almost identical with the technological revolution, but the technological revolution requires material changes in used tools, machines, energy sources, production processes. Technical revolution can be restricted to changes in management, organisation and so-called non-material technologies (e.g. a progress in mathematics or accounting).

The Commercial Revolution: a period of European economic expansion, colonialism and mercantilism which lasted from approximately the 16th century until the early 18th century.

The Price Revolution: a series of economic events from the second half of the 15th century to the first half of the 17th, the price revolution refers most specifically to the high rate of inflation that characterized the period across Western Europe.

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