Technological change has significantly transformed the labour scenario as the result of the diffusion of innovative practices at the micro-level. The technological impact on the future of work was deeply analysed by Jeremy Rifkin. According to him, we are facing a new phase of history – Third Industrial Revolution – that is characterized by the steady and inevitable decline of jobs in the production and marketing of goods and services.
Today, the Third Industrial Revolution is a convergence of internet and renewable energy. The internet technology and renewable energies are currently starting to merge in order to build a new infrastructure for a Third Industrial Revolution (TIR) that will change the distribution of economic power in the 21st century. Indeed, changes in power will provoke a fundamental reordering of human relationships – from hierarchical to lateral power – that will impact the way we conduct economic and social activities.
The intelligent TIR infrastructure—the Internet of Things—will virtually connect every aspect of economic and social life via sensors and software to the TIR platform. The connections will feed Big Data to every node—businesses, homes, vehicles, etc. — in real time. In turn, the Big Data will be analysed with advanced analytics, transformed into predictive algorithms, and programmed into automated systems. Accordingly Rifkin, this process will improve efficiencies, increase productivity, and reduce the marginal cost of producing and delivering a full range of goods and services across the entire economy.
Many leading global IT companies are already working on the build-out of the Internet of Things infrastructure for a Third Industrial Revolution. Among the initiatives, we can highlight GE’s “Industrial Internet”, Cisco’s “Internet of Things”, IBM’s “Smarter Planet” and Siemen’s “Sustainable Cities”. These initiatives aim to bring online an intelligent infrastructure that can connect the world economy in a global “neural network” designed to be open, distributive and collaborative. As a result, this network will allow anyone, anywhere, and at any time, the opportunity to access the Big Data to create new apps for managing daily lives.
On behalf of this high-technology revolution, the number of people underemployed or without work will rise sharply since computers, robotics, telecommunications, and other cutting-edge technologies are replacing human beings in manufacturing, retail, and financial services, transportation, agriculture, and the government sector. In truth, in an increasingly automated world, workers are being polarized into two forces: on one side, an elite that controls and manages the high-tech global economy; and on the other side, a growing numbers of displaced workers who have few prospects for job opportunities that could fulfill human needs.
Rifkin, Jeremy (2011) The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power Is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World. Palgrave Macmillan