Industrial revolutions are key for offering us products for improving our quality of living standards. However, the consumption of those products depletes our fixed stock of resources and damages the environment. Successive industrial revolutions have made it worse. Hence, we need to focus on ideas for making products better, by consuming fewer resources and making less damage to the environment. However, such progress, invariably, invariably reduces labor demand, subsequently, increasing inequality. Hence sustainable development through industrial revolutions sounds oxymoron. To overcome it, we need to focus on a unified theory of innovation for systematically generating and trading ideas, so that ordinary people can show extraordinary magical innovation. performance.
Is sustainable development through industrial revolutions an oxymoron? We are innovating products to get our jobs done better. Our quality of living standards depends on the consumption of these innovations. For continued advancement, we are in a race of innovating more products for getting an increasing number of jobs done better. And moreover, a growing number of fellow human beings are adopting them for uplifting their quality of living standards. In doing so, we are inventing technologies and driving waves of innovation, giving birth to industrial revolutions. Each successive industrial revolution is expanding the list of innovations and their consumption. Hence, industrial revolutions are increasing the demand for natural resources. The extraction and processing of raw materials for production and deployment of innovations are depleting the resource stock and damaging the environment. Consequentially, it has been raising questions about sustainable development through the industrial revolution.
The trend of natural resource stock depletion and environmental degradation raises the concern of sustainable development through industrial revolutions
According to EU research findings, global material extraction has increased 14 times from 1900 to 2015—from 6 billion tonnes in 1990 to about 84 billion tonnes in 2015. This trend will likely accelerate for having further increase by 119 % by 2050. Moreover, the majority of resources used today are non-renewable and are set to become increasingly scarce given rising demand and unsustainable consumption patterns. For example, for meeting our endless desire for electrical and electronic products, as of 2015, between 45 and 60 billion tons of resources (metals, rare earth elements, and minerals) for e-products were extracted globally every year. This figure will likely increase to 140 billion tons by 2050. Moreover, IoT, cryptocurrencies, cloud computing, supercomputers, and all other electronics-related technologies are highly increasing energy consumption.
Although the global transition to a low-carbon economy is our hope for sustainable development, a large deployment of wind turbines, photovoltaic panels, and electric vehicles will require some metals’ global production to increase at least 12-fold by 2050 compared to the output of 2015. In this list, neodymium, terbium, indium, dysprosium, praseodymium, lithium, cobalt, and graphite stand out. The progression of industrial revolutions has a strong linkage with the emission of CO2. Data indicate that successive industrial revolutions have been accelerating CO2 emissions. No doubt, increasing resource consumption and CO2 emission cannot keep continuing our development progression. Hence, our challenge has been to reduce natural resource needs and environmental degradation.
Fortunately, ideas out of scientific discoveries and technological inventions offer us the option to reduce resource need and lower envelopment damage. Hence, our focus should be on generating and adding more ideas to make products better, less natural resource consuming, and less damaging. However, invariably, it reduces labor requirement—raising another oxymoron issue.
Industrial Revolutions through sustainable development in Perspective
Getting jobs done better is at the core of human beings’ pursuit of having a better quality of life. Hence, we have been after ideas for innovating products. These products vary from metal tools to smartphones. To produce and use those products, we need natural resources, energy, and also labor. Hence, there is a natural correlation between the supply of products for serving our purposes, natural resource stock depletion, and the environment’s damage. Fortunately, through ideas, we can weaken this correlation.
The first industrial revolution came up with the steam engine idea and its usages for innovating an array of products. These products accelerated the natural resource consumption and degradation of the environment. It not only contributed to the production and burning of coal, but also to the expansion of consumption of other natural resources.
The invention of the internal combustion engine and electric power led to a series of innovations. Subsequently, they kept expanding the demand for natural resources. The 3rd industrial revolution emerged in the 1950s through innovation and diffusion of an array of electrical, electronics, computer, and communication products. One of the notable ones is the mobile phone handsets. Consumption of these products has accelerated the consumption of many metals and also the production of e-waste. It’s very clear that successive industrial revolutions have been increasing natural resource consumption and environmental degradation.
Hence, to make the progression of the quality of life through the consummation of technology innovations sustainable, the fourth industrial revolution should focus on reducing natural resource requirements to produce and consume the product. As ideas can substitute natural resources and environmental damage, there will be increasing demand for ideas to overcome natural resource scarcity.
Innovation challenges and possibilities for reducing natural resource consumption and getting jobs done better
At the core of industrial revolutions has been to offer us additional innovations, and also better innovations. We need ideas to innovate products. For making copies of these innovations, we need natural resources and also labor. The increasing demand for innovations is expanding the trade of labor and natural resources. There appears to be no limit to advancing the quality of living standards through the innovation and consumption of additional products. On the other hand, a growing number of fellow human beings are joining the league of uplifting living standards through the consumption of innovations.
Hence, our challenge has been to reduce natural resource consumption in producing and consuming each copy of products. On the other hand, we should also improve each of those products’ utility to get our job done better. To address this challenge, innovation is the only possibility. Technology ideas give us the opportunity of reducing resource consumption in replicating and consuming products. However, such progress in quality advancement and cost reduction also contribute to growth in consumption. Our challenge has been to have the innovation force far greater than the consumption. We must reduce natural resource consumption and environmental degradation while keeping improving the quality of living standards through the growing diffusion of better products.
Focus on ideas for sustainable development through industrial revolutions
Data are giving a clear indication that we are progressing towards growing natural resource scarcity and aggravating the environmental situation. On the other hand, growing fellow human beings are demanding an increasing supply of industrial products for improving the quality of living standards. Hence, the fourth industrial revolution’s focus will shift to producing and adding ideas for reducing resource need and environmental damage while increasing the utility. For addressing this mega challenge, we need to increase the supply of quality ideas consistently. However, at present, the path of profiting from ideas is magical.
Furthermore, only a handful of individuals, firms, and countries have monopolized it. Increasing dependence on ideas runs the risk of expanding inequality. We should also keep in mind that increasing the role of ideas in reducing natural resources invariably decreases labor demand. Decreasing labor demand creates a discontinuity in the development pathways of many countries and increases inequality further.
Our continued prosperity depends on our progress in substituting natural resources with a profitable trade of ideas. On the other hand, we must deal with continued inequality. Hence, we need to empower every country to participate in the global trade of ideas. They should profit from producing and adding ideas in making products better and less resource-consuming. However, at present, innovation remains a magical act of a few genius people. How can we systemically empower individuals, firms, and countries to profit from ideas? Hence, we need to focus on a unified theory of innovation. We should offer a methodology for systematically generating ideas for empowering ordinary people to show extraordinary performance in innovation. In fact, this progress is vital for empowering the human race to keep enjoying a better quality of life without endangering the future.