Economics of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Economics of the Fourth Industrial Revolution : Internet, Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain

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This book applies cutting-edge economic analysis and social science to unpack the rich complexities and paradoxes of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The book takes the reader on a bold, refreshing, and informative tour through its technological drivers, its profound impact on human ecosystems, and its potential for sustainable human development. The overarching message to the reader is that the Fourth Industrial Revolution is not merely something to be feared or survived; rather, this dramatic collision of technologies, disciplines, and ideas presents a magnificent opportunity for a generation of new pioneers to rewrite "accepted rules" and find new avenues to empower billions of people to thrive. This book will help readers to discern the difference between disruption and transformation.

The reader will come away from this book with a deeply intuitive and highly contextual understanding of the core technological advances transforming the world as we know it. Beyond this, the reader will clearly appreciate the future impacts on our economies and social structures. Most importantly, the reader will receive an insightful and actionable set of guidelines to assist them in harnessing the Fourth Industrial Revolution so that both they and their communities may flourish.

The authors do not primarily seek to make prescriptions for government policy, but rather to speak directly to people about what they can do for themselves, their families, and their communities to be future-proofed and ready to adapt to life in a rapidly evolving world ecosystem.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 198 pages
  • 156 x 234 x 15.24mm | 390g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 13 Line drawings, black and white; 13 Illustrations, black and white
  • 1138366943
  • 9781138366947
  • 101,530

Table of contents

List of Figures


Chapter 1 Introduction: how and why to understand the fourth industrial revolution

1 Our approach to the economics of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

2 A preview of our arguments


Part I Industrial revolutions: what they are, why they matter, how to analyse them

Chapter 2 Industrial revolutions past, present and future: a brief overview of how we got here and where we're going

1 From economic stagnation to economic growth

2 Malthusian dynamics and the pre-growth era

3 The Industrial Revolution: The First

4 The Technological Revolution: The Second

5 The Digital Revolution: The Third

6 The Fourth Industrial Revolution


Chapter 3 The telos of industrial revolutions: how what people value drives the adoption of new technologies

1 Means, ends and value

2 A hierarchy of value

2.1 Transcendental value

2.2 Foundational value

2.3 Aspirational value

3 Industrial Revolutions promote higher-order values


Chapter 4 The "Brisbane Club" model: mind, society, economy as complex evolving networks

1 Society and economy as complex evolving networks

2 Formation of socioeconomic systems: environment, mind and socioeconomy

3 Evolution of socioeconomic systems: changing environments, changing minds, changing technologies

3.1 Substitutes and complements: incentives and technology

3.1 Creativity, experimentation, play and narratives in mental evolution

3.1 Salience, chains and anchoring: framing the environment

3.1 Summary: evolution of socioeconomic systems at the micro-level

4 Micro-meso-macro: new ways of doing things cause disruption, then recoordination

5 Summary: applying the Brisbane Club model to the mega-technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Technical appendix


Part II Internet: hyper-competition, hyper-growth and the struggle for attention in global markets

Chapter 5 Global markets and the struggle for attention: communication and platforms in the rapidly-evolving internet age

1 The internet: a remarkable data-transfer technology

2 Why the internet matters: platforms for socioeconomic interaction on a global scale

3 The struggle for attention in the internet: cognitive constraints in a sea of information

4 Disruption and recoordination as global markets emerge: a hyper-charged economy

5 Summary: global markets, commoditised attention present opportunities to be seized and challenges to be mitigated

Technical Appendix


Chapter 6 The ocean in your pocket: case studies in global markets and the struggle for attention

1 The smartphone and wearable technology

2 Education applications

3 Entertainment applications

4 Text and voice: from reading and typing to listening and speaking

5 A tool for democratisation? Who controls the flows?

6 Competing platforms, fragmentation and the market for marketplaces


Part III Artificial Intelligence: radical automation and expansion of human capability

Chapter 7 The I Robot future: human work in an age of artificial intelligence

1 The machine with a mind: what artificial intelligence is

2 The economics of a machine with a mind: building a substitute for us

3 The economic limits of artificial intelligence: where machines are non-substitutable for human labour

3.1 Mistakes and emotions as mothers of invention

3.2 Deep creativity, judgement, consciousness and Goedel's theorem

3.3 Tacit knowledge, development and evolution

4 Disruption and recoordination as I Robot rises: part utopia, part plutocracy

5 Summary: human work in an age of artificial intelligence presents challenges, but also profound opportunities

Technical Appendix


Chapter 8 The ghost and the machine: case studies in the I Robot future

1 Automation, capital, and labour

2 Prediction and Contingency Planning

3 Comparative advantages of human and machine prediction

4 Supply Chain Optimization


Part IV Blockchain: decentralising power, authority and the design of systems of governance

Chapter 9 The entrepreneurship of rules: institutions in an age of blockchain

1 The ledger of facts: the blockchain as a foundation for privatised institutional governance of platforms

2 Adopting a privatised platform with institutional governance: substitution between rule systems

3 Disruption and recoordination as privatised institutional governance emerges: a new era for community-based solutions

4 Summary: the entrepreneurship of rules faces significant challenges, but also presents extraordinary opportunities

Technical Appendix


Chapter 10 Leaderless revolutions: case studies in the entrepreneurship of rules

1 Coordination, rules, governance, law, and order

2 Alternative governance structures for institutions

2.1 The DAO

2.2 Open source economics and CBPP communities

3 Some promising applications for blockchains

3.1 Digital identity

3.2 Energy sector

3.3 Healthcare

3.4 Supply chains

3.5 Digital currency


Part V Discussion and Conclusions: harnessing the Fourth Industrial Revolution in systems building

Chapter 11 The new economy: opportunities, challenges, and what to do about them

1 The new economy: global markets, commoditised attention, utopia with a hint of plutocracy and privatised rules

2 Opportunities and challenges in the new economy

3 Strategies for seizing opportunities and mitigating challenges

3.1 At the level of the individual: seek a "classical" education and cultivate the antifragile personality

3.2 At the level of the group and organisation: build complementarities and cultivate the antifragile mindset

3.3 At the level of the community: harness blockchain for institutional governance by forming and coordinating expectations of governance solutions

4 Summary: opportunities and challenges in the Fourth Industrial Revolution and what to do about them


Epilogue: a call to engage with a brave new world, and to have contingency plans


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Review quote

"Nicholas Johnson and Brendan Markey-Towler have written a must-read guide to understanding the fourth industrial revolution, its socioeconomic impact, and ways to seize opportunities and overcome possible challenges. I'm definitely recommending this to anyone who wants to stay ahead as we continue to integrate technology in different industries and business processes." Tasmin Trezise, President of

"Economics of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is an essential explainer on the future of socio-economic development. Without oversimplifying, it comprehensively dissects the vast terrains of General Purpose Technologies and Mega Technologies through the lens of Brisbane Club Model and its network effect. Nicholas and Brendan highlight the critical structural transformation that is presently underway, and provide the theoretical framework required to understand this change and its future implications. As we navigate the complex cascading effects of globalisation, Economics of the Fourth Industrial Revolution explores crucial insights on how individuals, groups, and communities can effectively leverage these technological advancements. The book uniquely captures the cultural, behavioural, and society metamorphosis propelled by the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Backed with insightful case studies and a coherent conceptual understanding, Nicholas and Brendan's writing flows between meta-themes of evolutionary economic and social organisation to practical advice to leverage the potential of emerging technologies. For developing countries like India, and entrepreneurial individuals and communities, Economics of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is a must read. It will help you realise your untapped economic capabilities and orient them to leverage the Fourth Industrial Revolution. In times of disconcerting uncertainty and upheaval, Nicholas and Brendan write with astounding clarity." Utkarsh Amitabh, Founder of Network Capital
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About Nicholas Johnson

Nicholas Johnson is an economist and mathematician. He is the Principal Economist at Economists Without Borders. He also holds research and teaching positions at the University of Queensland and Queensland University of Technology. He holds a Master of Public Policy from the Australian National University, and undergraduate degrees in mathematics and economics (with First Class Honours) from Queensland University of Technology. Nicholas is a World Economic Forum Global Shaper.

Brendan Markey-Towler is a behavioural, institutional, evolutionary economist and an Associate with Economists Without Borders. He was previously a Senior Advisor at Evidn, a global behavioural science company headquartered in Brisbane, Australia. He has researched and taught at the University of Queensland, RMIT University, and University College London and holds a PhD in behavioural, institutional, and evolutionary economics and Bachelor of Economics with First Class Honours and a University Medal from the University of Queensland.
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