My fellow Queensland economists Nicholas Johnson and Brendan Markey-Towler have written an impressive new book Economics of the Fourth Industrial Revolution: Internet, Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain, which was published by Routledge last month. I spoke with Nick and Brendan earlier this week and the recording of our conversation is now available as my latest podcast episode.
Here’s an excerpt from the beginning of our conversation:
Brendan: …an industrial revolution is constituted by a series of what we call in economics general purpose technologies converging all at once. So what’s the general purpose technology, as Nick was saying, it’s not a technology that’s improving one production process, not even a technology that’s improving two production processes. It’s improving, or radically changing all of the production processes, and making new ones possible.
So an industrial revolution is characterised by a vast increase in the outputs that society can produce, and a fundamental change in the way the society produces those outputs. And while that fundamental change is being brought about, you’re seeing entirely new ways of producing goods and services open up, so entirely new markets [are] opening up as well…
…the three big ones that we’ve focused on are internet and artificial intelligence and blockchain…these three general purpose technologies that we believe are really underlying the emergence of the fourth industrial revolution. You can talk about biotech, you can talk about machine learning, you can talk about automation, but really, an industrial revolution is characterised by the convergence of these general purpose technologies, which are not just an iPhone, they’re not even just a smartphone. They’re the base technology that enables that technology. So something like the internet, something like artificial intelligence, something like blockchain is a wholly new way of doing things all across the economy that majorly disrupts the way we produce and consume things, and makes entirely new ways of producing and consuming possible.
The excerpt above is from a transcript (with some minor edits) first generated by otter.ai, an amazing AI tool which transcribes audio files, which I mentioned in the episode as a good example of the growing use of AI.