The Fourth Wave of Technological Progress

CubaGallery on Flickr

Much has been said about the arrival of the “information economy;” the “information age;” and/or the “knowledge worker.” If we take these claims seriously, and as indicating a shift in society and economy equal to the gravity of those statements, we should find similar revolutionary changes in today’s sites of industry as Mumford charted in the 14th and 18th centuries. The mine is the first wholly artificial environment. It has no sunlight, no women with large breasts in fields, and the very air that the miner breaths has had work done on it by a built ventilation system. The work of human beings surrounds the individual, and in this totalizing environment one is left to confront the world of abstracted use and exchange. The mine exists because of and through the scientific knowledge of the previous century. It is an environment that was made to be punishing (another way to say this is it was populated by the punished), and yet the extracted resources were the fundamental components of the physical container of society.