Posted by: seanmalstrom | May 12, 2021

The Fourth Industrial Revolution

Coined by Klaus Schwab, the founder and president of the World Economic Forum, the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ was a popular buzzword before the pandemic, and I expect it to return as a buzzword in some form. If the reader hasn’t heard of this term, here is a brief summary:

The First Industrial Revolution was the invention of the steam engine and the creation of factories. Remember that the steam engine didn’t just create factories, it allowed steamboats and railroads which revolutionized transportation.

The Second Industrial Revolution was mass production (Ford) along with the invention of the light bulb and telephone that revolutionized our daily lives.

The Third Industrial Revolution is electrons with the invention and mass adoption of computers and the Internet. Even someone as young as forty can see how much our lives have changed due to it.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is supposed to be similar to the second. It will be utilizing the Third Industrial Era tech to create and do things that haven’t been done before.

“What does that mean?” asks the quizzical reader.

It means that if you take a map and scan it digitally, that is a very ‘Third Industrial Revolution’ way of thinking. Now you have a digital map. Hooray.

A Fourth Industrial Revolution way of thinking would be to have cars electronically talk to other cars so when you ask for a route, it doesn’t just use the map. It would be pinging all the cars on the road. It’d see the traffic. It would be able to, on the spot, create a new route for you.

Fourth Industrial Revolution is not automation. There’s always been automation. Fourth Industrial Revolution is taking existing tech and doing completely new things. The steam engine is glorious, but what about the gas powered engine? Same principle, but very refined with the gas powered engine. A train is amazing, but a car is something else. That similar jump is what is said to come from the third to fourth industrial revolution.

Now, I only sip the kool-aid, I do not gulp it. Much of this ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ stuff is plutocrat cocktail party porn. But let’s just accept it for the purpose of this post.

With this definition, Nintendo is not only a ‘Fourth Industrial Age’ company, they could have been the first one. In fact, games have been the prelude to these industrial revolutions especially video games with the computer revolution. Anyone remember the ‘gambler’ steam boats from history?

Nintendo is interesting because their products are not just ‘faster computers’ slammed into a box. That is not Nintendo’s history at all! Other console companies follow that model. Sony clearly follows that model as does Microsoft.

Let me put it in perspective. The NES was such a shock to the American gaming population for many reasons. One of the major reasons, and ask anyone alive during that time period who will readily back me up on this, was the revolution of the D-pad. The D-pad changed gaming in ways gamers today cannot understand.

In fact, many Atari veterans refused the D-pad. This is why Nintendo put out the NES Advantage and why games marketed to advanced skilled gamers always had the commercial person using a NES Advantage. Advanced gamers used joysticks. Why? It’s because they grew up with them in the arcades and with Atari.

It was not easy and even alien to use the D-pad at first. A phenomenon known as ‘Nintendo thumb’ emerged where complaints of kids having ‘sore thumbs’. But we didn’t go back to the joystick. Like many, I bought numerous NES controllers. The joysticks kinda sucked. Even the NES Advantage couldn’t provide the precise control the D-pad brought. The joystick could be played well for some games such as shmups. But a game like Super Mario Brothers 3 could only be played with a D-pad.

Eventually, the D-Pad began to appear everywhere including consumer electronics to industrial electronics.

“What is the point of this diatribe?” asks the reader.

The point, dear reader, is to point out that Nintendo created something new with the technology at the time. It wasn’t just an overclocked chip put into a box. The NES was an EXTREMELY primitive machine even when it launched in Japan in 1983. The NES was given stiff competition from Hudson’s PC-Engine which was popular in Japan.

“But then Nintendo came out with the SNES which was more powerful chip than the NES. Durrrr….”

No. Ever heard of Blast Processing? (Yes, I know its a marketing term.) SNES had issues such as its infamous slowdown. Genesis could come in and market itself as a faster, cooler thing because of this weakness.

You come to the N64. Forget the crazy ass 3d for a moment, know that Nintendo did make the analog stick. But Nintendo also put in rumble (I do remember PC games using rumble too). Rumble then found its way as standard in every console controller. Would our smartphones vibrate if Nintendo hadn’t have included rumble? Unknown.

With the problem of wired controllers, Microsoft’s solution was to create ‘break away’ wires so the wire would ‘detach’ if someone tripped over it. For the Gamecube, Nintendo got rid of wires completely with the Wavebird. The next generation, Sony and Microsoft followed suit.

But did Nintendo just have a wireless controller with their Gamecube successor? No. Did they just throw in a more powerful chip into their console and call it a day? No. They used the technology of wireless to create something truly novel: motion controls. Wii’s success story doesn’t need to be rehashed.

The DS had a touch screen. Today, it is very primitive. But it is a precursor to the touch screens smartphones would all have. (Yes, I know there were touch pads with styluses back then.)

My point is that the touch screen allowed NEW games that couldn’t have been done with a standard controller. Nintendogs and Brain Age to name a couple.

What I’m trying to highlight is that the ‘Nintendo way of game design’ is the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ way of thinking. Nintendo isn’t going to make a better something. Nintendo wants to merge new tech, as it gets cheap enough, to make new forms of entertainment.

When you look at PlayStation, it is just a dumbed down subsidized gaming PC.

Microsoft is now betting on ‘The Cloud’ for its future. Microsoft can’t handle the hardware market.

“I do not understand why this matters,” says the poor reader. “What are you saying exactly, Master Malstrom?”

I am saying that the future is not going to be what YOU think or even what PLUTOCRATS like Klauss thinks.

“But the future will be what you think, is that right?”

Absolutely. That is why you’re reading this blog. People want to know the future.

Consider again the example of Microsoft’s breakaway controllers versus Nintendo making the wires go away. Microsoft has very smart people working for the company, but they didn’t think in the context Nintendo was doing.

In the 1980s, it was widely predicted that a personal computer would control every part of our home. For example, the washing machine would be controlled by the personal computer.

This was completely wrong. What the people in the 1980s couldn’t predict was that computers would become so cheap, so widespread, that the washing machine would have a computer built inside it all to itself!

As recently as 2006 when the PS3 and Xbox 360 were released, these two giant companies of Sony and Microsoft were battling over the TV. Sony was betting on Blu-ray. Microsoft was betting on HD-DVD. Either way, both companies wanted to control the TV which meant that they would control the living room.

What they never anticipated or imagined was that electronic displays would become so cheap, so plentiful, that there would be endless screens everywhere. A game console can’t control the TV because there is now a screen on your phone, a screen on your tablet, let alone other computers. There are screens EVERYWHERE.

Today, you hear about ‘automated cars’. Forget the issue of unresolved liability to ‘automatic cars’, everyone is running around that this is the ‘future’ and no further discussion is warranted.

“Cars have to be automatic, Malstrom,” the tech companies say. “It has to be done. Therefore, it will be done. It is the future. End of discussion.”

The actual future is not having cars at all. Why would we need automated cars if so many people can work from home? Sure, we’d have cars, but we wouldn’t need to use them as often. This completely eliminates the issue for automating cars.

These tech companies are stubborn because they think they are smarter than everyone else. They will not admit they were thinking in a BACKWARDS way. It’s like Microsoft’s breakable wires where Nintendo got rid of the wires entirely. An automated car is not necessary when a car isn’t necessary. If you can do your work from home, there will be much less use for any cars at all!

“But what about delivery and freight?”

Those could never be automated anyway. You’re not going to automate an 18-wheeler. The liability is crazy with it.

So I laugh at these ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ that makes all these predictions especially the ‘changing Humans’ ones. The future is going to be different than what they suspect.

It was predicted that airplanes would exist. And it was true they did emerge. But the discoverer of flight did not come from the usual suspects or from ‘brainiacs’ of the age, but from bicycle shopkeepers who tested on the soft ground of Kittyhawk. The bicycle was rather novel, but its true ingenuity was how light the material was.

If the past is any prelude to the future, it is that those who make bold predictions are rarely correct.


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