Thinking Critically About the Fourth Industrial Revolution as a Wicked Problem

Thinking Critically About the Fourth Industrial Revolution as a Wicked Problem

Shaun Ruysenaar (School of Business Leadership, Da Vinci Institute, South Africa)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2385-8.ch001
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This chapter examines the Fourth Industrial Revolution as a wicked problem. By doing so, it promotes critical thinking as a key component required to manage the juggernaut that, in current discourses, has evaded such discussion and possible clarity on plans forward. Not only do the existing frameworks of managing wicked problems provide useful tools to engage with the disruptive technologies and other impacts of the so-called revolution, specific tools relating to critical thinking are explored as fundamental to a beneficial approach though such an approach is one of multiple avenues, possible short-cuts and potential dead ends. In addition, the very context of 4IR suggests a need for ensuring critical thinking as a key transferable skill required to thrive in the changing world, providing a potential catalyst to transform or reignite thinking critically about critical thinking.
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Defining 4IR

As is typical in discussing 4IR, it is useful to start with industrial revolutions one, two and three. The First Industrial Revolution in the mid to late 18th century was broadly linked to the use of steam as a means of powering production. It was the age of the steam engine, largely due to the innovative engineering of Matthew Boulton and James Watt (Lord, 2006). Mechanization replaced agriculture as the foundation for economic activity. The Second Industrial Revolution, nearly a century later, was linked to new energy systems in the form of electricity and oil, with large-scale iron and steel production effectively allowing for dramatic industrial expansion and mass production. Technological development within transport, chemical, agriculture and other industries also flourished (Atkeson & Kehoe, 2001).

Nearly another century after the Second Industrial Revolution, the Third Industrial Revolution was ushered in by nuclear power and the rise of electronics, most notable being the transistor, the building block of the microprocessor. The electronics revolution allowed for advances in robotics, fiber optics, lasers, holography, bio-genetics, bio-agriculture, and telecommunications causing a profound restructuring of world economy (Finkelstein, 1989; Greenwood, 1999) and the rise of the global village as coined by Marshal McLuhan (see McLuhan, 1995).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Bias: A systematic deviation from normative judgement.

Normative: How and/or what people should ideally judge or decide.

Frames (Policy): These are structures of belief, perception, and appreciation which underlie policy positions.

Premise (Reasoning): A statement or proposition that is used in reasoning processes to infer conclusions.

Homo Economicus: Broadly, the ‘economic human’ that attempts to maximize utility in decision making.

Cognition: A mental process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through means such as thinking processes, experience, and the senses.

Integral Emotion: Feelings arising from a decision at hand, e.g., fear of losing money when deciding between investments.

Inference: The process of reaching a conclusion based on evidence available or a reasoning process.

Rationality: Accuracy and consistency of expressed beliefs as well as the degree to which choice reflects utility maximization.

Bounded Rationality: The idea that decision making deviates from rationality due to such inherently human factors as limitations in cognitive capacity and willpower, and situational constraints.

Heuristic: A mental shortcut that generally allows quick and efficient judgement or decision-making but can lead to bias under certain situations.

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