The Third Revolution

I have used this picture for the better part of 18 months to describe the coming Third Revolution. The visual is getting broader exposure, so I wanted to provide a more detailed description. The blue curve is the science and technology progression curve. The progression of science and technology continues its unabated exponential rise, and leaders can only see so far on the curve. This creates an uncertainty that makes it difficult to understand the implications of technology into the future.


This progression starts with the technology foundation – or the Third Platform as IDC calls it. In their 10 Predictions For Emerging Technologies In 2015, IDC focuses on the disruptive impact of this Third platform. They describe the three waves of computing, the first being the early computing era of mainframes, and a second that encompassed the PC, networking, relational databases, and client server applications. The third wave in IDCs estimation is our current era, built around cloud computing, social applications, big data, and mobile computing.

I had the pleasure of meeting with Frank Gens – IDCs Chief Research Officer – while in Berlin. Frank believes this third platform will form the basis for the development of new solutions for the next 20 years. Rather than focus on new solutions, my focus is on the coming disruption and my belief that its ramifications are historic – here’s why. In a recent post on A New Economic Paradigm, I reference a recent book written by famous economist Jeremy Rifkin. In the book, Rifkin argues that a third revolution is upon us, and it is fueled by a new general purpose technology platform (GPT). In his book, he describes the economic paradigm shifts of the past, and points to three elements that converge to create a general purpose technology platform to drive the shift: new forms of communication, new forms of energy, and new mechanisms for transport and logistics. The two prior Industrial Revolutions were driven by this GPT phenomenon. In the first Industrial Revolution, it was the steam engine, the printing press, and the railroad. In the second, it was electricity, the telephone and the car. Rifkin believes a powerful Third Revolution platform is emerging to drive an economic paradigm shift in the next 40 years. The three components of this third revolution platform in his estimation are the Internet (communication), renewable energy (Energy), autonomous vehicles and the Internet of Things (Logistics and Transport).

If you look at the visual, the next stage of science and technology progression brings innovation accelerators. It is these and emerging accelerators that I believe elevate the Third Platform as defined by IDC, to general purpose technology platform as defined by Rifkin. This elevation makes it historic, and as this happens, a number of future scenarios emerge to form a second curve. The scenarios on this curve – depending on the degree of realization – could individually be massively disruptive. But when you consider that they themselves intersect and converge – the ramifications are considerable across every industry. Here again, leaders can only see so far on the future scenario curve. It is my continued belief that companies across every industry must dedicate time to analyze scenarios and experiment with responses. The level of urgency has to rise.

As this plays out, does it spawn a third curve – or third revolution? It does In Rifkin’s view, and in the process he sees a new economic paradigm. There is much speculation here, but one thing I believe will get much clearer in the next five years – and that is the historic nature of this Third Revolution.

22 thoughts on “The Third Revolution

  1. I agree with the notion that a third heavy influx of technological development is inevitable, and the points you’ve made only reinforce that notion. Thanks for sharing.


  2. I wonder if the opportunity for emergent technologies also includes agriculture, as transportation and logistics’ inherent costs can be mitigated by local production. Also, as automation impacts the available jobs can we channel more workers into local food production?


  3. From the above components of the platform, you don’t feel that 3D printing will have a more immediate impact than autonomous vehicles? I’m undecided myself, but can see regulation slowing the adoption of self-driving cars whereas local production of certain items will possibly be widely adopted.

    Interesting perspective though. Will we look back and truly be able to recognise a discrete third age or is this part of a more iterative stage of human technical development?


    • Keith – the timing of each element in my mind is speculative – because as you describe regarding regulation – multiple things have to come together to enable each scenario. In my mind, it’s the cumulative effect of the various scenarios that drive the third revolution. I personally believe that this age will be so profoundly disruptive – that it will be recognized very discretely. Thanks for engaging.


      • One component that I think may be worthy of Innovation Accelerator status is blockchain technology, and in the disruptive scenarios this has a potential impact on all financial transactions. There’s something about the trust factor across a number of the other emergent models e.g. sharing economy, which will be crucial, and having a distributed reputation and transaction management model will be key.

        The challenge for many large organisations in responding to the emerging models will be the pace of change in the face of the impact on existing business lines and models and technical legacy.

        It’ll be interesting to see how the gap between disrupters and incumbents closes in light of the Third Revolution.


  4. […] # 원본 및 참고문헌 [1] [원본] NIA 새로운 기술, 새로운 세상 지능정보사회  ( 마인드맵 )  [2] [기초]  지능화 시대의 패러다임 변화와 대응전략 (2017.1.13) [3] [기술경제]  FutureXnetwork/    Smihula2009/   Smihula2011/    Perez2009/ [4] [GPT]  Oxford/    NY/ [5]  Smart CIty, Smart Utility Report [6] Technology at work 2.0 [7] The 3rd Revolution […]


  5. […] A quote from Carl Bildt, Chair of the Global Commission on Internet Governance and a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Europe puts this innovation into perspective: “Very soon the Internet of Things will become the Infrastructure on which all other infrastructures are based.” Economist Jeremy Rifkin believes that IoT forms the foundation of the next Societal Platform. […]


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