The digital revolution, also known as the fourth industrial revolution, is another era of changes caused by the development of computerization and modern technologies. It is characterized by rapid technological progress, widespread digitalization and its impact on all areas of life. As a result of the changes brought about by the digital revolution, a new social formation has developed, called the information society, for which knowledge has become a strategic resource instead of capital and labor.

Information, provided on the Internet continuously and in real time, shapes the world view of individuals. Messages that reach users are profiled according to their expectations. Such profiling closes the information filtering bubble and makes network users live in a distorted, homogeneous world in which everyone seems to have the same views. They uncritically assimilate messages spread within their own enclave and treat them as true, without verifying the facts. Under such conditions, disinformation is produced and spread.

The digital revolution

The digital revolution is also called the fourth industrial revolution. The first industrial revolution took place. It was initiated by the invention of the steam machine, which introduced a completely new production process and caused the transition from agricultural society to industrial society.

The second revolution began in the twentieth century with the emergence of electricity and the internal combustion engine, which enabled industrial production on a mass scale (production lines). The third revolution introduced computers to the market and enabled automation of production.

The first IT systems for planning and control were created. The development of technology, however, is so rapid that only half a century later, another fourth industrial revolution took place, which spread network technologies, objects communicating with each other (Internet of Things – IoT) and Artificial Intelligence. In this way, the digital world is intertwined with the physical world.

The fourth industrial revolution is built on the foundations of the third. These are the speed of change, its extent and its impact on the economy. The rate of change is much higher than in the case of other revolutions. We can even say that the digital revolution is developing at an exponential speed, whereas in the previous ones it was rather linear. In terms of its scope and impact on the economy, the digital revolution will affect the shape of every sector, in every country.

Not only will there be a transformation of production and management systems, but also a transformation of all areas of life that will be affected by these changes. The opportunities that will open up for billions of people connected to the network via mobile devices seem to be unlimited.

The Internet already offers enormous potential for data storage and access to knowledge. In the fourth industrial revolution, technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology and quantum information technology will develop.

Some of these transformations we can already see now. Artificial Intelligence, in the form of autonomous cars, remote-controlled drones or virtual assistants, is slowly becoming widespread.Its development is due to the increase in computing power of computers, as well as the use of large data sets that have made machine learning possible. Computerization has changed the way many professions are performed, and automation and robotization will have an impact on rebuilding the entire labor market.

The consequences of these changes will be so great that it is impossible to predict their effects completely. However, we can observe the nature of these changes and predict opportunities and threats. Among them they appear:

  • Lower barriers between manufacturers and the market – thanks to programs that enable digital design and 3D printing, engineers can create prototypes of their own work and test their performance without having to involve a team of mechanics at the design stage.
  • Artificial Intelligence – increase productivity in services and industry with systems that take over from people to perform repetitive and time-consuming tasks.
  • Integration of different technologies, greater interpenetration of many scientific fields – increase in the use of modern technologies and digitization of each area of life will enable the emergence of services at the interface of these fields, such as autonomous transport or medical services at a distance.
  • Increased quality of life (thanks to automation and robotization) – the use of robots in everyday life will relieve people from their daily tasks, e.g. thanks to the introduction of digital assistants and household appliances connected to the Internet.
  • Combining different areas of life thanks to the Internet – the so-called Internet of Things (IoT) is the communication of devices, systems and services, as well as autonomous communication between machines. The development of an even faster network (5G) will make it possible to extend the technology of smart homes and use it to create smart cities.

Every industrial revolution affects the shape of society and causes the transformation of social structures. Before the invention of the steam engine, the main capital was the acquired food (hunting society). The development of agricultural production allowed for a settled way of life, and the basic condition for the survival of the community was the harvest from agriculture (agrarian society). The most important capital for the industrial society was the production of goods and services. The industrial society was followed by the information society, also called post-industrial.

The beginning of the information society era is not clearly defined. Some publications refer to the date of invention of the first computer, the creation of the Internet or the domination of the economy by the service sector. It is widely believed that the third industrial revolution began with computerization and computerization, which led to a rapid increase in labor efficiency and the release of a significant portion of the workforce. The level of education of citizens has increased significantly.

As life expectancy increased and fertility rates declined, the problem of an ageing population emerged. Rapid technological progress revolutionized everyday life. Television, mobile telephony, the Internet and personal computers appeared. Information became the most important capital, therefore the new social formation began to be called the information society. The real flourishing of this society is observed in connection with the fourth industrial revolution.

The information society

The concept of information society appeared in the 60s and 70s of the previous century. It followed the third industrial revolution, initiated by the introduction of the computer and driven by the development of computerization. The term originated in Japan and was first used by researcher Johoka Shakai, who defined a society communicating with the use of a computer in an era of digital and microelectronic development.

The concept was developed by Daniel Bell, who, in 1973, put forward the thesis that the society of the time evolved from the industrial phase to the post-industrial phase. According to Bell, the development of information technology in the post-industrial society had a similar impact on social change as industrial development in the industrial society. For the new society, knowledge and information have become strategic resources, rather than, as before, work and capital.