The Way of the Horse

Industry 4.0 buck’n at ya

9 min readMar 24


Industrial revolutions are transformative periods marked by significant changes in manufacturing, work, and lifestyle. These eras typically involve the introduction of new technologies that revolutionize various aspects of society, leading to improved efficiency and productivity.

Throughout history, there have been multiple industrial revolutions, each with its own distinct innovations and advancements. From the rise of machines and steam engines in the first revolution to the advent of electricity and internal combustion engines in the second, each era has brought about its own unique changes. In more recent times, the development of computers and the internet marked the beginning of another revolution, leading to the growth of new industries and technologies.

Today, we are experiencing yet another industrial revolution characterized by advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, and the internet of things. These innovations are reshaping our work, lives, and interactions, while also creating new opportunities and industries.

The Industrial Revolutions of Yore

The First Industrial Revolution (1760–1840s): This revolution began in Britain and was characterized by the widespread use of machines, especially in the textile industry. The steam engine was invented, which revolutionized transportation and manufacturing. This led to the displacement of skilled artisans and craftsmen who were replaced by machines.

There are several notable examples from the First Industrial Revolution that illustrate the significant changes that occurred during this time:

  1. Spinning Jenny: Invented by James Hargreaves in 1764, the Spinning Jenny allowed workers to spin multiple threads simultaneously. This increased the speed of textile production and reduced the demand for skilled spinners.
  2. Water Frame: Developed by Richard Arkwright in 1769, the Water Frame was a spinning machine powered by water, which enabled large-scale production of yarn in mills. This invention significantly increased the efficiency of textile manufacturing and contributed to the growth of the factory system.
  3. Steam Engine: Invented by Thomas Newcomen in 1712 and later improved by James Watt in 1769, the steam engine revolutionized transportation and industry. Steam engines were used to power locomotives, ships, and factory machinery, which allowed for faster and more efficient transportation of goods and people, as well as increased production capabilities.
  4. Power Loom: Invented by Edmund Cartwright in 1784, the power loom was a mechanized loom that greatly increased the efficiency of weaving cloth. The widespread use of power looms in textile mills led to a significant increase in cloth production and a decrease in demand for skilled weavers.
  5. Bessemer Process: Invented by Sir Henry Bessemer in 1856, this process enabled the mass production of steel by removing impurities from iron using air blown through the molten metal. The availability of affordable steel transformed construction, transportation, and various industries, paving the way for the construction of railways, bridges, and buildings.

The Second Industrial Revolution (late 1800s-early 1900s): This revolution was characterized by the widespread use of electricity, the development of the assembly line, and the rise of mass production. It also saw the invention of the internal combustion engine and the widespread use of oil as a fuel. This revolution displaced many traditional industries, such as agriculture and handicrafts, and led to the rise of new industries, such as steel and chemicals.

Several notable examples from the Second Industrial Revolution illustrate the substantial changes that occurred during this period:

  1. Electrical Power: The development and widespread use of electricity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries revolutionized industries and households. Thomas Edison’s invention of the incandescent light bulb in 1879 and Nikola Tesla’s advancements in alternating current (AC) systems enabled the generation, transmission, and use of electricity on a large scale.
  2. Telephone: Invented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876, the telephone transformed communication by allowing people to speak with each other over long distances. This invention led to the creation of vast telecommunication networks and significantly impacted business, social interactions, and global connectivity.
  3. Automobile: The invention of the internal combustion engine by Nikolaus Otto in 1876, and later advancements by Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz, contributed to the development of automobiles. Henry Ford’s introduction of the assembly line in 1913 further revolutionized the automobile industry by making cars more affordable and accessible to the general public.
  4. Assembly Line: The concept of the assembly line was popularized by Henry Ford’s automobile production process, which allowed for the rapid and efficient manufacturing of goods. This innovation greatly increased productivity and reduced costs, making products more affordable for consumers.
  5. Radio: Invented by Guglielmo Marconi in the late 19th century, the radio facilitated wireless communication and broadcasting. This technology allowed for the widespread dissemination of news, music, and other forms of entertainment, connecting people across vast distances and influencing culture, politics, and public opinion.
  6. Chemical Industry: During the Second Industrial Revolution, the chemical industry saw significant advancements with the development of synthetic dyes, fertilizers, and plastics. These innovations led to new materials and products, transforming various industries and everyday life.

The Third Industrial Revolution (1960s-2000s): This revolution was characterized by the widespread use of electronics, computers, and automation. It saw the development of the internet, the rise of telecommunications, and the growth of the service sector. This revolution displaced many traditional manufacturing jobs, and led to the rise of new industries, such as software development and information technology.

Here are some notable examples of innovations from this period:

  1. Integrated Circuit (IC): Invented independently by Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce in 1958–1959, the integrated circuit, or microchip, allowed for the miniaturization and increased functionality of electronic devices. This invention paved the way for the development of computers, smartphones, and countless other digital technologies.
  2. Personal Computer (PC): The development of personal computers, such as the Apple II (1977) and IBM PC (1981), brought computing power to households and businesses. These computers allowed individuals to perform various tasks, from word processing to programming, changing how people worked, communicated, and accessed information.
  3. Internet: Initially developed as a project by the US Department of Defense in the late 1960s, the internet evolved into a global communication network that connected people and devices worldwide. The invention of the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989 further transformed the internet into a platform for sharing information, ideas, and services, impacting every aspect of modern life.
  4. Mobile Phones: The first commercially available mobile phone, the Motorola DynaTAC, was introduced in 1983. This invention revolutionized communication by allowing people to make calls from anywhere. The subsequent development of smartphones, such as the iPhone in 2007, combined the capabilities of a computer, camera, and internet access into a single handheld device, further changing how people communicate, access information, and work.
  5. E-commerce: The growth of the internet and advancements in digital technologies enabled the development of e-commerce, allowing businesses and consumers to buy and sell goods and services online. Companies like Amazon and eBay emerged as major players in this new digital marketplace, transforming retail and consumer behavior.
  6. Social Media: The rise of social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, in the early 2000s, changed the way people communicate, share information, and interact with one another. These platforms have had a significant impact on social dynamics, politics, and culture.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is a term used to describe the current era of rapid technological change, characterized by the integration of advanced technologies, such as artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing, and blockchain, into various aspects of our lives.

The 4IR is expected to have a significant impact on the global economy, transforming industries and creating new ones, while also generating new jobs and opportunities. However, it may also displace certain types of jobs, particularly those that can be automated or that require repetitive or routine tasks.

Some of the industries and job roles that are likely to be impacted by the 4IR include:

  1. Manufacturing: With the rise of automation and robotics, many traditional manufacturing jobs may be displaced.
  2. Transportation and logistics: The development of self-driving cars and drones may lead to job losses in the transportation and logistics industries.
  3. Retail: The growth of e-commerce and the use of robots and automation in warehouses may lead to job losses in the retail industry.
  4. Financial services: The use of blockchain technology and artificial intelligence may lead to job losses in the financial services industry.
  5. Healthcare: The use of artificial intelligence and robotics in healthcare may lead to job losses for certain types of healthcare professionals, such as radiologists and lab technicians.

Horses for Courses

The Second Industrial Revolution (late 1800s-early 1900s) affected the horse population significantly. This was the era when the internal combustion engine was invented, which led to the widespread use of automobiles and trucks, and the displacement of horse-drawn vehicles. This change had a significant impact on the horse population, which was previously used extensively for transportation and farming.

As automobiles and trucks became more popular and affordable, people started to shift away from using horses for transportation. This led to a significant decline in the horse population, as many horses were no longer needed for work. In addition, many horses were sent to slaughterhouses, as they were no longer considered valuable.

The decline in the horse population during the Second Industrial Revolution was a significant cultural and economic shift. Horses had been an integral part of daily life for centuries, and their displacement marked a significant change in the way people lived and worked. The rise of the automobile and the decline of the horse population also had significant environmental impacts, as horses were a major source of pollution and waste in urban areas.

The Next Horse

The rapid advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), particularly in the field of generative AI models such as GPT-4, are poised to transform various aspects of human life and work. The technological revolution brought on by these powerful AI models can be compared to the Second Industrial Revolution and its effect on the horse population. Just as the rise of automobiles and internal combustion engines led to the displacement of horses in transportation and agriculture, AI has the potential to bring about significant changes in the roles humans play in society and the economy.

As AI becomes increasingly sophisticated, it is likely that many tasks and jobs traditionally performed by humans will be automated or augmented by AI-driven systems. This shift may lead to a profound change in the labor market, with certain skills and occupations becoming obsolete or less relevant. As a result, humans, like horses during the Second Industrial Revolution, may find themselves displaced in certain areas of the workforce.

However, this transformation will not be without its opportunities. As AI-driven systems become more prevalent, there will likely be a demand for new skills and job roles focused on the development, management, and maintenance of these technologies. Humans will need to adapt and learn how to work alongside AI systems, harnessing their capabilities to achieve greater efficiency and productivity.

Just as the displacement of horses led to significant cultural, economic, and environmental shifts, the rise of generative AI models and their impact on human roles in society will undoubtedly bring about substantial changes. These changes may include redefining the nature of work, altering social structures, and reshaping educational and training systems to better prepare individuals for the evolving labor market.

While it is essential to recognize and address the challenges that AI-driven automation may pose, it is equally important to learn from history and consider the potential consequences of such a transformation. The decline of the horse population during the Second Industrial Revolution serves as a stark reminder of the potential dangers of failing to adapt to a changing world. As automobiles and other machines took over, the horse population dwindled, and they never fully recovered their once-prominent role in society.

In the face of rapid advancements in AI and automation, humans must be proactive in identifying and addressing potential negative outcomes. If we fail to do so, we risk sharing the same fate as the horses, with our roles in society and the workforce becoming increasingly marginalized. As AI continues to evolve and redefine the world around us, it is crucial for us to be vigilant, adaptable, and resourceful, lest we become mere relics of a bygone era.




“That which can warm us, can also incinerate us” — Edwin Black