Professor Phillip Brown considers what is ‘revolutionary’ about today’s developments in digital innovation.

Watch 'Education, Skills and Work in the Fourth Industrial Revolution' webinar.

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It is widely believed that digital disruption is transforming all aspects of the economy and society. This disruption is seen to be driven by advances across interdisciplinary fields leading to technological breakthroughs in artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, additive manufacturing, synthetic biology, smart materials, etc. Media reports of these advances have highlighted the prospect of mass technological unemployment resulting from workplace automation. But such concerns have been a feature of all previous industrial revolutions. So what is so significant or ‘revolutionary’ about today’s developments in digital innovation? This talk will consider different interpretations of the fourth industrial revolution and the role of digital technologies in (re)shaping the future of work, education, and labour markets. It will present a theory of ‘job scarcity’ rather than ‘labour scarcity’, which does not signal the end of work, but the need for a fundamental reassessment of current public policy.


Professor Phillip Brown is a Distinguished Research Professor at Cardiff University. Phil started working life as an apprentice in the auto industry before training as a teacher. His academic career took him to Cambridge University and the University of Kent at Canterbury before joining Cardiff University in 1997. He has spent much of his academic career studying the future of work and its relationship to education, economy and society. He has written, co-authored and co-edited eighteen books, including The Death of Human Capital?: Its Failed Promise And How To Renew It In An Age of Disruption, with Hugh Lauder and Sin Yi Cheung (Oxford University Press, 2020). He Chaired an Independent Review for the Welsh Government examining the impact of digital innovation for the economy and the future of work in Wales (2019) and is currently leading an international research programme on digital futures of education and work.

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