The Digital Age (1981–Present): The Rise of Complexity
Our final epoch is the one that we currently occupy. Although this spans the period from the 1980s to the present day, historians may eventually differentiate between the early Digital Age—running from the advent of the Personal Computer (PC) in 1981, to about 2015—and a post-Digital Age. In technological terms, the latter (or current) part of the Digital Age—what I am suggesting may eventually be recognised separately—is characterised by a new Industrial Revolution, and one that has been labelled Industry 4.0. The first Industrial Revolution is the one that we covered under the Age of Enlightenment. The second Industrial Revolution was characterised by mass production, assembly lines and electricity, and corresponds approximately to the late Romantic period, and early Modern Age. The third industrial revolution is defined by the rise of computers and automation—intersecting with the late Modern Age and early Digital Age—but the fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0) represents the synthesis of data analytics, autonomous systems and artificial intelligence in what is termed cyber-physical systems.