What is Klaus Schwab’s book ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution’ about? Read the book review and summary of Schwab’s book on GreatBooks&Coffee !

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Book Review & Summary:

‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution’ – Klaus Schwab.


The Fourth Industrial Revolution by Klaus Schwab is a no-brainer and another absolute must-read. Let’s be more specific: it is extremely relevant if you are interested in new technologies, economics and future developments. In fact, it is an absolute must-read thought leadership book written by an absolute thought leader. I’m a 30-something Ph.D and GreatBooks&Coffee is my book blogs, here is my book review!


I got interested in technology-related topics earlier this year and picked a pile of books on the matter.

I’m still not through it yet, but I’ve noticed with interest that when it comes to technology there are two types of groups. The super positive ones, and the scared ones.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution‘ by Klaus Schwab is a fascinating book which provides the views, concerns and hopes of a definitively positive expert on new technologies, and its 185 pages (Paperback version) were amongst the most inspiring pages I’ve read so far.

This is far from surprising though, considering the author’s CV.

Klaus Schwab was born in Ravensburg, Germany in 1938 and is the Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, the world’s most prominent international organization aimed at promoting public-private cooperation across nations and which headquarters are based in Geneva, Switzerland. Very clearly, Klaus Schwab can be described as one of today’s most influential thought leaders, and his actions, his writing and his thinking are very much oriented towards educating and raising people to make the most of the world. This is particularly the case with ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution’ book.


Having said this, let’s move on with the book review…

The Fourth Industrial Revolution’, by Klaus Schwab, is a small book suitable for those of us interested in getting the big picture on innovation debates, with a positive approach the current and future developments.

The book is extremely relevant if you are interested in new technologies, economics and future developments. In fact, it is an absolute must-read thought leadership book written by an absolute thought leader. Now, let me explain why.

The book discusses the issue of technological development and the various consequences of these developments, essentially in terms of society evolutions. The author – who turns to be the Founder of the World Economic Forum – asks essential and existential questions, pushes the reader to think and think again about various topics which I will mention below. In short, this is clearly what I expect from a thought leader and from a thought leadership book.

The style is great. ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution’ is not only instructive, it is very easy to read and by the same token extremely thought-provoking. Let’s face it, thoughtful books tend to be complex. But this one isn’t. It is very accessible and won’t require a PhD in robotics engineering. In fact, because Klaus Schwab clearly is an innovation enthusiast, the book is a fascinating page-turner.


The book discusses a fourth revolution “unlike anything humankind had previously experienced”.The book is then divided into three chapters which each focus on a distinct discussion.

As usual on my GreatBooks&Coffee book reviews, I will only look at the first theme here but for more insights on the other themes please have a look at my book summary of Klaus Schwab’s book ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution’ – which you can get for just $3,99 with your 20% member discount! Isn’t that beautiful?


Anyway, the first part of the book provides an overview of the fourth industrial revolution, as Schwab sees it.

The first revolution occurred when steam allowed building railroads and permitted producing materials and goods at an industrial scale, which then evolved with the discovery of electricity (the second revolution).

The third revolution took place in the 1960’s with the creation of the first computing instruments and evolved rapidly with the apparition of the internet and, in more recent times, with globalization and production offshoring trends.

The fourth revolution corresponds to the apparition of disruptive technologies as we begin to know them and is therefore only beginning to happen. For sure, however, while the first revolution spread over 130 years, the fourth might reshuffle the cards in merely a decade.

This obviously brings up many questions.

One of the primary issues for Schwab relates to the necessity of dealing with framework issues. In Schwab’s words, both at the national and global levels, the institutional framework needed ‘to govern the diffusion of innovation and mitigate the disruption is inadequate at best and, at worst, absent altogether’. We’ll get back to this when discussing Chapter 3 later on.

Another question deals with our ability to cope with the automation impact of specialization and innovation. Schwab talks about a productive revolution here and discusses the idea that technology is nowadays creating wealth with far less manpower and at a much more marginal cost. On this point, again, ‘The Rise of the Robots’ by Martin Ford is actually a must-read.

A third question deals with the difficulty to get the various stakeholders together and reach a common ‘narrative’ or position on what ought to happen.

Clearly, the revolution will benefit the consumers but a twofold challenge remains: helping the supply side to adapt while getting the consumers on board to avoid that new inequalities appear between innovators, investors, shareholders, users and workers. With the increasing importance of web platforms (such as AirBnB, Uber, Alibaba, etc.) a concentration of powers is indeed taking place (Schwab calls this the “platform effect”).

Hence, the question for all companies and industries is no longer whether disruption will occur but when it will occur and how it will affect existing models and businesses.

As a thought leader, Schwab accordingly suggests that ‘it is our responsibility to ensure that we establish a set of common values to drive policy choices and to enact the chances that will make the fourth industrial revolution and opportunity for all’.

book reviews & summaries


My take on the book is that Klaus Schwab’s contribution in ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution’ is very significant.

It is actually very important to note that Schwab is definitely following a thought leadership approach here.

In case you wondered, thought leadership is the art of developing ideas and expertise on complex topics, in such a clear and intelligible way that they become not only interesting but mind-blowing, enlightening and logical to the non-experts.

And what we have here is exactly that: a book written to make people think.

From the beginning, the author explains that the book has three goals. One goal is to increase awareness and comprehensiveness on technology-related issues and debates. The second goal is to contribute to the creation of a comprehensive framework for thinking and defining future needs and priorities. The third goal is to inspire and advocate for more public-private partnership or, if you will, an increased interaction between the various stakeholders since I mentioned that Schwab was always interested into stakeholder-related challenges.

The author provides a lot of food for thought on the matter.

Of course, Schwab points at an important list of technological breakthroughs which includes Artificial Intelligence, robotics, the internet of things, 3D printing, autonomous vehicles, nanotechnologies, etc. Such developments, in his opinion, are characterized by a high level of complexity and interconnectedness. As such, they can bring progress as well as ‘profound uncertainty’.

The first pages of the book show very clearly the scope of the revolution.

For Schwab, “the changes are so profound that, from the perspective of human history, there has never been a time of greater promise of potential peril”. The words are hard, but the author provides three main arguments to back his argument: this revolution will have exponentially important impacts, the digital aspect of the revolution will have the power to change who we are more than what we can do, while the changes will have a systemic impact.

Schwab provides an overview of what changes are actually occurring. He discusses the pace at which evolutions are taking place, explains why they do constitute a revolution. He raises multiple questions as to the lack of a framework (in terms of thinking, policymaking and rulemaking) capable of controlling forthcoming technological innovations.

Throughout the book, he also asks a series of questions to push the reader to think about the type of future he needs and wants.

However, in contrast with other authors, Schwab’s approach to the issue is voluntarily positive, constructive and thinking-forward, which distinguishes the book from rather alarmist pieces such as Martin Ford’s “The Rise of Robots” which has already been reviewed on GreatBooks&Coffee.

>> Read the book review of Martin Ford’s The Rise of the Robots here <<


That’s it for now, but don’t stop here! The next step for you is to move on and learn something!

Get The Fourth Industrial Revolution from Amazon.com

As always, I hope you enjoyed this book review! Please let me know what you think with the comment box down the page, especially if you read the book, if you feel like buying it, or if you read my summary!

Oh, and of course, make sure to join my GreatBooks&Coffee club to receive my next book reviews by email!



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I am a thirty-something PhD and I read a lot. GreatBooks&Coffee is my books blog! Because nowadays most people never finish the books they buy, I am sharing my reading experiences to help you pick the right books you will want to read up to the last page!

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Posted by:Antoine Martin (PhD)

Hey there, I’m Antoine, I’m a 30-something PhD and I read a lot. Politics, society, technology, business, self-development, you name it! This is my food-for-thought blog, and I bet I’ll Make You Think SMART, one book at a time! Read smart, think smart!

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