1. Rifkin J. The Third
How Lateral Power Is
the Economy, and the
World. New York, NY:
St. Martin’s Press;
The Third Industrial Revolution
CHRIS SALIERNO, DDS
Future historians will undoubtedly mark the year 2017 as falling within a unique period of
economic transition. The ways in which our society powers, produces, and transports its goods
and services are always evolving, but there are notable eras of rapid growth that are marked
with substantial amounts of both progress and chaos. Indeed, it is appropriate to call these
times a “revolution.”
The First Industrial Revolution extended from the mid-eighteenth
century to the early nineteenth century. It was powered by steam, ma-
chines began to replace manpower, and early railways and canals trans-
ported people and goods farther and faster than ever before.
The Second Industrial Revolution began in the late nineteenth century,
and we are arguably still reeling from its effects. Oil, steel, and electricity
led to more sophisticated construction and manufacturing. The telegraph
begat the telephone, and we girdled the globe with roads for our automobiles. How fast did technology evolve? After the first successful flight by
the Wright brothers, it took only 66 years for a man to set foot on the moon.
These industrial revolutions are not without their casualties. When
we discover cheaper, faster, and better ways to do something, we rarely
have patience for processes that we perceive to be more expensive, slower, and of lower quality.
The First and Second Industrial Revolutions left a lot of craft workers and horses out of jobs.
In Jeremy Rifkin’s 2011 book, The Third Industrial Revolution,
1 we are presented with the
theory that we are entering the next great period of economic transformation. This time, digital
communication combines with renewable energy sources and automated modes of transportation. It’s not very hard to imagine a person ordering a driverless, electric-powered car via a
smartphone. Think about how these unstoppable technological advances will affect our economy,
both positively and negatively.
The dental profession and industry are already beginning to feel the effects of the Third
Industrial Revolution. The work of skilled dental technicians is being replaced with CAD/CAM
and 3-D printing. Digital impressions are gaining ground on physical ones. Our patients will
continue to demand that we provide their care cheaper and faster without sacrificing quality.
I believe professions must hold themselves to higher expectations than simply what the
market demands. We must be the ones to set the standard of care. But at the same time, we
must pay attention to the economic revolution going on around us. If technology permits us
to provide care that is the same or better quality, then we should take advantage of the speed
and affordability that come along with it.