What is the 4th Industrial Revolution Andrew Yang Said Elected Trump?

During Tuesday's Democratic presidential primary debate, entrepreneur Andrew Yang repeated his claim that the Fourth Industrial Revolution elected President Donald Trump, which prompted some to ask, "What's the Fourth Industrial Revolution?"

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, as defined by experts, describes the modern world, in which the adoption of cyberphysical systems is significantly changing the way we live and work. It's characterized as the Fourth Industrial Revolution because three times in the past technological advancements have brought considerable changes to the workplace.

So, it's about computers, right? Not in its entirety, because changes brought on by computers were covered in the Third Industrial Revolution.

When people reference the Fourth Industrial Revolution, they're talking about a world that takes computerization a step further to include smart technology, such as artificial intelligence, and allows machines to interact with each other and make decisions autonomously.

Some common technologies included in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, according to CNBC, are voice-activated assistants, facial ID recognition and digital health-care sensors. World Economic Forum founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab, who coined the term, also included 3D printing, genome editing and augmented reality in the Fourth Industrial Revolution in an article for Encyclopedia Britannica.

andrew yang fourth industrial revolution trump
Entrepreneur Andrew Yang walks through the Spin Room after the Democratic presidential debate at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio, on October 15. During the debate, Yang claimed Trump was elected because of the effects of Fourth Industrial Revolution. Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Like its predecessors, the Fourth Industrial Revolution will usher in positive and negative changes.

It could raise global income levels and increase the efficiency and pleasure of people's personal lives, according to a blog post by Schwab. However, he also wrote that it could disrupt labor markets by replacing workers with machines, cause stagnated incomes and create a "hollowed out" middle job market.

Yang has brought up the Fourth Industrial Revolution multiple times over the course of his campaign, including in an op-ed for CNN. He wrote that just as manufacturing workers lost their jobs to technology, retail workers, call center workers, fast food workers, truck drivers and others may soon find themselves unemployed.

During Tuesday's debate, Yang said automation from the Fourth Industrial Revolution caused Trump to win the election in 2016. As technology was putting thousands of people out of work, Yang explained, the president appealed to their frustrations and, if Democratic candidates didn't address the problems of automation, Trump could win again in 2020.

To help combat the negative impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Yang called for giving Americans resources and tools to handle the transition. After the debate, he credited moderators for talking about "the seriousness of the Fourth Industrial Revolution."

Every industrial revolution brought widespread changes to people's personal and professional lives, but they differ in their catalyst.

The first occurred in the late 1700s, when mechanization and steam- and water-power transformed factories. The second dealt with mass production and electricity and the Third Industrial Revolution focused on digitization.

No one can say with full certainty how the Fourth Industrial Revolution will transform America, but experts agree it's time to prepare to adapt.