The emergence of the “4th Industrial Revolution,” i.e. the convergence of artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, advanced materials, and bioengineering technologies, could accelerate socioeconomic insecurities and anxieties or provide beneficial alternatives to the status quo. In the post-Covid-19 era, the entities that are best positioned to capitalize on these innovations are large firms, which use digital platforms and big data to orchestrate vast ecosystems of users and extract market share across industry sectors. Nonetheless, these technologies also have the potential to democratize ownership, broaden political-economic participation, and reduce environmental harms. We articulate the potential sociotechnical pathways in this high-stakes crossroads by analyzing cellular agriculture, an exemplary 4th Industrial Revolution technology that synergizes computer science, biopharma, tissue engineering, and food science to grow cultured meat, dairy, and egg products from cultured cells and/or genetically modified yeast. Our exploration of this space involved multi-sited ethnographic research in both (a) the cellular agriculture community and (b) alternative economic organizations devoted to open source licensing, member-owned cooperatives, social financing, and platform business models. Upon discussing how these latter approaches could potentially facilitate alternative sociotechnical pathways in cellular agriculture, we reflect upon the broader implications of this work with respect to the 4th Industrial Revolution and the enduring need for public policy reform.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Agronomy and Crop Science