The Dark Side of Digitalization:
Will Industry 4.0 Create New Raw Materials Demands?
The digitalization of production processes, in Germany also known as Industry 4.0, promises economic growth in times of stagnation. According to business organizations and market-liberal politicians, digitalization will provide solutions for current global challenges like economic stagnation, (youth) unemployment, post-financial crisis or climate change. From buildings and cars to entire supply chains, everything will be connected. We will live in yet another “brave new world”, also known as the Internet of Things (IoT).
But is economic growth what we need? And will it ever be possible to decouple economic growth from resource consumption? The predominant economic system already exceeds our planetary boundaries. Climate change is driven by high greenhouse gas emissions, over-fertilized agricultural land, massive loss of forests and grasslands, overfishing of oceans and the excessive use of raw materials. All of these phenomena
exemplify that which Ulrich Brand and Markus Wissen describe as the “imperial way of life” 1.