By Wim Grommen, contributing writer for

Every production phase or civilization or other human invention goes through a so called transformation process. Transitions are social transformation processes that cover at least one generation. In this article I will use one such transition to demonstrate that humanity is at a crossroads: up to a third world war or will humanity create new heaven on earth.

When we consider the characteristics of the phases of a social transformation we may find ourselves at the end of what might be called the third industrial revolution. Transitions are social transformation processes that cover at least one generation (= 25 years). A transition has the following characteristics:

  • it involves a structural change of civilization or a complex subsystem of our civilization
  • it shows technological, economical, ecological, socio cultural and institutional changes at different levels that influence and enhance each other
  • it is the result of slow changes (changes in supplies) and fast dynamics (flows)

Examples of historical transitions are the demographical transition and the transition from coal to natural gas which caused transition in the use of energy. A transition process is not fixed from the start because during the transition processes will adapt to the new situation. A transition is not dogmatic.

1 - Magnum Opus - Humanity At Crossroads
Figure: Demographical transition

Four transition phases

In general transitions can be seen to go through the S curve and we can distinguish four phases (see fig. 1):

  1. a pre development phase of a dynamic balance in which the present status does not visibly change
  2. a take off phase in which the process of change starts because of changes in the system
  3. an acceleration phase in which visible structural changes take place through an accumulation of socio cultural, economical, ecological and institutional changes influencing each other; in this phase we see collective learning processes, diffusion and processes of embedding
  4. a stabilization phase in which the speed of sociological change slows down and a new dynamic balance is achieved through learning

A product life cycle also goes through an S curve. In that case there is a fifth phase:

  1. the degeneration phase in which cost rises because of over capacity and the producer will finally withdraw from the market.

The S curve of a transition

2 - Magnum Opus - Humanity At Crossroads
2 – Magnum Opus – Humanity At Crossroads

Spreading process of transitions

The process of the spreading of transitions over civilizations is influenced by a number of elements:

  • physical barriers: oceans, deserts, mountain ranges, swamps, lakes
  • socio cultural barriers: difference in culture and languages
  • religious barriers
  • psychological barriers

The Neolithic transition was the most   transition for mankind. This first agricultural revolution (10000 – 3000 BC) forms the change from societies of hunter gatherers (20 – 50 people) close to water with a nomadic existence to a society of people living in settlements growing crops and animals. A hierarchical society came into existence. Joint organizations protected and governed the interests of the individual. Performing (obligatory) services for the community could be viewed as a first type of taxation. Stocks were set up with stock management, trade emerged, inequality and theft. Ways of administering justice were invented to solve conflicts within and between communities and war became a way of protecting interests.

The Neolithic revolution started in those places that were most favorable because of the climate and sources of food. In very cold, very hot or dry areas the hunter gatherer societies lasted longer. Several areas are pointed out as possible starting points: southern Anatolia, the basins the Yangtze Kiang and Yellow river in China, the valley of the Indus, the present Peru in the Andes or what is now Mexico in Central America. From these areas the revolution spread across the world.

The start of the Neolithic era and the spreading process are different in each area. In some areas the changes are relatively quick and some authors therefore like to speak of a Neolithic revolution. Modern historians prefer to speak of the Neolithic evolution. They have come to realize that in many areas the process took much longer and was much more gradual than they originally thought.

Three drastic transitions

When we look back over the past two centuries, we see three transitions taking place with far-reaching effects.

  1. The first industrial revolution

The first industrial revolution lasted from around 1780 tot 1850. It was characterized by a transition from small scale handwork to mechanized production in factories. The great catalyst in the process was the steam engine which also caused a revolution in transport as it was used in railways and shipping. The first industrial revolution was centered around the cotton industry. Because steam engines were made of iron and ran on coal, both coal mining and iron industry also flourished.

Britain was the first country that faced the industrial revolution. The steam engine was initially mainly used to power the water pumps of mines. A major change occurred in the textile industry. Because of population growth and colonial expansion the demand for cotton products quickly increased. Because spinners and weavers could not keep up with the demand, there was an urgent need for a loom with an external power unit, the power loom.

A semi-automatic shuttleless loom was invented, and a machine was created that could spin several threads simultaneously. This “Spinning Jenny”, invented in 1764 by James Hargreaves, was followed in 1779 by a greatly improved loom: ‘Mule Jenny’. At first they were water-powered, but after 1780 the steam engine had been strongly improved  so that it could also be used in the factories could be used as a power source. Now much more textiles could be produced. This was necessary because in 1750, Europe had 130 million inhabitants, but in 1850 this number had doubled, partly because of the agricultural revolution. (This went along with the industrial revolution; fertilizers were imported, drainage systems were designed and ox was replaced by the horse. By far the most important element of the agricultural revolution was the change from subsistence to production for the market.)

All those people needed clothing. Thanks to the machine faster and cheaper production was possible and labor remained cheap. The textile industry has been one of the driving forces of the industrial revolution.

Belgium becomes the first industrialized country in continental Europe. Belgium is “in a state of industrial revolution” under the rule of Napoleon Bonaparte. The industrial centers were Ghent (cotton and flax industries), Verviers (mechanized wool production), Liège (iron, coal, zinc, machinery and glass), Mons and Charleroi. On the mainland, France and Prussia followed somewhat later. In America the northeastern states of the United States followed quickly. After 1870 Japan was industrialized as the first non-Western country. The rest of Europe followed only around 1880.

The beginning of the end of this revolution was in 1845 when Friedrich Engels, son of a German textile baron, described the living conditions of the English working class in “The condition of the working class in England“.

  1. The second industrial revolution

The second industrial revolution started around 1870 and ended around 1930. It was characterized by ongoing mechanization because of the introduction of the assembly line, the replacement of iron by steel and the development of the chemical industry. Furthermore coal and water were replaced by oil and electricity and the internal combustion engine was developed. Whereas the first industrial revolution was started through (chance) inventions by amateurs, companies invested a lot of money in professional research during the second revolution, looking for new products and production methods. In search of finances small companies merged into large scale enterprises which were headed by professional managers and shares were put on the market. These developments caused the transition from the traditional family business to Limited Liability companies and multinationals.

The United States (U.S.) and Germany led the way in the Second Industrial Revolution. In the U.S. there were early experiments with the assembly line system, especially in the automotive industry. In addition, the country was a leader in the production of steel and oil. In Germany the electricity industry and the chemical industry flourished. The firms AEG and Siemens were electricity giants. German chemical companies such as AGFA and BASF had a leading share in the production of synthetic dyes, photographic and plastic products (around 1900 they controlled some 90% of the worldwide market). In the wake of these two industrial powers (which soon surpassed Britain) France, Japan and Russia followed. After the Second Industrial Revolution more and more countries, on more continents, experienced a more or less modest industrial development. In some cases, the industrialization was taken in hand by the state, often with coarse coercion – such as the five-year plans in the Soviet Union.

After the roaring twenties the revolution ended with the stock exchange crash of 1929. The consequences were disastrous culminating in the Second World War.

  1. The third industrial revolution

The third industrial revolution started around 1940 and is nearing its end. The United States and Japan played a leading role in the development of computers. During the Second World War great efforts were made to apply computer technology to military purposes. After the war the American space program increased the number of applications. Japan specialized in the use of computers for industrial purposes such as the robot.

From 1970 the third industrial revolution continued to Europe. The third industrial revolution was mainly a result of a massive development of microelectronics: electronic calculators, digital watches and counters, the compact disc, the barcode etc.

The acceleration phase of the third industrial revolution started around 1980 with the advent of the microprocessor. The development of the microprocessor is also the basis of the evolution and breakthrough of computing. This had an impact in

many areas: for calculation, word processing, drawing and graphic design, regulating and controlling machines, simulating processes, capturing and processing information, monetary transactions and telecommunications. The communication phase grows enormously at the beginning of the new millennium: the digital revolution. According to many analysts now a new era has emerged: that of the information or service economy. Here the acquisition and channeling of information has become more important than pure production.

By now computer and communication technology take up an irreplaceable role in all parts of the world. More countries depend on the service sector and less on agriculture and industry.

Effects of three industrial revolutions

The first (and second revolution) transformed an agricultural society into an industrial society where mechanization (finally) relieved man of physical labor. The craft industry could not compete with the factories that put products of the same or even better quality on the market at a lower price. The result was that many small businesses went bankrupt and the former workers went to work in the factories. The effects of industrialization were seen in the process of rapid urbanization of formerly relatively small villages and towns where the new plants came. These turned into dirty and unhealthy industrial cities. Still people from the country were forced to go and work there. Because of this a new social class emerged: the workers, or the industrial proletariat. They lived in overcrowded slums in poor housing with little sanitation. The average life expectancy was low, and infant mortality high. The elite accepted the filth of the factories as the inevitable price for their success. The chimneys were symbols of economic power, but also of social inequality. You see this social inequality appear after each revolution. The gap between the bottom and the top of society becomes very large. Eventually there are inevitable responses that decrease this gap. It could be argued that the Industrial revolutions have created the conditions for a society with little or no poverty.

The third revolution transformed an industrial society into a service society. Where mechanization man relieved of physical labor, the computer relieved him of mental labor. This revolution made lower positions in industry more and more obsolete and caused the emergence of entirely new roles in the service sector.

The emergence of a stock market boom

In the development and take-off phases of the industrial revolution many new companies emerged. All these companies went through more or less the same cycle simulataneously. During the second industrial revolution these new companies emerged in the steel, oil, automotive and electrical industries, and during the third industrial revolution the new companies emerged in the hardware, software, consulting and communications industries. During the acceleration phase of a new industrial revolution many of these businesses tend to be in the acceleration phase of their life cycle, more or less in parallel.

3 - Magnum Opus - Humanity At Crossroads
Figure: Typical course of market development: Introduction, Growth, Flourishing and Decline

There is an enormous increase in expected value of the shares of companies in the acceleration phase of their existence. This is the reason why shares become very expensive in the acceleration phase of a revolution.

There was also an enormous increase in price-earnings ratio of shares between 1920 – 1930, the acceleration phase of the second revolution, and between 1990 – 2000, the acceleration phase of the third revolution.

4 - Magnum Opus - Humanity At Crossroads
Figure: Two industrial revolutions: Shiller PE Ratio (price / income)

Splitting shares fuels price-earnings ratio

The increase in the price-earnings ratio is amplified because many companies decide to split their shares during the acceleration phase of their existence. A stock split is required if the market value of a share has grown too large, rendering the marketability insufficient. A split increases the value of the shares because there are more potential investors when they are cheaper. Between 1920 – 1930 and 1990 – 2000 there have been huge amount of stock splits that impacted the price-earnings ratio positively.

Date Company Split
December 31, 1927 American Can 6 for 1
December 31, 1927 General Electric 4 for 1
December 31, 1927 Sears, Roebuck & Company 4 for 1
December 31, 1927 American Car & Foundry 2 for 1
December 31, 1927 American Tobacco 2 for 1
November 5, 1928 Atlantic Refining 4 for 1
December 13, 1928 General Motors 2 1/2 for 1
December 13, 1928 International Harvester 4 for 1
January 8, 1929 American Smelting 3 for 1
January 8, 1929 Radio Corporation of America 5 for 1
May 1, 1929 Wright-Aeronautical 2 for 1
May 20, 1929 Union Carbide split 3 for 1
June 25, 1929 Woolworth split 2 1/2 for 1

Table 1: Share Splits before the stock market crash of 1929

Date Company Split
January 22,1990 DuPont 3 for 1
May 14,1990 Coca-Cola Company 2 for 1
May 22, 1990 Westinghouse Electric stock 2 for 1
June 1, 1990 Woolworth Corporation 2 for 1
June 11, 1990 Boeing Company 3 for 2
May 12, 1992 Coca-Cola Company 2 for 1
May18, 1992 Walt Disney Co 4 for 1
May 26, 1992 Merck & Company 3 for 1
June 15, 1992 Proctor & Gamble 2 for 1
May 5, 1993 Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company 2 for 1
March 15, 1994 AlliedSignal Incorporated 2 for 1
April 11, 1994 Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing 2 for 1
May 16, 1994 General Electric Company 2 for 1
June 13, 1994 Chevron Corporation 2 for 1
June 27, 1994 McDonald’s Corporation 2 for 1
September 6, 1994 Caterpillar Incorporated 2 for 1
February 27, 1995 Aluminum Company of America 2 for 1
September 18, 1995 International Paper Company 2 for 1
May 13, 1996 Coca-Cola Company 2 for 1
December 11, 1996 United Technologies Corporation 2 for 1
April 11, 1997 Exxon Corporation 2 for 1
April 14, 1997 Philip Morris Companies 3 for 1
May 12, 1997 General Electric Company 2 for 1
May 28, 1997 International Business Machine 2 for 1
June 9, 1997 Boeing Company 2 for 1
June 13, 1997 DuPont Company 2 for 1
July 14, 1997 Caterpillar Incorporated 2 for 1
September 16, 1997 AlliedSignal 2 for 1
September 22, 1997 Proctor & Gamble 2 for 1
November 20, 1997 Travelers Group Incorporated 3 for 2
July 10, 1998 Walt Disney Company 3 for 1
February 17, 1999 Merck & Company 2 for 1
February 26, 1999 Alcoa Incorporated 2 for 1
March 8, 1999 McDonald’s Corporation 2 for 1
April 16, 1999 AT&T Corporate 2 for 1
April 20, 1999 Wal-Mart Incorporated 2 for 1
May 18, 1999 United Technology Corporation 2 for 1
May 27, 1999 International Business Machine 2 for 1
June 1, 1999 Citigroup Incorporated 3 for 2
December 31, 1999 Home Depot 3 for 2

Table 2: Share Splits during the period 1990-2000

Share Splits keep letting the Dow Jones Index explode

The Dow Jones Index was first published on May 26, 1896. The index was calculated by dividing the sum of all the shares of 12 companies by 12:

Dow12_May_26_1896 = (S1 + S2 + ………. + S12) / 12

On October 4, 1916, the Dow was expanded to 20 companies; 4 companies were removed and 12 were added.

Dow20_Oct_4_1916 = (S1 + S2 + ………. + S20) / 20

On December 31, 1927, two years before the stock market crash in October 1929, for the first time a number of companies split their shares. With each change in the composition of the Dow Jones and with each share split, the formula to calculate the Dow Jones is adjusted. This happens because the index, the outcome of the two formulas of the two baskets, must stay the same at the moment of change, because there can not be a gap in the graph. At first a weighted average was calculated for the shares that were split on December 31, 1927.

The formula looks like this: (American Can, split 6 to 1 is multiplied by 6, General Electric, split 4 to 1 is multiplied by 4, etc.)

Dow20_dec_31_1927 = (6.AC + 4.GE+ ……….+S20) / 20
On October 1st, 1928, the Dow Jones grows to 30 companies.

Calculating the index had to be simplified at this point because all the calculations were still done by hand. The weighted average for the split shares is removed and the Dow Divisor is introduced. The index is now calculated by dividing the sum of the share values by the Dow Divisor. Because the index for October 1st, 1928, cannot suddenly change, the Dow Divisor is initially set to 16.67. After all, the index graph for the two time periods (before and after the Dow Divisor was introduced) should still look like a single continuous line.  The calculation is now as follows:

Dow30_oct_1_1928 = (S1 + S2+ ……….+S30) / 16.67

In the fall of 1928 and the spring of 1929 (see Table 1) 8 more stock splits occur, causing the Dow Divisor to drop to 10.77.

Dow30_jun_25_1929 = (S1 + S2+ ……….+S30) / 10.77 

From October 1st, 1928 onward an increase in value of the 30 shares means the index value almost doubles. From June 25th, 1929 onward it almost triples compared to a similar increase before stock splitting was introduced. Using the old formula the sum of the 30 shares would simply be divided by 30.

5 - Magnum Opus - Humanity At Crossroads
Figure: Dow Jones Index before and after Black Tuesday

The extreme rise in the Dow Jones in the period 1920 – 1929 and especially between 1927 – 1929, was primarily caused because the expected value of the shares of companies that are in the acceleration phase of their existence, was increasing enormously. The value of the shares is strengthened further by stock splits and as icing on the cake this value of the shares was  enlarged again in the Dow Jones Index, because behind the scenes the formula of the Dow Jones was adjusted due to stock splits.

During the acceleration phase of the third industrial revolution, 1990 – 2000, history has repeated itself. In this period there have again been many stock splits, particularly in the years 1997 and 1999.

Year DJIA Sum 30 Shares
in $




1990 2810 1643 0.586 5
1991 2610 1318 0,505 0
1992 3172 1782 0.559 4
1993 3301 1535 0.463 1
1994 3754 1675 0.447 6
1995 3834 1425 0.372 2
1996 5117 1770 0.346 2
1997 6448 2100 0.325 10
1998 7902 1985 0.251 1
1999 9181 2228 0.243 9
2000 11497 2317 0.201

Table 3: Summary DJIA, Dow Divisor and amount share splits between 1990-2000

The formula that was used on January 1, 1990 to calculate the Dow Jones:

Dow30_jan_1_1990 = (S1 + S2+ ……….+S30) / 0.586

The formula that was used on December 31, 1999 was to calculate the Dow Jones:

Dow30_dec_31_1999 = (S1 + S2+ ……….+S30) / 0.20145268

On December 31, 1999 on an increase of the 30 stocks again nearly three times as many index points, the same value increase on January 1, 1990.

Stock market indices are mirages

What does a stock exchange index like DJIA, S&P 500 or AEX mean?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) Index is the oldest stock index in the United States. This was a straight average of the rates of twelve shares. A select group of journalists from The Wall Street Journal decide which companies are part of the most influential index in the world market. Unlike most other indices the Dow is a price-weighted index. This means that stocks with high absolute share price have a significant impact on the movement of the index.

The S & P Index is a market capitalization weighted index. The 500 largest U.S. companies as measured by their market capitalization are included in this index, which is compiled by the credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s.

The Amsterdam Exchange index (AEX) is the main Dutch stock market index. The index displays the image of the price development of the 25 most traded shares on the Amsterdam stock exchange. From a weighted average of the prices of these shares, the position of the AEX is calculated.

In many graphs the y-axis is a fixed unit, such as kg, meter, liter or euro. In the graphs showing the stock exchange values, this also seems to be the case because the unit shows a number of points. However, this is far from true! An index point is not a fixed unit in time and does not have any historical significance.

An index is calculated on the basis of a set of shares. Every index has its own formula and the formula gives the number of points of the index. Unfortunately many people attach a lot of value to these graphs which are, however, very deceptive.

  • An index is calculated on the basis of a set of shares. Every index has its own formula and the formula results in the number of points of the index. However, this set of shares changes regularly. For a new period the value is based on a different set of shares. It is very strange that these different sets of shares are represented as the same unit.
    After a period of 25 years the value of the original set of apples is compared to the value of a set of pears. At the moment only 6 of the original 30 companies that made up the set of shares of the Dow Jones at the start of the acceleration of the last revolution (in 1979) are still present.
  • Even more disturbing is the fact that with every change in the set of shares used to calculate the number of points, the formula also changes. This is done because the index which is the result of two different sets of shares at the moment the set is changed, must be the same for both sets at that point in time. The index graphs must be continuous lines. For example, the Dow Jones is calculated by adding the shares and dividing the result by a number. Because of changes in the set of shares and the splitting of shares the divider changes continuously. At the moment the divider is 0.15 but in 1985 this number was higher than 1. An index point in two periods of time is therefore calculated in different ways:
    Dow1985 = (S1 + S2 + ……..+S30) / 1

Dow2017 = (S1 + S2 + …….. + S30) / 0,146

In the nineties of  the last century many shares were split. To make sure the result of the calculation remained the same both the number of shares and the divider changed (which I think is wrong). An increase in share value of 1 dollar of the set of shares in 2017 results is 7.6 times more points than in 1985. The fact that in the 1990’s many shares were split is probably the cause of the exponential growth of the Dow Jones index. At the moment the Dow is at 21000 points. If we used the 1985 formula it would be at 2747 points.

  • The most remarkable characteristic is of course the constantly changing set of shares. Generally speaking, the companies that are removed from the set are in a stabilization or degeneration phase. Companies in a take-off phase or acceleration phase are added to the set. This greatly increases the chance that the index will rise rather than go down. This is obvious, especially when this is done during the acceleration phase of a transition.
    From 1980 onwards 7 ICT companies (3M, AT&T, Cisco, HP, IBM, Intel, Microsoft) , the engines of the latest revolution, were added to the Dow Jones and 5 financial institutions, which always play an important role in every transition.
    This is actually a kind of pyramid scheme. All goes well as long as companies are added that are in their take-off phase or acceleration phase. At the end of a transition, however, there will be fewer companies in those phases. The last 18 years were 21 companies replaced in the Dow Jones, a percentage of 70%.

Overview modifications Dow Jones from 1997:

21 winners in  —   21 losers out, a figure of 70%

March 19, 2015: Apple replaced AT & T. In order to make Apple suitable for the Dow Jones, there was a share split of Apple seven for one on June 9, 2014

September 23, 2013: Hewlett-Packard Co., Bank of America Inc. and Alcoa Inc. replaced Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Nike Inc. and Visa Inc.
Alcoa has dropped from $40 in 2007 to $8.08. Hewlett- Packard Co. has dropped from $50 in 2010 to $22.36. Bank of America has dropped from $50 in 2007 to $14.48.
But Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Nike Inc. and Visa Inc. have risen 25%, 27% and 18% respectively in 2013.

HP is trading at an approximate price of $22, BoA at $14 and Alcoa at $8 (sum total of $44). These shares will be replaced by Goldman Sachs at $164, Nike at $67 and Visa at $184 (sum total of $415) which is 9.4 times more. This means that the new sum of the 30 stocks have a value of $2,349 (1978 – 44 + 415) and, therefore we expect that the Dow Divisor will be adjusted from 0.130216081 to 0.154631 to get back to the original 15,191 index points (15,191 x 0.154631 = $2,349). 

Given the above, had the three old shares increased by 10% each in price in the past the Dow 30 would have increased by 33.8 points in total (10% x 44 divided by 0.130216081 = 33.79 points) assuming there was no change in the price of the other 27 stocks. 

As of September 23rd, however, a corresponding 10% increase in the price of each of the new shares would contribute 268.4 points to the rise of the Dow 30 (10% x 415 divided by 0.154631 = 268.38) or 7.94 times more points. 

The influence of the 3 losers was: $44 of $1,978. This is 2.2% of the Dow Jones Index.
The influence of the 3 winners becomes: $415 of $2,349. This is 17.67% of the Dow Jones Index.

September 20, 2012: UnitedHealth Group Inc. (UNH) replaces Kraft Foods Inc.
Kraft Foods Inc. was split into two companies and was therefore deemed less representative so no longer suitable for the Dow. The share value of UnitedHealth Group Inc. had risen for two years before inclusion in the Dow by 53%.

June 8, 2009: Cisco and Travelers replaced Citigroup and General Motors.
 Citigroup and General Motors have received billions of dollars of U.S. government money to survive and were not representative of the Dow.

September 22, 2008: Kraft Foods Inc. replaced American International Group. American International Group was replaced after the decision of the government to take a 79.9% stake in the insurance giant. AIG was narrowly saved from destruction by an emergency loan from the Fed.

February 19, 2008: Bank of America Corp. and Chevron Corp. replaced Altria Group Inc. and Honeywell International.
Altria was split into two companies and was deemed no longer suitable for the Dow.
 Honeywell was removed from the Dow because the role of industrial companies in the U.S. stock market in the recent years had declined and Honeywell had the smallest sales and profits among the participants in the Dow.

April 8, 2004: Verizon Communications Inc., American International Group Inc. and Pfizer Inc. replace AT & T Corp., Eastman Kodak Co. and International Paper.
AIG shares had increased over 387% in the previous decade and Pfizer had an increase of more than 675& behind it. Shares of AT & T and Kodak, on the other hand, had decreases of more than 40% in the past decade and were therefore removed from the Dow.

November 1, 1999: Microsoft Corporation, Intel Corporation, SBC Communications and Home Depot Incorporated replaced Chevron Corporation, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, Union Carbide Corporation and Sears Roebuck.

March 17, 1997:  Travelers Group, Hewlett-Packard Company, Johnson & Johnson and Wal-Mart Stores Incorporated replaced Westinghouse Electric Corporation, Texaco Incorporated, Bethlehem Steel Corporation and Woolworth Corporation.

6 - Magnum Opus - Humanity At Crossroads
Figure: Changes in the Dow Jones over the last two industrial revolutions
7 - Magnum Opus - Humanity At Crossroads
Figure: Exchange rates of Dow Jones during the latest two industrial revolutions. During the last few years the rate increases have accelerated enormously.

Central banks hold out stock exchanges?

Calculating share indexes as described above and showing indexes in historical graphs is a useful way to show which phase the industrial revolution is in.

The third industrial revolution is clearly in the saturation and degeneration phase. This phase can be recognized by the saturation of the market and the increasing competition. Only the strongest companies can withstand the competition or take over their competitors (like for example the take-overs by Oracle and Microsoft in the past few years). The information technology world has not seen any significant technical changes recently, despite what the American marketing machine wants us to believe.

During the pre development phase and the take-off phase of a transition many new companies spring into existence. This is a diverging process. Especially financial institutions play an important role here as these phases require a lot of money. The graphs showing the wages paid in the financial sector therefore shows the same S curve as both revolutions.

8 - Magnum Opus - Humanity At Crossroads
Figure: Historical excess wage in the financial sector

Investors get euphoric when hearing about mergers and take overs. Actually, these mergers and take overs are indications of the converging processes at the end of a transition. When looked at objectively each merger or take over is a loss of economic activity. This becomes painfully clear when we have a look at the unemployment rates of some countries.

New industrial revolutions come about because of new ideas, inventions and discoveries, so new knowledge and insight. Here too we have reached a point of saturation. There will be fewer companies in the take off or acceleration phase to replace the companies in the index shares sets that have reached the stabilization or degeneration phase.

In a (threatening) recession, the central bank tries to stimulate the economy by lowering interest rates. Loans are thus cheaper, allowing citizens and businesses to spend more. In the event of sharply rising unemployment and falling prices, however, this does significantly less. This is also the case as the official interest rates are lower, or even fall to essentially zero. Regardless of the interest rate (big) loans are not concluded and expensive purchases will be delayed. Further rate cuts or even an interest rate of zero may not lead to an increase in economic activity and falling demand leads to further price declines (deflation). The central bank may decide in that case to increase the money supply (quantitative easing). A larger money supply actually leads to price increases and disruption of the deflationary spiral. In the past the printing presses would be turned on but nowadays the central bank buys government bonds, mortgage bonds and other securities and finances these transactions by increasing the personal balance. There are no extra physical bank notes printed. The mechanism works by means of central banks buying bonds in the market or directly from banks. Banks are credited for the purchase amount in the accounts held with the central bank. In this way, banks obtain liquidity. In response to this liquidity banks can then provide new loans.

9 - Magnum Opus - Humanity At Crossroads
Figure: The quantitative easing policy of the Fed (US central bank) and its effect on the S & P 500

Due to the combination of interest rate policy and quantitative easing by central banks a lot of money has flowed the stock markets since 2008 and has in fact created a new, fictional bull market. This is evident in the price-earnings ratio chart (Shiller PE Ratio), which has risen again since 2008. But central banks now have no more ammunition to break the deflationary spiral.  At the end of the 2nd industrial revolution in 1932 the PE Ratio dropped to 5. Currently, this ratio, partly due to the behavior of central banks, is 23.

10 - Magnum Opus - Humanity At Crossroads
Figure: Two industrial revolutions: price-earnings ratio (PE ratio Shiller)

Will history repeat itself?

Humanity is being confronted with the same problems as those at the end of the second industrial revolution such as decreasing stock exchange rates, highly increasing unemployment, towering debts of companies and governments and bad financial positions of banks.

11 - Magnum Opus - Humanity At Crossroads
Figure: Two industrial revolutions and the debt of America

Transitions are initiated by inventions and discoveries, new knowledge of mankind. New knowledge influences the other four components in a society. At the moment there are few new inventions or discoveries. So the chance of a new industrial revolution is not very high. History has shown that five pillars are indispensable for a stable society.

12 - Magnum Opus - Humanity At Crossroads
Figure: The five pillars for a stable society: Food, Security, Health, Prosperity, Knowledge.

At the end of every transition the pillar Prosperity is threatened. We have seen this effect after every industrial revolution.

The pillar Prosperity of a society is about to fall again. History has shown that the fall of the pillar Prosperity always results in a revolution. Because of the high level of unemployment after the second industrial revolution many societies initiated a new transition, the creation of a war economy. This type of economy flourished especially in the period 1940 – 1945.

Now, societies will have to make a choice for a new transition to be started.
Without knowledge of the past there is no future.

Wim Grommen


  • Geschiedenis Werkplaatssite van Wolters-Noordhoff en Wikipedia
  • Prof J. Rotmans, e.a. (2000), “Transities & Transitiemanagement: de casus van een emissiearme energievoorziening”
  • Dow Jones Industrial Average Historical Components, S&P Dow Jones Indices McGraw Hill Financial
  • Dow Jones Industrial Average Historical Divisor Changes, S&P Dow Jones Indices McGraw Hill Financial
  • W. Grommen, (november 2007), “Nieuwe beurskrach, een kwestie van tijd?”, Technische en Kwantitatieve Analyse,  (20 – 22)
  • W. Grommen, (January 2010), “Beurskrach 1929, mysterie ontrafeld?”, Technische en Kwantitatieve Analyse,  (22 – 24)
  • Grommen, (March 2011), “Huidige crisis, een wetmatigheid?”, Hermes, 49, (52 – 58)
  • Grommen, (January 2013), paper “The present crisis, a pattern” gepresenteerd op International Symposium The Economic Crisis: Time For A Paradigm Shift
  • W. Grommen, (November 2014), “The Dow Jones Industrial Average , A Fata Morgana”, TRADERS’ Magazine,  (14 – 18)
  • Grommen, (April 2015), “Stock Splitting And The Market Crash 1929”, ValueWalk
  • Grommen (August 2015), “Stock Market Boom and Crash, the Cause and Effect of Extreme Market Movements” , TRADERS’ Magazine, (28 – 30)

About the Author

Wim Grommen was a teacher in mathematics and physics for eight years at secondary schools. The last twenty six years he trained programmers in Oracle-software. He worked almost five years as trainer for Oracle and the last 22 years as trainer for Transfer Solutions in the Netherlands. The last years he studied transitions, social transformation processes, the S-curve and transitions in relation to market indices. Articles about these topics have been published in various magazines in The Netherlands and Belgium. The paper “The present crisis, a pattern: current problems associated with the end of the third industrial revolution” was accepted for an International Symposium in Valencia: The Economic Crisis: Time for a paradigm shift, Towards a systems approach. On January 25 2013, during the symposium in Valencia he presented his paper to scientists. For the content of the paper, see publications.

Creative CommonsThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs. You’re allowed to share this article for non commercial purposes, but you must not edit or modify the contents. You must include all links and images, as well as provide appropriate credit — which includes a link at the top of this article leading back. You must also include this licence information if shared in full.