Fourth Industrial Revolution
The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is upon us and it’s leaving a permanent impact on life as we know it. Representing the combination of cyber-physical systems, the Internet of Things, and the Internet of Systems, 4IR is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.
In case you missed every high school history class ever, the three prior industrial revolutions have helped shape the world we live in today. Here is a little recap:
First Industrial Revolution – Mechanization, Water Power, Steam Power
Second Industrial Revolution – Mass Production, Assembly Line, Electricity
Third Industrial Revolution – Computer and Automation
So, here we are, building off of the Third Industrial Revolution and have entered the Fourth Industrial Revolution with cyber-physical systems. For context, examples of cyber-physical systems include autonomous automobile systems, robotics, medical monitoring, etc. What makes the 4IR so much more aggressive than the previous three? The incredible speed at which it is expanding across the globe. We are already seeing some of these ideas being integrated with the introduction and utilization of AI (artificial intelligence), cryptocurrencies, and drones into our everyday lives.
Impact on Society
Unsure how to feel about the possibilities of billions of people having almost unlimited processing power, access to knowledge, and storage space? You are not alone. Feels like some Black Mirror stuff going on. A large portion of American jobs are labor jobs. It is estimated that almost 47% of U.S. jobs are at risk for automation. There is concern this might also create more societal issues resulting in segregation of “low-skill/low-pay” and “high-skill/high-pay”. However, we are still in the early stages of the 4IR and it’s difficult to predict just exactly how – and if – this will impact the working class.
There is the possibility, however, that the Fourth Industrial Revolution may positively impact global income levels. Some may also argue that the 4IR will significantly improve the quality of life for people around the world. There is no question that the last three industrial revolutions experienced the same beneficial outcomes and the Fourth Industrial Revolution is likely to be no different. The long-term gains in efficiency, productivity, and ease of personal life is unparalleled.
Since this space is still fairly new, 4IR’s future is not completely shaped. Klaus Schwab, the Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, is one of the lead researchers in this field, having published a book titled, The Fourth Industrial Revolution. He raises the point that this will no doubt impact human nature, and that it is up to businesses and organizations what course this might take.
“In its most pessimistic, dehumanized form, the Fourth Industrial Revolution may indeed have the potential to ‘robotize’ humanity and thus to deprive us of our heart and soul. But as a complement to the best parts of human nature – creativity, empathy, stewardship – it can also lift humanity into a new collective and moral consciousness based on a shared sense of destiny. It is incumbent on us all to make sure the latter prevails.” – Klaus Schwab, World Economic Forum.