Getting Into The Fourth Industrial Revolution.

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When was the last time you went all the way to the Railway station to check which train will lead you to your preferred destination? I’m sure you won’t remember. Because we all have the M-Indicator app downloaded in our smartphones which not only gives us complete information about the Mumbai railway but also of other locomotive services including Taxis and Auto Rickshaws.

If you have already witnessed the above incident, hail yourself, because you are already enjoying the Third Industrial Revolution!

We have heard about the Industrial revolution in our old school books. But did you know that we already had three industrial revolutions?

The First Industrial Revolution began in the 18th century with the mechanisation of the textile industry, harnessing of steam power, and birth of the modern factory. The Second Revolution began roughly a century after the first and peaked at the beginning of the 20th century, thanks to the Henry Ford’s creation of the moving assembly line that ushered in mass production. In this, factories could produce countless of identical products quickly and cheaply.

The Third Industrial Revolution,  beginning 1970 was digital – and applied electronics and Information Technology to process of production. Mass customisation and additive manufacturing – 3D Printings – are its concepts, and its applications, yet to be imagined fully, are quite mind boggling.

So what next? Ubiquitous, mobile supercomputing? Intelligent robots? Self driving cars and Genetic editing? Don’t tell me you didn’t imagine the above mentioned things. Finally, we are on our way of getting close to them with Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The Fourth Revolution conceptualised as an upgrade on the Third Revolution. It is marked by a fusion of technologies straddling the physical, digital and biological words. It can be answer to the criticism faced by the previous revolutions for being the cause of environmental degradation because it takes care of the green economy concept.

The resulting shifts and disruptions mean that we live in a time of great promise and great peril. This world has the potential to connect the billion more people to digital networks, dramatically improve the efficiency of the organisations and manage assets that can help regenerate the natural environment, potentially undoing the damage of the previous Industrial revolutions.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is the vibrant topic taking rounds on the global platform. This year’s World Economic Forum’s national meeting of 2016, was also held under the theme, “Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution “. The concept was first coined by the Founder and the Executive Chairman of The World Economic Forum, Prof. Klaus Schwab, in his new book, “The Fourth Industrial Revolution “.

What’s in store?

There are both opportunities and challenges. Like the earlier Industrial Revolution,  the fourth,  can lift global incomes and improves lives worldwide. It also increases the supply side of the total production, due to technological innovation and will lead to long term gains in efficiency and productivity. This means that, we, as a common public, would enjoy many products in the market of good quality in cheap rates.

“Technology had made possible new products and services that increase the efficiency and pleasure of our personal lives. Transportation and communication costs will drop, logistics and global supply chains will become more effective, and the cost of trade will diminish, this will open new markets and drive economic growth. “
– Prof. Klaus Schwab

There have been major shifts in the demand side too as companies normally tend to become more transparent towards the customers. They design their products as per consumer needs. This shifts the demand curve to the right i.e. Increase the demand for goods which leads to increase in profits and revenue for the company.

From the government’s point of view, they have to keep on updating themselves with changing technology to provide better and progressive services to its citizens.

On The Contrary :

MIT Sloan School of Management economist Eric Brynjolfson and Andrew McAffee, have warned that the revolution could increase in the inequality in the world as the spread of machines increases unemployment and disrupts labour markets. According to Oxfam, an International Confederation working against poverty, already top 62 richest individuals own as much as the poorer half of the world’s population, and that the wealth of the poorest 50% fell by 41% since 2010.

Indeed,  the numbers suggests that the increase in inequality will be the biggest social concern about the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Similarly, the destructive side of the machines is well known too. Hollywood has been constantly showing us the Man Vs Machines encounters. Movies series like ‘Terminator’ or the recently released fixture of the ‘Avengers’ warn us about the rise of machines and how they can erase our existence from this planet. Bollywod too, through Rajnikant starrer ‘Robot’, has told us similar thing.

But are movie scripts heading on the right path? Is our end inevitable? Well, I’m nobody to predict anything. Nor do I possess technical knowledge enough to analyse the future of the Human race. But we have got incidences to prove the, ” Not so good side” of the technology.

For instance, a worker was setting up a robot at Volkswagen factory in Germany when the machine grabbed him and pressed him against a metal slab. He suffered severe Contusions in the chest area, was immediately resuscitated at the scene, but then died at the hospital.

It’s impossible to develop a hypothesis against technology from a mere  single incidence. But we need to make sure not only humans stay safe from such a grab but nature too. That’s the reason we need technology with utter safety and sustainability. And the Fourth Industrial Revolution promises to provide us so.

How does it impact India and Developing countries?

India, though have managed to improve the technology and have tried to digitalised the economy by launching initiatives like Digital India, still thrives on its huge population and cheap and abundant labour. A report by the Swiss Bank UBS said the spread of artificial intelligence and robots will harm economies like India and Latin American countries by cutting their cheap labour advantage.

The report and the speculations might be disappointing, but India must never turn her back towards the new technology and try to specialise more on Skill Development programmes for her unskilled youth population.

Even for the developed countries, researchers at Oxfam estimated that 35% of the workers in the UK and 47% of the workers in the US could lose their jobs to technology over the next two decades.

When will the Fourth Revolution begin?

The Fourth Revolution builds upon the third, which is primarily digital in nature. This also exposes it to unpredictability and instabilities of the digital era. There were no bubbles in the first two Industrial Revolutions, but there have been far too many in the third. A lot of models are just not longlasting.  For instance, the chances of the Smartphone industry could be wiped away by the next big thing in tech.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to predict anything which has anything to do with technology, due to short product cycles. You never know when you’ll be overtaken by the Fifth Industrial Revolution while you’re still enjoying the fourth. The current expectation is that the driverless cars will be the disrupter that will put millions of drivers out of work and change everything from the Taxis sector to the automobile industry.

Till then, let’s sit back and enjoy the change in the technology. Because, it is certainly going to make our lives easier.

Reference :
http://www.weforum.org
The Fourth Industrial Revolution by Prof. Klaus Schwab
http://www.thirdindustrialrevolution.org
The Zero Marginal Cost Society by Jeremy Rifkin
Indian Express- Express news service
Article of Bernard Marr in Forbes
Oxfam international – http://www.oxfam.org
http://www.telegraph.co.uk

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2 thoughts on “Getting Into The Fourth Industrial Revolution.

  1. A very thought provoking article indeed. You say you don’t have the technical skills to analyse the future, yet you’ve covered almost all the aspects that can be thought of.
    But I wanted to know your perspective on wars. Industrial revolutions, all of them, everytime they happened has brought drastic changes in the techniques and prospects of war.
    What do you think would happen to wars after the Fourth Industrial Revolution,and before an artificial intelligence with free will?
    What will be the wars be fought for? Information, resources, technological trademarks and patents? But wars for all these are already on… What would be the next stage? I am really curious.

    Like

    1. Absolutely Sarath. You are spot on with your observation. It will have a huge impact on Development of Arms and Ammunition. I purposely kept the war thing away from the article. If you had notice, the second and the third revolutions lead to some serious wars within countries. The Second Revolution was followed by the first world war and the Third revolution was followed by the Gulf war. So yes, every time we had Industrial revolutions, we have witnessed wars. They may or may not be directly related to the revolutions though.
      As far as the impact of the fourth revolution is concerned, many scientists have already predicted the advancements of the weapons. But then no country will afford to go on war. Again it is psychological, especially after the aftereffects of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing. Governments generally avoid going on war. So fourth revolution will definitely impact on the armament strength of the countries. But we are unlikely to witness a war due to it. I’m not responsible if ISIS provokes them! Lol

      I know it is hypothetical but I have started to believe that water crisis can be the serious factor. I fear Mr. Einstein is right! Hatred against Islamic Jihad can also be the reason. I’m not worried about the issue with technological trademarks and patents. Countries tend to solve such problems with mutual cooperation. They’ve understood that war can be no option.
      To sum up, Wars can be fought for resources and information. But we are unlikely to witness a huge war post the fourth industrial revolution.

      Like

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