The world is moving forward at a rapid pace, and it’s only accelerating as we’re moving along with it, sometimes slightly confused by what’s happening around us. The era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, otherwise known as Industry 4.0, is upon us and this is expected to change up everything we know and love. Does this mean that we’ll develop new normals? Or will we fight it to keep what we know? Let’s have a look at what Industry 4.0 is exactly and how it will affect us in the years to come.
A Brief History of The First Three Industrial Revolutions
To understand where we’re going, we need to have a quick look at our history. Before Industry 4.0, there were three revolutions, which have naturally influenced how we do things today. Each one in their own right was significant at the time and changed the period that followed it.
In 1765, we had the First Industrial Revolution, where we saw mechanisation occur; which is the replacement of agriculture (our reliance on animals) with industry (reliance on machines). To get us to where we are today; forging the development of railroads, the invention of the steam engine and the mass extraction of coal took place.
The developments in the previous revolution directly influenced The Second Industrial Revolution, which brought us electricity, gas, and oil in around 1870. Chemical synthesis, telephones/telegraphs, factories and the division of labour were all developed as well.
The Third Industrial Revolution, which took place in 1969, exceeded its predecessors with the most important invention of them all, nuclear energy. Along with that, we saw the rise of electronics, biotechnology, and automated production.
These revolutions all built on each other and lead us to Industry 4.0 and to where we are today.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution
With all the potential to be a positive revolution for the population and at the same time risky for almost every industry and country involved, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is set to be a mover and a shaker. This revolution includes the adoption of cyber-physical systems, the Internet of Things and the Internet of Systems. This revolution is entirely different from the previous three as it’s expected to change what it means to be human completely, it does, however, have some aspects that build on the Third Industrial Revolution.
What this revolution will bring us and in some cases has brought us is a smart technology that we use in our factories, workplaces, and households, that ends up making decisions and controlling the entire production process for you. This revolution is said to have the most significant impact on the human population, and we can see evidence of this in factories already.
Technology has come a long way and rather than just be seen to improve our lives, it can be a lot more. It can be a powerful facilitator that can change how we see the world, change our behaviour and what it means to be human. This era will be regarded as the movement that will add to and extend the impact digitalisation has on us in ways that we don’t expect. In other words, we will be the generation who will always be challenged by what is being invented and what is changing around us.
Nicholas Davis compares this revolution’s impact on us to that of a tsunami, he states that the outcome of every revolution is a reflection of the desires of the population and ultimately the choices that it made. Think of the Law Of Attraction phenomenon; what you seek is what you receive.
Professor Klaus Schwab, who wrote a book called The Fourth Industrial Revolution, mentions that leaders and citizens should be in control of the future by shaping it together. We need to be proactive in empowering people and reminding ourselves that the new technologies are tools that have been made by people for people; therefore the fear of uncertainty is not so great.
How Does This Revolution Impact Us?
Industry 4.0 has its pros and cons for the human population. On the upside, with this revolution, it’s possible that the population’s income can increase as well as an improvement in the quality of life for some. Goods will become cheaper for consumers, but will remain high quality and efficiency will also improve.
The revolution stands for a connected world, and many of us experience this every day, being able to book flights and order our dinner online. We’re able to contact someone halfway across the world with an email or a simple message, which they can then access immediately. The thought of this a hundred years ago, would not have been comprehensible.
On the downside, with the rise of technology, there could be an even more significant gap between rich and poor. In this modern world that we live in, technology and sometimes the basics, like running water, are not available to people who live in some rural and developing countries. According to the latest report from Oxfam, which put this issue into perspective, 62 people control more assets than the poorest 3.6 billion people combined, which is about half of the world’s population.
William Gibson once said: “The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed.” This quote perfectly sums up the above. While some of us are living in Industry 4.0 with access to everything (think First World), others are still living in the Second or Third Industrial Revolution (think rural Third World).
Some people’s jobs, especially those who work in factories, could be taken over by robots and technology, and lastly, times might move too quickly for us to keep up.
As we are still at the beginning of the revolution, it is difficult to predict precisely what could happen and which way the revolution will swing for us. According to WeForum, the three significant areas of concern are identity, inequality, and security. The big question that is at the back of our minds is; what jobs will be left for us if technology takes over?
Whether we like it or not, the world is going to continue growing and changing at a rapid pace. Technology is only going to get more complicated, and life as our grandparents knew it will be over. Depending on how we handle these changes as a population, they can work in our favour, or against us. The choice is still ours.