The Fourth Industrial Revolution: Where is Technology Taking us?

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According to the UpKeep website, there are four industrial revolutions that transformed society and our lives.

The industrial revolutions can be summarized in coal, gas, electronics, and nuclear power, as well as the internet and renewable energy. Starting from 1765, the economy shifted from agriculture to manufacturing during the first industrial revolution. Then followed the second industrial revolution in 1870, which transformed people’s lives with the discovery of electricity, gas, and oil. The third industrial revolution that took place in 1969 brought the rise of electronics, telecommunications, and computers. Then came the fourth industrial revolution, also known as Industry 4.0 and 4IR, it is mainly about advances in artificial intelligence, renewable energy, and the Internet of Things.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution term was coined by the World Economic Forum Founder and Executive Chairman, Klaus Schwab.  Klaus Schwab said that the fourth industrial revolution is characterized by a range of new technologies that are fusing the physical, digital, and biological worlds, impacting all disciplines, economies, and industries, and challenging ideas about what it means to be a human. These technologies include big data, cloud computing, and robotics.

Understanding the Fourth Industrial Revolution Impacts

The Fourth Industrial Revolution changed the way we live, how we see the world, and the quality of our lives. It had many impacts specifically on the economy, society, and politics. The economy was changed in many aspects such as an expansion of trade, rise of the standard of living, and the reformation of the factories system. Also, it had effects on the societies and the growth of cities, as well as the growth of innovation. Lastly, from the political side, the democracy started to increase and expand, many business people started rising to power, nationalism started rising as well, and the government involvement in society increased. Klaus Schwab stated “We stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work and relate to one another. In its scale, scope, and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before.”

It’s important to understand the fourth industrial revolution and its positive and negative impacts in order to understand “where is technology taking us?”. Like any other revolution, the fourth industrial revolution has its advantages and disadvantages. Starting with the advantages which include, an increase in productivity and innovation, and with the rise of the internet and digitalization, access to information became easier. However, there is a downside to the fourth industrial revolution which is cybersecurity risk, core industries disruptions, and the risk of losing jobs as they can be replaced with robots.  According to a McKinsey Global report, up to 800 million jobs will disappear by 2030 due to automation. On the other hand, whenever new technologies arise, new jobs arise with them.

Machines and Robots: Taking over the Workforce?

In accordance with the CHANGE website, the 4th Industrial Revolution is predominantly fueled by four technical advancements which are high-speed mobile internet, artificial intelligence and automation, big data analytics, and cloud computing. Furthermore, AI and automation are predicted to have the greatest influence on employment numbers in the global workforce of these four technologies.

According to recent research by McKinsey Worldwide Institute, AI and automation will affect around one-fifth of the global workforce, with the greatest influence in industrialized countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany, and the United States. By 2022, half of the employers expect automation to reduce their full-time workforce, and by 2030, robots will have replaced 800 million humans throughout the world.

While these data may appear discouraging, they might just reflect a shift in the workforce, with displaced employees assuming more beneficial professions with the correct qualifications. According to the World Economic Forum, 38% of organizations believe AI and automation technologies would enable people to do new productivity-enhancing occupations, while over 25% believe automation will lead to the introduction of new roles.

Despite the fact that artificial intelligence is becoming more advanced and efficient than a human worker, there are some jobs that cannot be replaced by robots or machines. Such as psychiatrists and psychologists as it requires high communication skills that robots cannot reach. Similarly, it is argued that robots cannot replace some other professions such as project managers, lawyers, and writers. Rana Abu Al Rous, head of The American International School, has an optimistic perspective in regards to technology in the workplace. She believes that technology helps a lot, especially in the teaching sector and that was clearly shown in the lockdown period. She also added, “Technology can help evolve workplace, we just need to stay up to date with it.”. The graph below demonstrates some policies that help in dealing with the automation and artificial intelligence impact on the labor sector.

COVID-19 and Technology

The third and fourth industrial revolutions have played and are still playing a major key role in regards to the rapid change in technological developments and they opened the door for a major digitalized world. With the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, the change in the way companies and businesses work has taken place in a short time. Consumers have shifted significantly to internet channels during the epidemic, and businesses and sectors have responded. The survey’s findings are attached to support the fast-growing trend of communicating with clients via digital platforms. They also demonstrate that adoption rates are years ahead of where they were in prior polls, with developed Asia leading the way much more than other areas (Exhibit 1). Respondents are three times more likely to claim that at least 80% of their consumer interactions are digital now than they were before the crisis.

In the health care system, especially during the COVID period, artificial intelligence is being employed to power robots and other systems that interact with patients, as human involvement should be kept to a minimum. According to NCBI, drones, robots, and AVs innovation guarantee the least of human communication, as well as AI, is valuable to get to infectious COVID-19 patients. Wearables, utilizing the Bluetooth and GPS innovation, is one more proficient method for checking a person’s wellbeing and their everyday feelings of anxiety in disengagement.

When it comes to networks and connectivity during the COVID period, technology played a major role. As the EU Member States have introduced social distancing measures and precautions in order to fight the coronavirus pandemic and stay safe, the interest in regards for the Internet limit has expanded radically, such as in teleworking, online shopping, e-learning, and working from home. With the demand and usage of social networks, the networks apps are upgrading.

New Concept: Metaverse?

With the world becoming more digitalized, new concepts are arising. The concept of the metaverse is considered to be the next breakthrough of technology. The metaverse term can be traced all the way back to 1992, it was first coined by Neal Stephenson in his science fiction novel Snow Crash. The concept in his novel was used to describe a 3D virtual reality in a shared online space. And now, years later, the concept of the metaverse is adhering into reality. Modern web encounter is two-dimensional, meaning you browse and scroll through it on a screen, while the metaverse is 3D in which you’ll be walking through it by means of associated headsets or glasses.

The metaverse, as Zuckerberg has defined it, is a way for us to make our virtual lives more like our real lives, and it’s a chance to improve communication through network sites. Zuckerberg said in his speech that “It will be like we’re right there with people

no matter how far apart we actually are, we’ll be able to express ourselves in new joyful, completely immersive ways.”. This picture shows Facebook, which was lately renamed to Meta, envisions more individuals will spend time hanging out socially within the metaverse.

Tala Tayeh, a student studying Public Relations and Advertisement, expressed her fear of how technologized the world is becoming as she said “Whenever any new technology arises, I get excited at first, then when looking further deeply into it and to its consequences, I panic.”. She also explained that what causes her the feeling of panic is the high job qualifications that companies will start asking for, thus making it hard for fresh graduates to enter the work industry easily.

To sum up, as this investigation shows, the industrial revolutions opened the doors to all the development that is happening in the world, starting from coal, water, and steam to Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things. Especially with the third and fourth industrial revolutions, the digital revolution and technology have changed our daily lives and the origin of work in many ways and there is no doubt they will continue to do so.

References:

  1. Digital Solutions during the pandemic. European Commission – European Commission. (2021, June 30). Retrieved January 19, 2022, from https://ec.europa.eu/info/live-work-travel-eu/coronavirus-response/digital-solutions-during-pandemic_en
  1. Explained: The history of metaverse. cnbctv18.com. (2022, January 4). Retrieved January 19, 2022, from https://www.cnbctv18.com/technology/explained-the-history-of-metaverse-
  1. Making sense of the 4th Industrial Revolution. (n.d.). Retrieved January 18, 2022, from https://www.miti.gov.my/miti/resources/Industry4Point0/MIGHT_Making_Sense_of_the_4th_Industrial_Revolution.pdf
  2. McKinsey & Company. (2021, February 18). How COVID-19 has pushed companies over the technology tipping point–and transformed business forever. McKinsey & Company. Retrieved January 19, 2022, from https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/strategy-and-corporate-finance/our-insights/how-covid-19-has-pushed-companies-over-the-technology-tipping-point-and-transformed-business-forever
  3. Recruitment, C. (n.d.). How will the fourth industrial revolution impact the future of work? How Will the Fourth Industrial Revolution Impact the Future of Work? – Change Recruitment. Retrieved January 18, 2022, from https://www.changerecruitmentgroup.com/knowledge-centre/how-will-the-fourth-industrial-revolution-impact-the-future-of-work
  4. Saher, R., & Anjum, M. (2021). Role of technology in COVID-19 pandemic. Researches and Applications of Artificial Intelligence to Mitigate Pandemics. Retrieved January 19, 2022, fromhttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/
  5. Software, S. (2021, October 5). 12 jobs that AI will replace in future. Resources Library. Retrieved January 18, 2022, from https://www.saviom.com/blog/12-jobs-that-robots-ai-will-replace-in-the-future-and-12-that-wont/
  6. (n.d.). What are the 4 industrial revolutions? onupkeep. Retrieved January 18, 2022, from https://www.upkeep.com/answers/maintenance-history/four-industrial-revolutions#

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