It took 75 years for 100 million users to adopt telephone. Instagram signed up 100 million users in just two years while Pokémon Go caught that amount in one month! It’s all part of Industrial revolution. Now we are in the early days of yet another revolution – Fourth Industrial Revolution. And this is the one that is so radical that make other three look like child play!
To understand Fourth industrial revolution, we must understand what the first one was? If you don’t know the first, second and third… Fourth Industrial Revolution doesn’t make as sense as it should.
Are you ready to understand the exponential changes happened in the human history?
First came fire, agriculture and wheels. As a ripple effect cities, manufacturing and trading came to existence. But what influenced the invention of steam power, electricity and concept of mass production? How we managed to make that paradigm shift to the world of computer, internet and gene editing?
Don’t get your tinsel in a tangle! Let break down this clearly.
To understand the idea we need to go further back. Let’s start from beginning!
About First Industrial Revolution
It was 1712, when Thomas Newcomen invented steam-driven pump (first fuel burning engine) in Great Britain. 1760’s James Watt was asked to repair one of the steam-driven pump invented by Thomas Newcomen. He significantly improved the efficiency of Newcomen’s stream driven pump by attaching a condenser with it. James Watt applied for a patent for this steam engine in 1769 and that is how the First Industrial Revolution kicked off. Clear?
Eventually it spread to Europe and North America. New manufacturing process, factories and textile industries were established.
Steam engine was all about getting more productivity.
What changed during First Industrial Revolution?
- Mechanisation in Industry
- Transportation using steam ships and steam locomotives
- Urbanisation (People started to shift from rural to urban areas to work in factories)
Let’s check out the Second Industrial Revolution
In the middle of 19th century the pace of First Industrial Revolution gradually decreased. So the end of 19th century saw the beginning of Second Industrial Revolution. Federick Taylor (American mechanical engineer) who introduced an idea known as scientific management is considered as the centre of second industrial revolution.
In massive factories there are thousands of workers but at those time they were not getting the best out of it. The key reason was the people cannot working with machines effectively. There was no chemistry! Scientific management is not about inventing something new. It was all about offering a better working environment of workers. From basics things such as installing more windows in factories, allow passage of natural light, how to organise humans around machines etc. And guys it worked! The productivity increased in enormous amount. Henry Ford installed moving assembly line (continuous production line) in Ford’s manufacturing plants in 1913. The concept was simple, the work came to the workers instead of workers moving to there. Henry Ford and his crew did this with perfection. They produced one car in every 32 seconds! Keep in mind it was a hundred years ago.
Not every revolution brought new machines and technologies. Second revolution make us realise or allowed us to change the way we do things.
Third Industrial Revolution – Welcome to the digital world
Third Industrial Revolution began with the invention of transistors in 1947. Then came the computers that help us to process information. Later came mobile phones and internet that help us to communicate effectively. They brought the digital world to us. Generally speaking this was enabling us to being more productive. Just as the first industrial revolution.
(So the First and Third Industrial Revolutions have few similarities such as large-scale innovation and technological advancement)
What next? Fourth Industrial Revolution is robotics?
In Third Industrial Revolution we witnessed the shift from desktop to mobile phones, 2G to 5G. Then what is fourth? Robotics?
Many of us has a wrong idea that automation and robotics are a part of Fourth Industrial Revolution but actually it is part of the Third, because it is digital.
As I said earlier, Second Industrial Revolution was all about allowing us to change the way we do things. Same is going to happen during the Fourth Industrial Revolution with a small correction. Instead of allowing us to change the way we do things, this is going to change us! Believe me, it is!
During the Third Industrial Revolution, these technologies (computers, mobile phone, and internet) were introduced as tools that help us to do what we use to do before in cheaper, better and faster way.
Fourth Industrial Revolution – This time it is going to be different
In Fourth Industrial Revolution, these technologies introduced earlier are not just tools help us to do what we use to do cheaper, better and faster anymore. These actually allow us to do new things that we have never done before.
Third Industrial Revolution was like, taking what we do as business and making this online (Emails instead of letters, Amazon (online stores) instead of shopping). Fourth Industrial revolution is about changing everything completely. That is why Uber, Netflix, Airbnb achieved massive success. They didn’t invent a new technology. They changed the game entirely! Uber is a taxi company with no cars, Airbnb is a hotel company with no room of their own! This is just a beginning. We are now in the early days of fourth industrial revolution.
When asked about this, Klaus S, founder and executive chairman, world economic forum commented
“It doesn’t change what we are doing. It changes us.”
We don’t need to introduce new energy source, we have sufficient energy power source for entire civilisation to survive. The question is how to integrate it? When wind is blowing in Denmark, sun is shining in Germany, how can we move that electricity through an integrate grid and supply energy to everyone who needs it around the world all the time. All the technology we need actually exist, but how do we implement it in a scale we need and a price we can afford.
Should we be worried?
- Absolutely yes! We will be removed from physical and mental work we are doing now. Artificial Intelligence (AI), computer and computerised mechanical system what we call robots will without a doubt replace us. Advance in medicine alone can be revolutionary, almost Utopian. It will completely change the heath care. But this comes with a cost of significant job loss. Cut the cost and increase production, why wasting so much human resource if a robot can do work of 6 humans in equal time span more efficiently? 50% of jobs we have now will be gone.
- Privacy concerns are there, Fourth Industrial Revolution turns every company into a Tech company. Food delivery, travel app, everything will be collecting data from users. On internet, these data that the users give away is a precious commodity.
- We haven’t yet fully understood or controlled AI completely. It is the world’s greatest opportunity and the greatest threat.
- Another concern is that, just as we can use cyberspace to hack reality, so can they!
What must be done?
What we need is an education system that deals with innovation and creativity!
Students should no longer be forced to memorise stuffs and write it in exams as the professors say. memorise stuffs and copy it in a peace of paper is not what we need in ‘google generation’. Robots can do that better than humans. This is not what we need. What we need is people who are creative and innovative. So our educational system must change if we want to catch the pace and cop with fourth industrial revolution.
This time it is going to be different
World is going to change in next 20 years than we have witnessed ever before! It is the question of adding quality to the quantity. Fourth industrial revolution is not new. It is the application of Third. Second industrial revolution gives us the hint of how to do the fourth.