What is the Fourth Industrial Revolution?  

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is the fourth major industrial era. It is characterized by a fusion of technologies referred to as cyber-physical systems – this fusion blurs the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres. The 4IR is also marked by emerging technology breakthroughs in a number of fields including robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), nanotechnology, quantum computing, biotechnology, the Internet of Things, the Industrial Internet of Things, fifth-generation wireless technologies (5G), additive manufacturing (3D printing), and fully autonomous vehicles. (Excerpted from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourth_Industrial_Revolution)  


The Technology of the Revolution  

We are being told we are entering a fourth industrial age, but the technologies we use the most – our computers, our phones, our video game consoles – are part of the Third Industrial Revolution (the Digital Revolution). Which technologies are already here, and which are on the horizon? Some of the more fascinating advancements that have already begun are in virtual reality and AI. In addition to the VR technology available in video games, VR can now be used for live television – through a VR headset, or through smartphones and tablets. As for AI, computers already have superhuman capabilities when it comes to narrowly defined functions, but developments in machine learning have shown that computers can also learn across a broader range of tasks, leading experts to predict that more general artificial intelligence is coming. We are also becoming increasingly hyperconnected. Our mobile devices are now being linked up with our household appliances and electronics through a web of sensors and communication systems (the Internet of Things).   Our homes will be more convenient and efficient, but also our cities, with integrated energy grids and networks of autonomous vehicles. Production facilities too will be hyperconnected, and will increasingly utilize 3D printing, which has applications in manufacturing, construction, and even in medicine. This, along with rapid advances in robotics and automation will fundamentally change factories and warehouses, farms, the service sector, health care, and other industries. These technological developments will have dramatic effects on every aspect of our lives, not only at the individual level, but also at the level of economy, society, and culture. However, this has led to ethical questions.  

Potential Impacts of the Fourth Industrial Revolution  

This industrial revolution brings potential for incredible change worldwide – both good and bad. In many ways, these innovations can bring amazing benefits. Information is more convenient to find, and new strides are being made in productivity and efficiency in many industries. Communication is faster and more readily available around the world. And some have high hopes of using 4IR technology to limit carbon emissions and even reverse climate change. Advances in these technologies have the potential to significantly improve the world. However, we should not look at the 4IR through rose-tinted glasses. These technologies also carry with them tremendous risk. There is fear that continued automation in global industries could lead to hundreds of millions finding themselves out of work. Also, it has been argued that Industry 4.0 will disrupt other sectors, which could lead to less consistent work and lower wages. We have also become a far less private society. The information which is carried in our devices and transactions can be very personal, and data breaches in large companies have become more common than anyone would prefer. Bioengineering and biotechnology are impressive on a scientific level, but how are they being used? Biotechnology has brought tremendous medical benefits and can vastly improve our lives, for example prosthetic limbs, but the potential for genetic modification brings up an ethical dilemma. There have also been great strides in bioengineering and robotics, but they too can be used to destructive ends. This is the confusing and fascinating aspect of being in the early stage of a new technological revolution – so much is evolving so fast, and there are many different and competing interests and intentions. In his book The Fourth Industrial Revolution, Klaus Schwab calls on everyone, those in charge of these new technologies in particular, to think critically about the ends to which they can be used, and how they can benefit the people. (Sourced from the Internet)


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