What is the 4th Industrial Revolution
It was in the Swiss mountains that the world was introduced to the term the 4th Industrial Revolution. Since then its been a hot topic amongst academics, politicians, and businesses alike. You might have heard about it within the online community but what exactly does it mean?
The 4th Industrial Revolution was coined by the founder of the world economic forum and former Professor Klaus Schwab who wrote a book about that title to describe an era marked by “a technological Revolution that is blurring the line between the physical, digital and the biological spheres.” Now let’s try and break that down, technologies like artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, and the internet of things are becoming engraved in our day to day lives even in our bodies. Come to think of it, when was the last time you spent a whole day without your phone? These glassy gadgets have become an extension of ourselves. Some of the lucky ones even have voice-activated virtual assistance Siri and Alexa, face ID recognition, and fingerprint sensors to unlock the phone. Flashback to 1998 when the first cellphone rang in the Kingdom, the types of phones we carried back then are nothing like what we are using now. With the internet of things evolving every day who knows what kind of phones will we be carrying around by the year 2040?
Schwab first presented his vision of the 4th industrial revolution at the world economic forum annual meeting in Dallas in 2016. To understand the idea, we need to go back in time to the 1st industrial revolution. The 1st industrial revolution started in Great Britain in the year 1760 and spread to Europe and North America in the year 1800. It was powered by the invention of the steam engine. The results of that invention were the new manufacturing processes, the creation of factories, and a boom in textile industries. From the 1800s, the 2nd Industrial revolution was marked by mass production and new industries like steel, oil, and electricity. The lightbulb, the telephone, and the internal combustion engine were the few major inventions of that era.
The 3rd industrial Revolution which is sometimes known as the digital revolution occurred in the second half of the 20th century. In just a few decades we saw the invention of a semiconductor, the personal computer, and the internet. So, what separates the fourth industrial revolution from the 3rd? Experts say the main difference is that nowadays technology is merging more and more with human lives and the technological change is happening faster and faster. Consider this, it took 75 years for the 100 million users to adopt the telephone. Instagram signed up 100 million users in just 2 years whilst Pokémon Go got that amount in 1 month.
3D printing is one example of the fast-growing technologies of the 4th Industrial revolution. The industry has grown from a business idea to big business with 3D printer shipments expected to increase from just a little under 200 000 in 2015 to 20 million in 2020. Today you can have a 3D printed house, a 3D printed hip, or a 3D printed bionic arm, talk about blurring the line between humans and technology. This new era of technology is driven by a lot of innovation. The number of patents relating to the 4th industrial revolution 3D and Artificial Intelligence has significantly increased since the year 2000.
Organizations are embracing new technologies to make their businesses more efficient, similar to how they embraced the steam engine back in the 1st Industrial revolution. However; some companies and governments are struggling to keep up with the fast pace of technological change. Researchers, investors, and shareholders benefit the most from innovation and technological change. Think about the queues at the revenue offices. It is painfully exhausting to stand on that slow queue to renew a car license. If the government can adopt technology to address that problem I’m sure the influx would be reduced tremendously.
Yes, technology comes with its own set of problems. As it is, the risk is that the 4th Industrial Revolution is making inequality which is already a big issue even worse. A recent study revealed that billionaires have driven 80% of the 40 main breakthrough innovations over the last 40 years. That is a problem when the 1% richest households in the world already own 47% of the global wealth. Experts warn that we are in a winner takes all economy where highly skilled workers are rewarded with high pay and the rest get nothing. Studies confirm that technologies like Artificial Intelligence will eliminate some jobs and create demand for new skills that many workers do not have. Our education system in the country is still grooming learners for jobs that no longer exist, that’s a huge problem in my futuristic perspective. If our children are to survive in the new world our government needs to take action immediately.
Privacy concerns are the main issue as the 4th Industrial Revolution turns every company into a tech company. Industries from banking, shopping, and food retailers are collecting a lot more data about their customers along the way. Users are becoming more worried that companies and governments know too much about their private digital lives. The world Economic Forum says a majority of leaders are not confident that their organizations are ready to handle the changes associated with the 4th Industrial Revolution. Zooming in closer to the case of Eswatini, it may be the case as well that the majority of the ordinary citizens in the country are not prepared for the challenges brought by the 4th Industrial revolution or at least take advantage of its benefits. With tech changing fast every day, it’s time for Eswatini to catch up as well.