What is Industry 4.0 and how this will affect us?
Technological inventions and breakthroughs are applicable for all industries and unavoidable as competition is increasing every day and which will never end. The battle began with the introduction of industry 1.0 in the 1800s. Mechanization has been used in the industry powered by the external force of steam and water engines.
During the 1900s, the Second Industry revolution happened after the invention of electrical energy that enabled mass production on conveyor lines. The third revolution brought automation, computers, and robots for production to improve productivity and avoid and reduce skilled laborers.
What is Industry 4.0
The fourth revolution is about IoT, Data Analytics, and smart machines to boost operation efficiency and handle operational complexity. It is about smartly managing the increasing and complex market dynamics.
The fourth revolution is more complicated than the third revolution as it requires three different skill sets to implement Industry 4.0 more efficiently. Presently, many technology companies are trying to sell their products under the umbrella of Industry 4.0, which may not be the best solution for many industries.
According to some experts, we are at the beginning of a fourth industrial revolution, and it’s one that’ll make those that came before it looks like mere dress rehearsals for the main event. But what is it, and why should you care?
Sometimes, it seems that human history has been one big, continuous, technological roller coaster ride. First, we discovered fire, and then agriculture.
Then came the wheel, then cities, manufacturing, and trading, followed by steam power, electricity, mass production, synthetic chemicals, computers, the internet, gene editing blockchain, self-driving cars, and artificial intelligence.
Scientists are now even talking about growing people in laboratories, and one day, possibly downloading our brains into computers.
This revolution is one mind-bending crazy technological rollercoaster ride was on, and it’s getting faster and weirder by the day. If you’re into technology, of course, this is an incredibly exhilarating ride.
But it’s also a scary one; especially when you think about what might go wrong. Over the past 300 years, one wave after another of technological revolutions has impacted our lives.
It started with the First Industrial Revolution when we discovered how to harness the power of steam fully. Then, as we entered the 20th century, we worked out how to mass-produce products using electricity.
Electricity led to a Second Industrial Revolution, which lasted up to the 1970s when we discovered digital computers. And then we found ourselves in yet another revolution. But now we’re going through a fourth industrial revolution; and it’s one that’s so radical, it makes the previous three look like child’s play.
What makes this fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0) so different is that we’re well on the way to developing the ability to design and engineer the world around us using the very atoms and molecules the world is made of. If you think of atoms and how they’re arranged in materials is the “digital code” of the real world, we’re learning how to hack this code, and in the process to change our reality.
You can see this in areas like gene editing and synthetic biology, where we are quite literally learning how to hack biology by reprogramming DNA. But we’re also learning to hack stuff that isn’t alive, by using atoms and molecules in new ways.
Using nanotechnology and other forms of advanced manufacturing, for instance, we’re creating designer materials that can be used in everything from our clothes and our computers, to robots, spacecraft, even the food we eat. But this isn’t even half of it.
What makes this fourth Industrial Revolution so mind-boggling is the way that we’re vastly enhancing this mastery of living and non-living stuff with a potent “secret sauce”. And this secret sauce is cyberspace. In the Third Industrial Revolution, we discovered digital computing, and we created a virtual world of bits and bytes. And we’re now quite literally using this to add a fifth dimension to the world we live in.
Of course, we’re all familiar with the three physical dimensions:up-down, left-right, and front-back. And we’re used to thinking of time as a fourth dimension. But cyberspace allows us to work outside these more conventional dimensions, and dip in and out of them at will.
In other words, cyberspace provides us with a back door to re-engineering and redesigning our reality. It’s a bit like the science fiction idea of hyperspace in that it gives us ways to achieve things in the real world that would be impossible if we couldn’t sometimes step outside it.
This is mind-blowing stuff. But it’s also a little disquieting because we’re in completely uncharted territory, and we have minimal idea of what went wrong. Of course, we have some hints. We know for instance, that we’re now at a point where we can’t simply turn the clock back if technology gets out of hand.
There is no easy reset button when you’re hacking reality. And we realize that, if we’re not careful, many people could get hurt in this fourth Industrial Revolution, by losing their jobs, for instance, their rights, or even their lives. Even more worryingly, perhaps, we’re beginning to develop artificial intelligence that lives in cyberspace and don’t fully understand or control.
What’s even more concerning is that, just as we can use cyberspace to hack reality, so can they. The technology could get weird if we’re not careful, and this is why everyone should care about the fourth industrial revolution and where it’s taking us. Because unless we learn how to develop and use our new technological capabilities responsibly, this could end up being one roller coaster ride of a revolution that, for some people, leaves the rails with catastrophic consequences.
The good news is though that people are working on this. For instance, in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society at Arizona State University, we’re training the next generation of experts and leaders with the skills they need to navigate us safely through this revolution.
And organizations like the World Economic Forum and others are working on new ways to meet the emerging challenges while keeping the tremendous benefits this revolution offers. Because without a doubt, with the right understanding, people, and skills, this fourth Industrial and technological revolution could radically improve our lives.
But to do this, it’s going to take an equally radical revolution in how we develop and handle the technologies it involves responsibly, and beneficially.