What separates the 4th Industrial Revolution from previous revolutions is the underlying economic dynamics relating to workers and the jobs that will be replaced. Workers benefited greatly from previous revolutions as they saw increases in productivity, jobs, and wages from the technological improvements of the era. Technological improvements were mostly additive, and workers would simply need to be retrained to complete new tasks. However, in the 4th Industrial Revolution, technology has the capacity to significantly automate the majority of task-based jobs in blue and white-collar jobs. As a result, workers have to consider that they might be entirely replaced in the 4th Industrial Revolution as workers with non-relevant skill sets will transition from unemployed to unemployable. This potential transition is the other side of the amazing advances in technology we are reading about on a weekly basis.
But before you dismiss this as something more science fiction than reality and unlikely to happen, remember this: it’s already happening, right now. As this line is being read at the start of 2017, everything that has been mentioned is already well on its way to becoming more of a reality for consumers, employees, and companies alike across business, borders, and regulations.
While it might seem like a lot of doom and gloom, we're actually very optimistic about how everything will play out for everyone, even for the middle-class worker.
So now that you've realized the Fourth Industrial Revolution is underway (or maybe you're still not entirely convinced), you're probably looking for the information you'll need to understand better the risk, opportunities, and general challenges of the changes the world is experiencing. If you look below on this page and browse the rest of the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) section of this site, you'll find all the information you need to get your mind wrapped around the subject. You'll be able to understand the core drivers, impacts, risks, opportunities, and the likely road ahead.
You can also take a look at a short video overviewing some of the larger ideas some of the greatest minds in these fields are currently working on. It also touches on how significant the changes all of us will see over the coming years will be.
If you think we should add something, change something, or just want to send us a message with something new you are working on or discovered, We'd love to hear from you. Just shoot us a message here on the site.
What you need to know about the 4th Industrial Revolution
4th Industrial Revolution
The 4th Industrial Revolution marks the mass implementation of artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, internet of things (IoT), robotics, 3D printing, autonomous vehicles, blockchain, and a broad array of additional technologies.
These innovations greatly improve the efficiency, scalability, reach, and profitability of just about every industry over the next 10 years and beyond. Companies will be more efficient, more cost-effective, the product/service quality will be higher, and customers and businesses alike will benefit greatly from these innovations. At the same time, workers who previously occupied those positions will find themselves at a significant disadvantage unless they find alternative work with similar pay. This simple aspect of employment erosion over time will have an unprecedented impact on the economy, politics, financial markets, conflict, and many other areas.
Artificial Intelligence (A.I.)
Artificial Intelligence is all around us. From the google searches we make on our phones to the questions we ask Siri, automated cars + machines, IBM's Watson, to many other interfaces we regularly use while conducting our everyday jobs and errands. Artificial Intelligence is the process of designing intelligent machines and systems, especially in regards to computer programs that can solve complex problems that standard computing systems and humans could never solve. Most systems already have the ability to learn from their experiences and improve exponentially over numerous iterations.
Currently, AI is broken into two primary camps: Narrow AI, General AI, and Super AI. Most of us are familiar with Narrow AI systems; these are machines that can beat a chess grandmaster at Chess, or just recently, another machine that beat the world's best player in Go. While exceptionally good at beating a human opponent, these systems have limited flexibility in their applications. A Narrow AI system dedicated to Chess or Go cannot win a simple game of checkers or tic-tac-toe. The system has the extreme ability to learn but only in its narrow domain of knowledge.
General AI will be comprehensive like the human mind. Able to learn multiple skills and self-improve with the knowledge it attains just like a human mind or better. These systems have the ability to: reason, strategize, make choices with incomplete knowledge, plan, learn, communicate and be creative, just to name a few core characteristics. But most importantly, the AI must integrate all of these skills to achieve common goals and propose new ones. General Artificial Intelligence is also referred to as Strong Artificial Intelligence and Full Artificial Intelligence, in case you were looking for those terms as well.
Automation, Robotics & 3D Printing
Automation, Robotics, and 3D Printing are critical concepts for everyone to understand as they will have some of the greatest impacts on employment and job replacement (white and blue-collar). Some estimates put potential job losses anywhere from 40 to 99% in some sectors. Of course, there are nuances to these numbers. Not all jobs will be totally replaced, some will only be partially replaced, and workers will not be entirely replaced, but rather their roles will be significantly reduced, and so will the associated compensation.
Robotics is traditionally thought of as narrow, fixed, highly programmed, dumb robots that do static processes (think auto plant's robots) but these are the robots of the past and not the ones that should be worrying you. The new generation of robotics involve General Purpose Robots that can be easily trained by anyone to do a broad range of tasks from serving food and beverages, doing manufacturing work or folding clothes. The only limitation the robotics have is the current lack of total-dexterity (think of fixing a pipe) that would allow a whole variety of new robots to take over even more jobs like plumbers, carpenters and mechanics among many others.
Automation, while encompassing robotics, also refers to automation software that is designed to automate many white-collar jobs completely. If your job involves sitting in front of a screen, clicking, or doing anything task-based, your job will be or is already on the block to be replaced by automation software. These programs will also replace customer services agents you normally interact with online or when you call a company or government agency, so getting to an actual human will be the exception and not the rule. These innovations will result in the most significant erosion of labor demand.
Sharing Economies & Platforms
The rise in Platform and Sharing Economies are tightly correlated to the advancements of the 4th Industrial Revolution. Platform and Sharing Economy Companies are not technological disciplines in the same way blockchain, artificial intelligence, and IoT technologies are, rather these are economic ecosystems that have combined many aspects of the innovations of the 4th Industrial Revolution into their business models to break the traditional business models by providing peer-to-peer or as I like to call it worker-to-client platforms, removing the traditional middle man (owner-operator) from the transaction.
This has resulted in numerous industry incumbents suffering significant and measurable economic losses over a very brief time horizon. Industries like the taxi industry (Uber, Lyft, Yandex), the home services industry (Handy, TaskRabbit), pet care (Wag), and numerous other industries are in a current state of flux. These changes are already having significant impacts on the economy, how we live, and consumer services, but most importantly, it is changing the way we work and will work in the future and it doesn’t look good. Workers should expect to move towards a more freelancer/gig-based economy for many services with fewer safeguards, benefits, and upward mobility.
While there are very technical definitions of blockchain and a broad range of reasons for what it can be used for, like cryptocurrencies and private/public ledgers to track all forms of information and assets, none of these explain why blockchain is useful and will be adopted. In the most simple form, blockchain and all its derivatives are a "digital trust" that allows people to share, transact and verify a broad range of assets instantly and with absolute confidence. Blockchains, achieve this trust by providing participants transparency, traceability, and in such cases like Ethereum, enforcement by using smart contracts built on the blockchain.
So why is this trust-building, smart contracting technology so important? Well, it’s simple. One reason relates to the industries blockchain will disrupt. Second, the governments who want to use it. Third, the people wanting access to the global market for business. These three drivers will form the primary drivers for the growth of blockchain technologies.
Interested? We suggest taking a look at our section on Blockchain and NFTs. You´ll get the most recent developments in how blockchain is disrupting old industries.
Internet of Things (IoTs)
In the broadest sense, Internet of Things (IoT) refers to physical devices that send and receive data via the internet. These physical items make parking, energy use, tracking, monitoring air quality, heart monitor, water usage, and even your workout more efficient, reliable, and easy to interact with. All of these items automatically interact with one another without human interaction to complete their tasks. IoT brings the physical and digital world together thru seamless connectivity.
Entire cities are becoming more connected to improve parking, save energy and water, track issues and improve the overall quality of life for citizens. Barcelona, for example, has implemented innovative parking solutions that tell drivers where exactly they can find an available parking space in real-time. The local government has also implemented new energy-saving technology to better use street lamps around the city. But what is most interesting is the fact that power lines, water lines, and other key infrastructure that used to be monitored and checked by people on a regular basis are now being checked by tireless, always connected, economical sensors. As sensors become more sophisticated they will be able to collect more complex and valuable data thus increasing the rate of automatable jobs.
We also must be very aware of the data privacy concerns and data rights that are not adequately addressed at the corporate, governmental, and most importantly, the personal level (after all, we’re the ones producing all the data!) This data is the new oil for the digital economy, and we are freely giving all our data away for companies to collect, trade, sell and use as they see fit. Even more troubling is the amount of insights companies have into each of our private lives that has become digitally stored (forever in some cases) for private corporate and governmental use.
Get a quick overview of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Learn about the origins of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
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What are the opportunities of the 4IR?
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Learn about what jobs are prime targets of AI now and in the future.