Human civilization is encountering the outbreak of a technological revolution that is set to transform the way we live our lives in every aspect. Humankind has never experienced such a huge transformation in terms of complexity and scope in the past. The first Industrial Revolution followed the practice of mechanizing production using water and steam power. In the second revolution, we used electric power for mass production. In the third, we used electronics and information technology to automate production. Building on the third one, the fourth Industrial Revolution is emerging from the digital revolution that began in the middle of the last century. This revolution comprises a fusion of technologies and an interconnection of physical, digital and biological spheres.
The reason why we consider the fourth Industrial Revolution as a distinct revolution is that the pace at which it is evolving is exponential and not linear. It has the potential of transforming the way the entire system works. This new change has endless possibilities powered by the advancements in AI, 3D-Printing, IoT, robotics, autonomous vehicles, biotechnology, quantum coupling, energy storage, etc.
What lies ahead?
Unlike the preceding revolutions, the fourth Industrial Revolution can improve the quality of life for people around the globe. We will encounter long-term benefits in efficiency and productivity. Transportation and communication will get cheaper driving economic growth and the emergence of new markets. But, there are some challenges associated as well. Economists predict that this mighty change can disrupt labor markets, leading to greater inequality. Where labor is said to be substituted by automation, there will be a substantial increase in safe and rewarding jobs. This change is evident from the rising sense of dissatisfaction and unjustness amongst middle-classes with the winner-takes-all economy.
Effects on Business
There are great shifts arising in the demand side as well as supply side. New technologies are disrupting the present industry value chains. The demand side is experiencing a growing transparency, changing customer behavior and their ways of engagement. Companies are forced to adapt their ways of marketing, designing, and delivery of products and services.
Effects on Government
The merging of physical, biological, and digital worlds is bringing new powers to citizens to engage with governments and voice their opinions. Technology will enable governments to have more control over the population. Governments will fall under the pressure of changing their current approach to policy making and public engagement. The fourth revolution is increasingly blurring the lines between war and peace or combatant and non-combatant.
Effects on people
The fundamental determinants of how we identify ourselves will be changed. There will be a shift in how we define our ownerships, sense of privacy, time devoted to work and leisure activities, career choices, interaction with people and building relationships.
One cannot say that any technology or the associated disruption comes without humans having any control over it. It is directly guided by the decisions we make as consumers or citizens. It is, therefore, in our hands to give our future a face that is reflective of our common sense of destiny and moral consciousness.