4th Industrial Revolution
Grab your hat the rollercoaster is about to start!
5G brings us to the cusp of the 4th industrial revolution
Many people are speculating that 5G will be the catalyst for the world’s 4th industrial revolution. As with all the previous industrial revolutions, 5G opens up opportunities for a socio-economic changes far outside of the technology itself and represents an opportunity to make a fundamental change in the way we live, work and relate to each other.
The previous industrial revolutions were characterised by a number of key changes to common elements of the social-economic fabric.
1st Industrial Revolution (late 1700s-mid1800s) – Steam: Technology powered by steam allowed the move from hand production to machines. The industrialization of manufacture that this created saw the move away from cottage industries and the rise of the factory system. With the factories needing investment and generating large financial returns, we saw the launch of a new financial system, “the stock market” which generated even more capital to further accelerate the change. During this period we saw the start of the urbanization of the population, with people moving from rural to urban environments
2nd Industrial Revolution (1870-1914) – Technology and electricity: Technological systems allowed widespread adoption of pre-existing technologies. Assembly line techniques allowed mass production and the huge expansion of rail and telegraph opened a wave of globalization. The introduction of the limited liability company reduced the risk to individuals involved in entrepreneurial enterprises, hence accelerating the development of these entrepreneurial enterprises and with them further globalization and technology
3rd Industrial Revolution (1970s-2000s) – Information: Powered by computing and the internet we saw massive advances in scientific research. We started to see a move away from mass employment in the factory based assembly lines with robots and automation taking the place of humans in mass production. We also saw the liberalization of the banking system providing companies with access the large amounts of capital to further in invest in high technology and/or computerized manufacture.
So what about the 4th Industrial Revolution?
I would say it is the digital transformation of the world. In this new world we see the fusing together of the physical, digital and biological worlds. We already hear much talk about smart energy, intelligent transport, digital health, smart production, smart buildings and smart cities. 5G provides the “glue” to make all these innovations work by linking together billions of people with each other and with billions of devices. 5G gives a connectivity framework that links all these devices, in a dynamic, intelligent superfast way. It will literally bring the cumulative knowledge of the world past and present to our smart devices, everywhere, everytime.
With all of this digitization, we will see an increasing amount of time being spent in the “cyber world” and not only for leisure. Just as imaginary numbers allow us to solve mathematical problems that cannot be solved with real numbers, augmented reality and virtual reality allow us to solve problems that are impossible to solve in the real world.
The impact of the 4th Industrial revolution, like the previous industrial revolutions will impact all aspects of our lives. The early stages of this revolution are already starting to impact businesses; major changes are occurring to the supply chain, with Amazon already providing next day delivery and still looking at how to accelerate this. We starting to see new financial systems, with electronic money looking set to replace physical money and community fund raising like crowd-sourcing being used to finance new enterprises and activities. The communications provided by 5G massively lowers the barrier to entry to some businesses and we are starting to see the proliferation of small cottage industries forming part of federated business models; obvious examples being Uber, AirBnB, park on my drive and there are many online outlets for “single-person” companies making hand-made products. With remote working, we also have the opportunity to start de-urbanisation. Across all areas of business, service delivery has to be good, as feedback will be given on social media instantly if there are any issues.
The impact on individuals and social behaviours is vast and we are already seeing the start of this. With the 4th industrial revolution we will need to re-think the norms associated with our careers, how we build our skills and how we meet people and nurture relationships. With robotics, AI, nanotechnology and gene editing may even start to see human augmentation to mend and enhance our basic human experience.
The 4th industrial revolution has the potential to fundamentally improve the world in which we live and as such move the whole human experience forwards across all nations. Just imagine routine surgery, like cataract surgery being carried out routinely by robots across the globe. And everyone, no matter where they live, being able to access specialist surgeons who are able to use computer enhanced surgery techniques with real-time analytics based on computer recognition. Imagine IoT bringing a truly smart environment, with smart houses, smart factories, smart cities, smart highways etc. all being run to minimize our environmental footprint.
But, just one word of caution, as with any set of technological advances, the 4th industrial revolution, also has the potential to be used badly, and we have all seen the science fiction and horror films which give us a warning of what could happen if this happens.