What is 4IR and why you should give a sh*t...

The 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR)... That statement in itself is enough to scare away anyone that is opposed to changing the status quo. A revolution is often attributed to social unrest that causes dramatic change be it at a macro or micro level.

But what is 4IR... Let's start with a brief history lesson for all those that are new to the 3 previous technological revolutions that we have experienced thus far.

1st Industrial revolution (1IR): The emergence of mechanization

The introduction of the steam engine in 1712 created a new type of energy that initiated a snowball effect that contributed to the creation of railroads and thus an acceleration of economic, human and material exchanges. This, in turn, contributed to the creation of the first factories as well as the cities as we know them today.

2nd Industrial Revolution (2IR): New Energy Sources and Chemical Engineering

During the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th, new energy sources including electricity, gas and oil introduced themselves. This, in combination with resource utilization (plastics, lighter metal alloys, etc) and development in machine tools gave rise to the assembly line - think Model T Ford. The creation of electricity alone, contributed to the invention of the telephone, radio and the printing press. This allowed for cheaper books to be created which had a direct effect on the literacy rate and thus education. Additionally, 2IR contributed to a greater dispersion of wealth reducing oligarchical ownership of the means of production.

3rd Industrial Revolution (3IR): The rise of Electronics

During the latter part of the 20th century, the invention of the transistor and microchip initiated 3IR, which gave rise to computers. This led to the need to connect all these computers resulting in the internet. We all take this for granted but we should all personally thank Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce, the inventors of the microchip, for allowing us to check that all important Instagram post of the lol cat... Regarding manufacturing, this again changed the game leading to space exploration, biotechnology, robots and Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs).

So the 3IR is where we currently find ourselves. We are currently dealing with the peak of 3IR, and I use peak for a good reason. This reason being the introduction of the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR).

4th Industrial Revolution (4IR): Disruptive Technologies

4IR is highlighted by acronyms, which include but are not limited to Internet of Things (IoT), Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), Big Data, Block Chain, etc. I urge you to click on the link of the any of the above words that you are unsure of as I am fairly confident that you have at least at one time or another come face to face with this technology be it in business or consumer level.

So back to my title, why should you give a sh*t about 4IR.

Lets start with the elephant in the room that, from my little experience, is the greatest obstacle facing 4IR - job loss or better yet job replacement. I am not too sure of the push back other revolutions had during their infancy, I wasn't around, but I am sure they received their fair share of hindrances. An obvious difference between earlier revolutions and 4IR is the speed in which the revolution is affecting the world at large. Where previous revolutions took decades to adopt, globalisation has caused 4IR to quickly overtake the norm.

The World Economic Forum (WEF), another acronym, published a future of jobs report that discusses jobs that will be made redundant as well as new jobs that will be created through 4IR - some that we don't even know about yet. Again, one can look to the past where similar situations occurred, one being the replacement of typists with a computer and printer. However, as an activist for the 4IR movement I am excited about the creation of new roles that replace ones that people don't want to be doing anyway. My recommendation to all is to read through that jobs report and make sure that what you do will remain relevant 20 years from now. If not, what can you pro-actively do to improve your skills to ensure that you are relevant.

The next reason to give a sh*t is because this technology is scary and exciting all at the same time. The fact that Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can literally replace the need for people to spend time on repetitive and monotonous tasks is something that should be revered rather than jeered. Humans are not supposed to spend time data capturing or sifting through thousands of CVs. We make mistakes, we get bored, we need to be engaged... Adopting this technology can allow us to become more creative, more strategic and at the end actually enjoy what we do day to day. Think about the amount of times you have uttered this line: "I didn't study all this time to spend time doing ______________. Well, 4IR is here to change that line to one of enjoyment.

My final reason for giving a sh*t is that we don't have a choice. Whether you like it or not these technologies are here to stay. The simplicity of their adoption brings together with it efficiency and thus financial gain meaning that you need to be adopting 4IR sooner rather than later. With the likes of Google, Facebook and Amazon leading the race in terms of turnover and thus R&D, which is predominantly led by 4IR technologies, the world as we know it is going to change. My fear is that people get left behind, especially in emerging economies. Areas where 3IR and at times even 2IR is a foreign concept, 4IR will aggressively leave these people in the dark and no where to turn.

Its not all doom and gloom though, advances in education and the ability to soon reach every corner of the globe, thanks to projects such as Starlink by Tesla and OneWeb by SoftBank will allow for no excuses to not be ready and skilled for 4IR.

So lets look to the future for just as we take electricity and our smart phone as a given, all those acronyms listed above will surely become a part of our daily lives in the near future.

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