Robin Olsen holds a B.Sc In Computer Systems and has over 20 years of IT Experience. In that time he has worked in many different industries
A change in the very fabric of our society is coming. I am referring to the advent of A.I (Artificial Intelligence) and advances in automation and robotics and the impact these changes are going to have on the Human workforce in general, and the resulting social changes this alteration will cause.
This coming 'industrial revolution' (also called Industry 4.0) will result in some of the most radical changes to human societies since the first industrial revolution (1760-1840) ended the cottage industries and moved to a collective workforce and factories.
So what is it? 'Industry 4.0' refers to the fourth industrial revolution that is rapidly coming up. The first industrial revolution was between 1760 and roughly 1840 and involved the transition from hard production methods to machines and the resulting rise in factories and collective work forces. This industrial revolution affected every aspect of daily life for everyone and marks a major turning point in human history.
The 2nd Industrial Revolution was between 1870 and 1914 and was also referred to as the Technological Revolution. It involved rapid industrialization in the final quarter of the 19th century up to the beginning of World War 1 in 1914.
Advancements in manufacturing and production technology enabled the widespread adoption of existing technologies such as communications and rail networks, gas and water supply, and sewage systems, up until then restricted to a few select cities. This expansion of rail and telegraph lines after 1870 allowed for the unprecedented movement of people and ideas. In the same time period, new technological systems, such as telephones and electrical power grids, were introduced.
The 3rd Industrial Revolution involves the rapid digitization of production methods. Incidentally we are living through this one as we speak. Industry 3.0' is punctuated by the convergence of technologies such as software, novel materials, more dexterous robots, new processes and web-based services.
These new methods and technologies have altered the very makeup of our factories and production methods. Work has been centralized in many areas and the size of individual work forces has shrunk. This loss of work force is consistent and non reversible. The jobs did not just 'move overseas', they disappeared completely from the landscape. The result of this revolution is a reduced work force and more customized factories.
The 4th revolution will come up fast as each revolution before has directly lead to the one after it. The fourth revolution involves cyber physical systems and the 'Internet of Things', which, in brief involves the direct communications of devices with other devices, removing the need for a human interaction.
Just as the Internet today is filled with people communicating with each other, the 'Internet of Things' involves devices communicating with each other in much the same manner, collaborating to solve problems, sending progress reports back and forth, placing work orders, scheduling maintenance, etc.
Advances in A.I are going to converge on this to speed up the full automation of factories and the elimination of simple labor tasks from the work force. Robotics are advancing at a rapid pace as well as the A.I required to run it. This means that machines will operate independently as separate entities capable of collecting data, analyzing it and then offer advice based on that analysis.
The factories of the near future will not be large buildings filled with men in oily coveralls but be squeaky clean and virtually deserted. Most of the jobs in these places (and there will be way less of them per factory) will not be on the factory floor but rather be in administration, IT and maintenance. This means the total size of the work force is going to shrink again.
It is more than just the factory that will be affected, advances in AI are going to make a host of professions literally vanish from existence. This is where the big social changes come into play.
A.I is going to affect so many different profession that it, combined with the convergences of technologies under Industry 4.0 and the resulting changes there, will force a re evaluation of how we value our own contributions to society in general and maybe even, for some of us, the actual point of our own existence.
Many of us value ourselves and our contributions by what we do for a living. We are very proud of our professions and for some families these professional choices are considered even traditional. So what happens when that profession vanishes from the landscape?
We're in for a Change
With all the disappearing professions, and some new ones appearing as well, I can see 'robot maintenance' becoming a thing until they build a robot that can do it, society is definitely going to have to go through changes.
Values will change, as will opinions, we will have no choice as the transition approaches. Our governments need to be ready to handle the changes properly so as to avoid serious social problems and unrest.
Can our governments handle the challenge?
This is a good question right? Today each and everyone of us working class stiffs and assortment of professionals pays a tax on our production (income tax) and this tax, for most countries, is the primary source of revenue for goods and services provided by that country.
It is also the primary source of revenue for paying down debt. There are other sources of taxation and user fees but this one probably provides more bang for the buck than most of the others combined. So what happens when most of the population (or even half) is no longer producing the traditional income? What happens again when the government finally understands it is not a economic hiccup but that those half will never produce a traditional income again?
Will they go broke?
One thing is for certain. Things are going to change dramatically, values are going to be rewritten and what we look like as a society will be much different in the next generation. Hang on!
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For further reading on this exciting subject select a link below
- Industrial Revolution | Definition, Facts, & Summary | Britannica.com
Industrial Revolution: Industrial Revolution, in modern history, the change from an agrarian and handicraft economy to an industrial and manufacturing one.
- The Impact of AI on Business Leadership and the Modern Workforce
According to a recent global survey on AI*, a majority of organizations began deploying AI to automate or improve routine or inefficient processes...
- Industry 4.0: Definition, Design Principles, Challenges, and the Future
Want to learn about the next industrial revolution in data and manufacturing? Read the most comprehensive guide on industry 4.0 including its challenges.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2018 Robin Olsen
Sharon Mitchell on August 15, 2019:
All good questions! Interesting read.