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The 4th Industrial Revolution

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

The next Industrial Revolution is almost upon us

The next Industrial Revolution is almost upon us

Changes are Coming

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.

Inside one of the first factories.

Inside one of the first factories.

What is an 'Industrial Revolution'?

An industrial revolution describes the process of transition from a agrarian, handicraft society to one dominated by industry and machine manufacturing.

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.

Also called 'The Technological Revolution' - the 2nd Revolution was about more than just factory improvements.

Also called 'The Technological Revolution' - the 2nd Revolution was about more than just factory improvements.

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 Revolution allowed for mass production with a fraction of the previous work force.

The 3rd Revolution allowed for mass production with a fraction of the previous work force.

The 3rd Industrial Revolution involves the rapid digitization of production methods. We are living through this one as we speak. It involves 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 Next Wave

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 human interaction.

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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.

I think what is coming is exciting for us all

I think what is coming is exciting for us all

The 21st Century Factory

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 or taking independent action.

The factories of the near future will not be large buildings filled with men in oily coveralls but be squeaky clean and virtually deserted. They will be smaller and equipped with robotics and 3 dimensional printers. Most of the jobs in these places will not be on the factory floor but rather be in administration, IT and maintenance, and there will not be very many per factory.

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.

My mother used to warn us that if we did not get an education we would end up sweeping floors for a living. In the 21st century, there are no floor sweeping jobs, those tasks are done by robots. A lack of education would mean no job.

This list alone represents thousands if not millions of jobs.

This list alone represents thousands if not millions of jobs.

The future is uncertain

Each industrial revolution since the first one created the first factories has seen a decrease in the overall size of individual work force. If one compared the factory floor of a fabric company in 1840 to one of the 21st century the difference in size of the work force would be clearly visible and rather sobering.

How is society going to handle things when a majority of people have no jobs? When the convergence of robotics, A.I. and 3D printing technology reduces the factory work force to less than 50 people?

We cannot simply tell the unemployed to 'get a job' if no jobs actually exist.

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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.

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