The fourth industrial revolution or Industry 4.0 was first announced in 2011 - a German government-led initiative in high-tech manufacturing. In reviewing Professor Klaus Schwab's book, 'The Fourth Industrial Revolution', author Bernard Marr informed tech followers of 'Forbes' in 2016, "In this fourth revolution, we are facing a range of new technologies that combine the physical, digital and biological worlds. These new technologies will impact all disciplines, economies and industries, and even challenge our ideas about what it means to be human.
"These technologies have great potential to continue to connect billions more people to the web, drastically improve the efficiency of business and organizations and help regenerate the natural environment through better asset management, potentially even undoing all the damage previous industrial revolutions have caused. Many experts suggest that the fourth industrial revolution will benefit the rich much more than the poor, especially as low-skill, low-wage jobs disappear in favor of automation.
"But this isn’t new. Historically, industrial revolutions have always begun with greater inequality followed by periods of political and institutional change. The industrial revolution that began at the beginning of the 19th century originally led to a huge polarization of wealth and power, before being followed by nearly 100 years of change including the spread of democracy, trade unions, progressive taxation and the development of social safety nets."
According to a white paper from IHS Technology reported in 2014, the potential stakes of developing software and analytical systems were enormous "with the global industrial automation industry amounting to $170.2 billion in 2013, $182.7 billion in 2014 and an expected $209.4 billion in 2016." Mark Watson who was associate director for industrial automation at IHS clarified, "The term Industry 4.0 was coined by the German government to describe the intelligent factory, a vision of computerized manufacturing with processes all interconnected by the Internet of Things (IoT). Some believe that Industry 4.0 is expected to spur fundamental changes on the order of the steam-powered first Industrial Revolution, the mass production of the second, and the electronics and proliferation of information technology (IT) that characterized the third."
In June 2017, Brad Keywell who was the 2017 World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer told 'Forbes' followers, "The Fourth Industrial Revolution is now. And, whether you know it or not, it will affect you. To many people, these changes are scary. Previous industrial revolutions have shown us that if companies and industries don’t adapt with new technology, they struggle. Worse, they fail. The change brought by the Fourth Industrial Revolution is inevitable, not optional. The productivity we unleash could be reminiscent of what the world saw at the advent of the first industrial revolution. But the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution will run much broader, and deeper, than the first."
Jon Card of the UK 'Telegraph' informed the public, "New technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), big data, the internet of things (IoT) and robotics are now reality rather than speculation. The data collected via the internet revolution is powering predictive and automated devices which, in turn, collect more data, enabling machine learning. Combined, these innovations constitute what some call the 'fourth industrial revolution' or 'Industry 4.0' – in order to stay sustainable, businesses must rapidly adapt to this new paradigm, assessing its risks and predicting its likely effect on jobs, skills, products and wider society."
Barry McCall of 'The Irish Times' added, "The fourth industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0 as it has become known, is set to fundamentally transform the way in which manufacturers make, distribute and sell their products. It has the potential to usher in an era of mass customisation, where products are tailored to meet the needs and tastes of individual customers rather than mass markets." Ken Horan, industrial research lead with IMR, told 'The Irish Times', "If you look at the last 100 years of technological advance in manufacturing, it has been about varying degrees of mechanization of manual labor. Industry 4.0 is about the beginnings of the mechanization of intellectual labor."
Randy Wolken of MACNY reminded, "We are all aware of the Industrial Revolution. However, to be accurate, there has been more than one. The First Industrial Revolution (roughly 1760-1840) used water and steam power to mechanize production. The Second Industrial Revolution (roughly 1870-1914) used electric power to create mass production. The Third Industrial Revolution (roughly 1950-1970) used electronics and information technology to automate production.
"Now a Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third. It is characterized by the fusion of technologies that merge the physical, digital, and biological spheres. There are at least three reasons why today’s transformations represent the arrival of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. They are velocity, scope, and systems impact. The speed of technological and process breakthroughs has no historical precedent.
"When compared with previous industrial revolutions, the Fourth is accelerating at an exponential, rather than linear, rate. Moreover, it is disrupting every industry globally. And, these changes impact entire systems of production, management, and governance. We stand on the brink of an industrial revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. In its scale, scope, and complexity, it could be unlike anything humankind has ever experienced before."
Sebastian Buckup who was the head of Programming, World Economic Forum told readers of 'chinadaily.com.cn', "Historically, waves of progress have always been accompanied by forces of diffusion and concentration. Diffusion occurs as the power and privileges of the incumbents erode; concentration occurs as the influence of those assuming control over the new technologies expands. Both forces shaped the growth patterns of the past decades.
"In 1988, a lower-middle-class US citizen had more than six times the income of a well-off middle-class citizen in China. Today (in 2017), both earn almost the same amount. Similar leaps happened in other economies, from Turkey to Vietnam. Yet, over the same period, half of the world's wealth went to the top 5% of the population, and almost one-fifth went to the highest 1%.
"Today's emerging technologies are again unleashing forces of diffusion and concentration in equal measure, opening up a wide range of plausible and possible outcomes. Smart and connected infrastructure might benefit a few exponential enterprises or millions of connected mini-multinationals; it might concentrate wealth with those who control the nodes of an internet of everything or turn these nodes into platforms that distribute value more fairly and efficiently; it might attract more people into urban hubs and deepen the rift between urban and rural areas or transform cities into compact connected units that help overcome the urban-rural divide.
"Technological change will shape our future but won't determine it. Every technology age found its expression in human values, principles, norms and institutions. In the wake of the First Industrial Revolution, poor working conditions gave birth to socialism and social capitalism; the green movement beginning in the 1970s was a response to the nuclear age and the age of mass consumption associated with the Second Industrial Revolution; in the late 20th century, global multistakeholder governance models gained traction in response to rapid globalization, a result of the Third or 'Digital' Revolution.
"… Achieving Inclusive Growth in the Fourth Industrial Revolution will require the power of imagination to see everything in our present world anew; a deep commitment to diversity as our best – if not only – chance to escape the echo chambers of our biases and beliefs; and a collective capacity for empathy as the glue that holds humanity together."