WHAT IS THE ‘FOURTH IN­DUS­TRIAL REV­O­LU­TION’?

Gulf Business - - FINTECH -

Dis­cussed for a num­ber of years, the no­tion of the ‘fourth in­dus­trial rev­o­lu­tion’ gained promi­nence in 2016 when it was the fo­cal point of that year’s World Eco­nomic Fo­rum.

While the first in­dus­trial rev­o­lu­tion in the late 1700s was char­ac­terised by steam and water, the sec­ond in the late 1800s by elec­tric­ity and mass pro­duc­tion, and the third in the mid 20th cen­tury by elec­tron­ics and IT, the fourth in­dus­trial rev­o­lu­tion is de­scribed as be­ing based upon cy­ber­phys­i­cal sys­tems.

This es­sen­tially refers to new tech­nolo­gies that join the phys­i­cal, dig­i­tal and bi­o­log­i­cal worlds, en­com­pass­ing in­no­va­tions such as AI, ro­bot­ics, IoT, au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles, 3D print­ing, vir­tual re­al­ity, nan­otech­nol­ogy, smart tech­nol­ogy, and more.

In his book on the sub­ject, pro­fes­sor Klaus Sch­wab – founder and ex­ec­u­tive chair­man of WEF – wrote that th­ese tech­nolo­gies have the po­ten­tial to con­nect bil­lions more peo­ple to the web, dras­ti­cally im­prove the ef­fi­ciency of busi­ness and or­gan­i­sa­tions, and help re­gen­er­ate the nat­u­ral environment through bet­ter as­set man­age­ment.

Other ad­vo­cates have claimed var­i­ous ar­eas will be af­fected, in­clud­ing IT se­cu­rity, so­cio-eco­nomic fac­tors and ma­chine safety, among many oth­ers.

Some crit­ics, how­ever, have high­lighted the risks and dan­gers in­volved with such a dis­rup­tive wave of new tech­nolo­gies. Among them are the weapon­i­sa­tion of tech­nol­ogy, en­vi­ron­men­tal threats due to geo­engi­neer­ing, cy­ber se­cu­rity, loss of pri­vacy, job se­cu­rity and the po­lar­i­sa­tion of so­ci­ety.

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