The Fourth Industrial Revolution

The big buzz at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos this year is about the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’.

The fourth industrial revolution is conceptualised as an upgrade on the third revolution — and is marked by a fusion of technologies straddling the physical, digital and biological worlds. In a paper on The Fourth Industrial Revolution: what it means, how to respond, Schwab says that three things about the ongoing transformation mark it out as a new phase rather than a prolongation of the current revolution — velocity, scope, and systems impact. The speed of change is utterly unprecedented, it is disrupting almost every industry in every country, and it heralds “the transformation of entire systems of production, management, and governance”.

There are both opportunities and challenges. Like the earlier industrial revolutions, the fourth, says Schwab, can lift global incomes and improve lives worldwide, and the supply-side miracle due to technological innovation will lead to long-term gains in efficiency and productivity.

With device and product cycles being so short, it is becoming increasingly difficult to predict anything which has anything to do with technology. For all you know, the currently buzzy ‘fourth industrial revolution’ could be a very short interlude before the fifth one comes along. The current expectation is that driverless cars will be the disruptor that will put millions of drivers out of work and change everything from the taxi sector to the automobile industry. But what if technology makes the daily commute itself redundant?

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