Who can really tell what the near future looks like? The air we breathe in as a generation is bathed with the anxiety that accompanies this question. Jacques Derrida said “a new historical phase generates anxiety.” That phase, in this case, is the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Before the Fourth Industrial Revolution

The past is an experience, the present is an experiment, and the future is an expectation. Every generation must relate its experiences to its experiments to acquire its expectations. Confucius put it this way: “Those who will define the future must learn to look behind them.” The history of humanity is punctuated with three major events that revolutionized the global trends of industry:

It was James Watt’s Steam Engine of the eighteenth century that has been tagged the First Industrial Revolution. Then, this vapour power technology cleared the path for nineteenth century mass production, which was characterized by division of labour and electrification. This Second Industrial Revolution was labour-centered, thus improving the efficiency of factories and effectiveness of its workers. By the middle of 1990s, the rise of information technology took over the industrial space and is, today, considered the height of creative interruption.

The information revolution has brought so much advancement in the course of humanity. The global spread of vehicles and war ammunitions in the mid-twentieth century, the advent of the internet, the fast-rising engagement of the social media for economic and socio-political empowerment, the potent improvements on microprocessors, etc, all contribute to the fortune that was bestowed upon the 21st century. These innovations and inventions collaboratively create a platform of interaction and connection among several human diversities — diversities in sphere of works and practices, of languages, of interests and passions, of businesses, of nations and governments, etc.

Just as the information revolution rested on the inventiveness of the earlier revolutions, the former also creates a pathway for new global trends. Today’s global conversations in businesses, governments and technologies are precursors to the fast-paced Fourth Industrial Revolution, just as the engagements and global dialogues in recent decades have been around the Information revolution — characterized by computers and the invaluable internet.

What the Fourth Industrial Revolution Means…to Me:

While Germany deserves much credit for leading the path into this new industrial restructuring it tagged “Industrie 4.0” by setting up a conglomerate of major economists, academics, politicians, industrialists and artificial intelligence experts in 2011, every other nation must join the United States in following suit. Thus, I’m concerned about how the new collective of contemporary automation, massive data exchange and manufacturing technologies affect the media, my field of work, and Nigeria, my nation of birth and residence.

Generally, the Fourth Industrial Revolution means that designs will become more service-oriented, such that products will be able to monitor customer satisfaction by themselves and factories will be able to tailor production to suit each customer. It also means a further redefinition of human labour. Since machines/automation will be perform industrial tasks better and faster than their human co-workers, they will replace low-skilled humans. Industrie 4.0 also means that new and better sources of value will be created. For instance, Mark Spelman, Co-head of the Future of the Internet Initiative, thinks that automobile producers will soon optimize “collaborations with telecoms companies for in-car Wi-Fi, entertainment producers for content, and banks for payment services.”

This revolution means that the 70-percent of Nigerian youths seeking employments will either improve their skills to meet global standards for job creation or seek terminal alternatives in terrorism and political hooliganism. It also means that Nigerian Government will either murder its over-dependence on oil to engage the mining and production sectors; or drown in the pool of backwardness. It also means that the several thousands of banking halls will be converted to factories full of robots, since all transactions will be done by the thought of it, or, at least, by the snap of the finger.

Media Practitioners like me must adopt the change this revolution will bring, if they must continue to find their footing. While tablets replace pen-and-paper, mobile devices are fast replacing television studios, and rumours flying at the speed of a tweet; media practitioners must be highly-skilled and fast-paced not to be abandoned in the trashcan of the revolution.

In the collective history of humanity, modern technologies have proven to be some of the most awesome endowments mankind has ever experienced. The inventions of the coming years will transform the course of human race forever. They will reduce the noise of mediocrity into silent whispers of emptiness, enhance human and industrial productivity magically and promote collaboration and economic cooperation among individuals, companies and nations.

Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution

There are endless possibilities in business, economic, political and social trends in the coming decades, and we must be well-positioned to engage these possibilities of collaboration, cooperation and convergence as they begin to unfold. Some of us, who are interested in inventing the future we would love to live in, can really tell what the future looks like. Others have to choose between being a part of this revolution and being swept off their feet by the heralding of this revolution.

The impact of the fourth industrial revolution on our collective humanity will be magical and astonishing — like a scenario where a dumb man tells a deaf woman of a running lame a blind man saw. It is a dumbfounding reality I look forward to.