In the 18th century when the colonial biggies like Britain, France, etc were industrializing for the first time a very distinct group of countries, emerging economies of today, remained oblivion to these developments. This oblivion was not due to ignorance rather it was the result of their circumstances. Shackled by oppressions perpetrated by colonial masters these erstwhile colonies neither had capacity nor could gather enough creative thoughts to create what was shaping contemporary industrialization endeavors. What came down to them can be best described as selfish award from a stingy noble. The introduction of railways in India, thus the steam engine, best captures this selfish award. As the colonization phase prolonged what came into being was a divided world: the industrialized economies and the non-industrialized (agri-based) economies.
The early phases of industrialization, thus, were discriminatory in so far they benefited humanity. So, while the Cold War rivalry got us on the moon there were millions in India who were still not sure where there next meal was going to come from. It is only against this backdrop that we need to see The fourth Industrial Revolution (TFIR) to be able to explore its true meaning.
The foundation of TFIR was laid down in the era of internet revolution on the world wide web, which per se was the result of largest philanthropic move in the human history. From that time onward TFIR has materialized in leaps and bounds and has transcended boundaries, both economic and physical, to shower earthlings with a life worth living. The beauty of TFIR lies in how it strives to eliminate the barbed fencing which had kept the underprivileged world from realizing their true potential. With information abound just a click away from one’s hand now, a major handicap against the underprivileged has been substantially done away. It is because of this elimination only that we see men like Jack Ma of Alibaba fame registering themselves with corporate’s who’s who. These fountainheads of wealth and entrepreneurial zeal ultimately go on to create jobs, motivate new entrepreneurs and create a chain of allied enterprises serving them. This improves the overall economic profile of humanity. Thus TFIR has the potential to create an egalitarian world where no one will be information deficient even as data becomes super accessible with technologies like LTE, Li-Fi, etc gaining operational and economic feasibility.
It is not difficult to imagine how the world of a poor farmer falls apart when he sees his crops ravaged by pest attack. This situation which is more pertinent to third world or my world, where they suffer from want of crop insurance schemes and other safety nets, has eventually started to change. Thanks to the modest gifts of TFIR, from ubiquitous Whats App groups to share new techniques of cultivation and pest control to apps which create a publicly accessible cloud-based database for farmers to share and upload information about new pests with photos, a ray of hope is there. I even think that if tomorrow someone comes up with mathematical models to map seasonal movement of pests and predict impending genetic mutations in them no one should be caught unawares, as this will be just another of the many gifts of TFIR directed towards delivering the undelivered. The farmers will get their socio-economic due and the hungry will get required nutrition. While I write I also see Mother Earth beaming with a sense of recuperation. She hadn’t been always like this. The three industrialized batterings had violated and left her decrepit, they took away her vitality and destroyed her greenery in the most brutal fashion. Today, if she is rejoicing that is solely because of TFIR. Coupled with the urgency with which policy makers are handling climate change issues the implements of TFIR have come up as real saviors. From battery-driven zero-emission cars to apps that help map pollution levels and thus create awareness to technologies which enable one to create power as he/she pump his/her muscles in gym all have started to catch popular fancy.Thus it won’t be audacious to think of TFIR as manifestation of human urgency to correct the wrongs perpetrated in the last 3 three phases instead of a more harmonious and simple assessment of it as logical outcome of human skills honed over those 3 phases.
With all the above on offer the risks of TFIR hardly appears. Risks are bound to be there for if not for them what all will accentuate the offers and promises of TFIR. Since disruptive technology, largely automation,lies at its base job creation is bound to witness drought phases. With developed economies more exposed to these phases, because of their capacity to adopt those disruptions, prudent planning at the national as well as at international level can offset such crisis when and where ever they emerge. The developed economies can choose to buy these disruptions for emerging ones, who anyway will only adopt them slowly if not helped. The emerging ones will welcome this as they already have too many things to accomplish and automation will definitely expedite the process. In return the developed ones can expect market access and human resource for their disruptive technology creation industries. Another risk is posed by the pace of disruption, technologies come and become obsolete before they are adopted. In such a scenario identifying the target population where this bygone technology can be made available at affordable rates will not only help firms recover their cost but will also link the technology haves and have-nots.
Mankind has thrived on the hope that better times await them in future. TFIR is not harbinger of that time but the time itself.