Fourth Industrial Revolution: AI and Automation

K. C. Sabreena Basheer 04 Oct, 2023 • 6 min read

Introduction

The constant striving of humans to discover the unknown has led to advancements in technology. The advent of the industrial revolution comprising AI and automation has dominated the world. This transformative wave of innovation has ushered us into the fourth industrial revolution era, enhancing the quality of life for living beings.

The remarkable strides in the tech world provide solutions to all the existing problems. Meanwhile. the revolution is continuously working to cover the remaining problems and plan a better future. Let’s dive into what exactly is the Fourth Industrial Revolution and how it is impacting the world.

Fourth Industrial Revolution (or Industry 4.0)

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, also represented as 4IR or Industry 4.0, is the combining point for digital technologies and physical systems. It was Klaus Schwab, the founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum (WEF), who coined the term in 2016.

Fourth Industrial Revolution powered by AI and automation
Source: Forbes

The development is based on the steps laid by steam engines, mass manufacturing, and the rise of computers and technology in the first, second, and third industrial revolutions. With more focus on automation than increased human efforts, the important components of this era are Artificial Intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), big data analytics, robotics, and cloud computing.

Learn More: The Technology of Automation and Artificial Intelligence

The consequences of human advancement have been intriguing, impacting all digital, physical, and biological worlds. Digitization and automation have been led in several industry sectors like process, product, or service development, aiding in the decision-making process of all organizations, businesses, communities, and humans, regardless of their position of significance or requirement in daily life. 

What are the Technologies behind the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

  • AI: It refers to enabling simulation or mimicking of human intelligence by machines through the efforts of humans. Its contribution to 4IR has been enhanced decision-making, automation, increased accuracy and speed in performing human-based things, and driving innovation across different industries.
  • Internet of Things (IoT): It refers to the network of interrelated devices connecting and exchanging data. They are an advantage for the manufacturing industry due to their focus on predictive maintenance of equipment, offering protection from losses. 
  • WEB3: It utilizes decentralized blockchain technology, controlling data and online interactions. It aims to decentralize and secure platforms for various applications and democratize digital ecosystems. 
  • Blockchain: The technology has revolutionized the finance sector. The distributed ledger technology enables transparent transactions, immutability, security, and record of transactions across different computers. 
  • Biotechnology: Biotechnology is the merging of living organisms and technology to enhance the development of products or solutions benefitting other living beings. The benefits of this technology cover health, agriculture, food, and the environment.
  • Big Data Analytics: This refers to processing and analyzing large and complex datasets to extract valuable insights and patterns. The voluminous datasets are significant in data-driven decision-making, predictive modeling, customer personalization, and industrial transformation.
  • Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality: The computer-generated immersive environment serves educational and research purposes. Abbreviated as VR and AR, they are crucial for remote collaboration, enhancing customer experiences, training, and simulation of different environments. 
  • 3D Printing: Also referred to as additive manufacturing or 3D printing, it enables the creation of 3D objects through layering material from a machine. It is provided with set rules and instructions about the qualities and specifications of materials. We can see the contribution to 4IR through revolutionizing the product design, manufacturing, prototyping, cost reduction, and customization of industries like automotive, healthcare, and aerospace
Pillars of the Fourth Industrial Revolution
Source: Research Gate

What is The Global Lighthouse Network?

Reaching the Fourth Industrial Revolution to every industry with efficient operations results is crucial. Also, it is impossible without any organization taking the initiative and working in the same direction. The requirements for integration have changed. There is a need for education, awareness, training, tool integration, investment, and much more. The Global Lighthouse Network was initiated to transform and enhance the future of operations. The parents of the initiative are the World Economic Forum in collaboration with McKinsey. It aims to make growth and productivity more efficient while improving resilience and delivery of environmental sustainability. 

Global Lighthouse Network’s Effect on Industries

The initiative has been tirelessly working through the contribution of 132 lighthouses or factories from different industry sectors. Besides, there are 13 sustainability lighthouses. Currently, around 70% of companies are stuck in the pilot phase. The effect on different industries is possible through education and awareness. It should be followed by ensuring the participation of all the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the transformation process of value chains and production systems. The global lighthouse network has contributed to escaping the ‘pilot purgatory’ of the companies by deploying cutting-edge technologies at scale.

Global Lighthouse Network
Source: McKinsey & Company

The most important method incorporated is the adoption of advanced manufacturing technologies. Integrating technology and AI enhances manufacturing quality, which has an overall benefit in enhancing services, products, and quality. The global lighthouse network also showcases the methods to increase productivity, increase workforce engagement, lower emissions harming carbon footprint, and build supply chain resilience. 

Pros and Cons of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

The enhanced procedures ease human life, and all processes tend to accompany numerous pros and few cons. 

Pros of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

  • Higher productivity: All the industrial revolutions have increased productivity 50 times compared to previous revolutions. The same is expected from 4IR, owing to increased automation and innovation. 
  • New markets: The explosion of new markets and growth opportunities for businesses and candidates seeking employment is expected. 
  • Improved life quality: The gift of new products and services will solve and ease the existing and non-existent problems. The enhanced life quality increases the efficiency of lives. 
  • Rising entrepreneurship: The same has even been witnessed in our surroundings with multiple people focussing on developing business, regardless of AI integration. 
  • Efficient quality: Technologies like 3D printing allow modification on a pilot scale to get optimized products. The scalability further enhances the ease of testing. 
  • Personalized customer service: The enhanced technology will open room for the customization of services and products with ease for the suitability of individuals. 
  • Efficient usage: The technology has eased understanding of the quality of material and usage, avoiding resource exploitation. Rather, it provides accurate estimates of the quantity of requirements. 
  • Reduced efforts: The automation will save time and effort, leading to the ability to focus on the more human mind-based tasks that can lead to higher efficiency and production, consequently generating more technological advancement. 

Cons of the Fourth Industrial Revolution 

  • Cybersecurity risk: Incorporating AI and technology in every aspect will lead to a rise in innovative hacking methods. The enhanced connectivity further eases the break-in.
  • Inequality: The employment opportunities will focus more on individuals with high skills compared to those with easily automatable skills.
  • Ethical issues: Genetic engineering, lack of empathy, and inability to judge morality and ethics like humans can pose concerns. The presence of a volume of data can also lead to the usage of data and information for personal gain.
  • Investment: The initial investment will be large owing to incorporating technology in existing systems, followed by training. Additionally, guidance on how to leverage the potential requires the right guidance. In the absence, chances of errors and failures increase.
  • Constant updates: Though it is beneficial and important, practically, it might be unsustainable for numerous companies and businesses.

What the Future Beholds

The previous industrial revolutions have transformed the world. The consequences are simply seen through the development and the onset of further revolutions that exponentially increase the quality of life. The fourth industrial revolution also holds a promising approach. The future in the new world will probably see

  • Enhanced efficiency of all the tasks, specifically repetitive ones.
  • Enhanced accuracy and speed in resolving public problems.
  • Disappearance of low skills or low-pay jobs. It will lead to increased social tension due to tougher challenges.
  • Increased employment of specialist contractors or remote workers, which holds potential for easiness in remote working and flexible hours.
  • Development of new job roles based on developed skills and knowledge.
  • Expansion of the concept of smart cities with more people-friendly infrastructure, transportation, energy management, and citizen services.
  • Development of healthcare facilities with telemedicine, AI-driven diagnostics, and personalized treatments.
  • Innovation in different sectors is changing the view of each industry.

Conclusion

Industrial revolutions in the past have provided promising examples. Currently, we witness the fourth industrial revolution where artificial intelligence, biotechnology, the internet of things, and multiple other technologies contribute to human advancement. Automating actions has eased bridging the gap between technical, physical, and biological systems, opening avenues for newer possibilities. Gaining new skills focussed on these eras holds opportunities for promising careers. 

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