The Fourth Industrial Revolution: What is it? How is it different? And why you should care about it. Before I get into some interesting points surrounding the Fourth Industrial Revolution, let’s take a look at the previous three Industrial Revolutions.
The First Industrial Revolution is one that many of us remember learning about in our social studies classes. It was a significant turning point in history when humans began relying less on animals and hand productions to machines. There is still debate among historians about the precise start and end years of the First Industrial Revolution, but around 1760-1840 is the general time frame. The Second Industrial Revolution was initiated by economic growth after 1870 which lead to increased use of large-scale manufacturing and advanced machinery. There was a large gap of time between the Second and Third Industrial Revolutions. Communications became digital with the development of computers, creating new ways of processing and sharing information during the 1950s which lead the Third Industrial Revolution.
So what makes the Fourth Industrial Revolution different from the Third? The Fourth Industrial Revolution is happening right now and we are studying it as it happens. It may confuse some people that we are entering a new Industrial Revolution. I mean, for the most part, we have the same computers, albeit they are slimmer, lighter, and more ergonomic, but ultimately, they have the same basic functions but are quicker, sleeker, and more powerful. So, what is so different now that classifies us being within a new Industrial Revolution? Well, the answer is artificial intelligence and virtual reality.
If you stop and think about it, things that were in futuristic movies are now something that we thrive on. Have you ever asked Siri where the closest coffee shop is? She probably promptly replied to you. In the 1977 movie The Spy Who Loved Me, James Bond had a watch that functioned similarly to watches that we have today, except that our watches are now so much better. Bond had to rely on his watch/printer to eject important messages. Now the messages neither need to be important nor printed. We can read text messages right on our watch faces.
But AI has become much more than being able to read text messages without looking at your phone and assistance with driving directions. If you use Gmail, you’ve probably noticed the new auto-generated responses, smart reply. Additionally, anyone with a smartphone can download the Google Assistant which can complete tasks like adjusting your home’s thermostat and lighting, it can help you plan your next vacation by finding the best deals and travel times for flights and hotels, AND it can even give you fashion advice with the ASOS integration. Honestly, the AI is becoming more intelligent the more we use it.
Now, you may be thinking, is all of this AI a good improvement? Of course, with advancements, there may be effects that we didn’t anticipate – the most alarming one in this instance will be AI taking over entry-level positions, positions that are crucial to the youth of society gaining work experience and learning the foundations of customer service, something that any successful CEO will tell you is imperative to the success of the business.
The Third Industrial Revolution brought us digitized communication, but in the Fourth, the consumer has a larger voice in how that new technology is being advanced. Programmers and developers are making improvements nearly overnight. Because the Fourth Industrial Revolution is being studied as it happens and the consumer has a larger voice, it’s a great opportunity to ensure that we don’t lose the importance of human connection and continue the strides we’ve made in EQ while still reaping the benefits of AI and VR.
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