The 5th Industrial Revolution and People Strategy

Recently I attend I attended the Science Forum South Africa in Pretoria. I only attended the one day because in the choas of having my computer crash and being without a smartphone in a while, I lost track of my events. Something I have been struggling to do since I have been focussing on tasks that don’t require a calendar. But we will discuss this another day.

What I really enjoyed about the forum was how accessible it was. It was almost like science itself was trying to tell the world, hello, here I am. Come and see me!

What caught my attention though after attending a few sessions were quite a few people were talking about the current 4th industrial revolution. Now this is something I picked up a year or two ago but totally forgot about while doing my thesis. The breakdown is supposed to be as follows (according to Claus Schwab, one of the founders of the World Economic Forum). I have tried to expand on this:

  • First – the invention of mechanical machines which used more commonly available fossil fuels (more specifically non-sustainable energy sources in the form of coal which became much more widely available in Britain in the late 18th century).
  • Second – the late 19th century with the invention of more distributed energy systems, new distributed communication systems, ammonia and new forms of power generation. These sound like they were forms of innovation that resulted as energy savings went into the community and people had more time to solve some new problems. Ammonia for example is heavily used in the food industry and as a result has provided for more energy to the masses in form of food production.
  • Third – was the better mechanization of electronics which allowed the internet, computers and other forms of digital systems to be created. Energy and time savings have been made by consumer’s whom suddenly have more information available for more effective decision making.
  • Fourth – has been described as cyber physical systems where we are supposed to be blurring the lines between people and their technologies. Going along with my energy comparison, there appears to be little change in energy usage in this arena, except that our base capabilities may in fact be improving. For example blind people are being able to see or people with missing limbs has new ability to move prosthetic limbs. This revolution, so to speak, also is a function of technology innovation and I guess is industrial because of the manipulation of resources and technologies required to generate changes in DNA, implement nano-systems, etc, etc.

So is there a fifth wave or revolution? What could possibly be the next one? Well one only needs to look at the increase in optimization and reduction in constraints in each revolution and one can see that the next revolution, yes may a further reduction in energy constraints or a further enhancement in our communication, abilities or technology.

But of real interest to me is, is the 5th revolution a social one. Where finally industrialization meets society head on and is able to help us outgrow our primitive constraints of overly destructive competitiveness, communication barriers and exclusive social bubbles we create for ourselves. People and their behavior will take centre stage and humbleness, fortitude and ample motivation will be the new goal or balance together with a society that tries to balance the needs of all as well as understand the connectedness of things around us.

Wasted energy utilized in incorrectly reacting to social problems will slowly but surely be eradicated. This can be broken down into social debt (where we create happiness for ourselves but forget about those around us) and technical debt (when we create something that no one uses). Then we also need to solve our environmental debt (where some of our technologies are so ecologically harmful that they are irreversible e.g. global warming).

The future is using the collaborative mind better. And it will be a great if we can step up to the job!

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December 12, 2016