Making an Impact in Industry 4.0

Gen Y and Gen Z, the two cohorts of the world population that denote today’s youngsters, are also referred to as ‘life loggers’. Technology is a part of their lifestyle and daily behaviour. From mobile devices capturing their life moments to wearable tech gadgets tracking their health statistics, digitisation has blurred the lines between the so-called tangible and online spaces, and how! 

The phrase “Industry 4.0” was introduced in 2015 by Klaus Schwab from the World Economic Forum. For the uninitiated, here’s a look at how the Industrial Ages have come to be:

  • First Industrial Revolution (Mid 18th to mid 19th Century): From the invention of the steam engine to the transition to a new manufacturing system
  • Second Industrial Revolution or the Technological Revolution (Late 19th Century to early 20th Century): Widespread adoption of railroad networks, telegraphs, water supply systems, electrification, and industrial mass production 
  • Third Industrial Revolution or the Digital Revolution (Mid 20th Century): The arrival of semiconductors, personal computers, and the internet 
  • Fourth Industrial Revolution (21st Century): Marked by breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, big data, automation, robotics, cloud computing, Internet of Things, blockchain, nanotechnology, 3D printing, etc.

We encounter a new way of living, working, and interacting in this new era, a reality marked by rapid growth, diffusion, and abrupt changes in society. Intelligent technologies are at the forefront of this fundamental shift. In the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”, we will see extraordinary advances that merge the physical, biological, and digital world, forcing us to rethink what it means to be human. 

The change is much more than just technological. In the coming years, digitisation will determine a country’s economic and social progress. And so, we must work deliberately to converge the benefits of technology towards inclusion, positively impacting individuals, families, communities, and organisations.  

Intelligence versus Wisdom

The wave of new technologies like artificial intelligence has brought several opportunities. As a matter of fact, it is no longer a novel or unfamiliar concept – 77 per cent of people are already using AI-enabled platforms. 

The applications traverse a vast panorama from driving personal assistants like Siri and Alexa to helping in medical diagnoses, such as detecting Alzheimer’s disease or predicting autism in infants. At a personal level, wearable tech improves health outcomes for individuals while also allowing healthcare professionals to monitor patients remotely. Partners Healthcare, a Boston-based hospital, tracked metrics like weight, blood pressure, etc., of 3000 congestive heart failure patients. They reduced readmission rates, generating significant cost savings in the process. 

(Source: McKinsey & Company)

Today, technology can recommend good movies to watch, stop criminals from using our credit cards, and interpret what we say to perform specific actions. So, the abilities of reasoning, adapting, recognising patterns, and solving complex problems are no longer exclusive human traits. At the same time, it is crucial to understand that technology works for us, not the other way around. 

Examples of Future Tech Innovations

  • Sweat-powered smartwatch: A fitness device that replaces electrolytes found in the battery with the user’s sweat to create an electrochemical reaction and generate electricity
  • Air taxi: New kinds of transport hubs, such as hydrogen-powered buses and small aircrafts running on clean fuel alternatives
  • Sonic forest fire extinguisher: Drones that direct loud sound waves at the trees from above to create pressure and cut of the supply of oxygen to extinguish fires
  • AI-based anti-cyberbullying tool: A computer program that can automatically detect bullying and trolling on social media platforms by recognising and understanding abusive speech and inappropriate language
  • Internet for everyone: Helium balloons and shoebox-sized microsatellites beaming internet to remote areas and inaccessible corners of the globe
  • Decentralised crowdfunding: Blockchain-based fundraising platforms for humanitarian causes and social enterprises, transparently governed, entailing community participation in financial decisions

It is clear that AI and other innovative technologies are not the future; they are already here. And today’s students would be the first generation to grow up with them. It is, therefore, essential to ensure their ethical and fair use. However, such a tech-powered reality that is also symbiotic with humanity won’t get translated on its own. Teachers, family members, and the community would be essential links for creating conscious learners, workers, and leaders.

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