History shows how the industrial revolutions affected society. The challenge for humanity now is to unite efforts and guide Industry 4.0 towards sustainable development in order to avoid a split in society and the world.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is a new era in human development, with the blurring of the boundaries between physical, digital, and biological technologies. The technologies in question include artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, smart devices, 3D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, quantum computers. The revolution will entail global system changes. It will affect all areas of business, society, politics, and will require new forms of government and private sector organization. It can sound frighteningly radical. However, it is worth looking at the history of scientific and technological progress to understand its nature and make the right choices to handle Industry 4.0.
Progress, Mechanization, Society
Technological progress has always aimed to improve people's lives, but rarely has these changes been painless. The First Industrial Revolution was a period of transition from manual labor to mechanical in the industry in the 16 and 17 centuries. To better understand the nature of the industrial revolution and its contradictions, we must agree that it is not just the mechanization of labor.
Mechanical innovations began in antiquity. At the end of the 15th century, the first blast furnace, printing press, and mine water pump were already in operation in England. Before the 18th century, Europe experienced mechanization and economic growth. The Industrial Revolution was more than that; it became both a cause, a consequence, and part of social change.
Manufacturing wool processing was spreading in rural areas, leading to the decline of craft centers in cities. In the 16th century, the process took on a scale. Crowds of the poor have become a real scourge. Impoverished peasants often had no choice but to hire for factories or mines. This way, industrialization fought poverty and created it. People's way of life has changed, and the social system has transformed.
The old aristocracy was leaving - now the measure of success was money. Ordinary people lost their roots. A peasant, the head of a big family, would hardly want to change occupations, yet deprived people became prone to risk, receptive to the new, and more tolerant.
Europe's century-and-a-half struggle against feudalism has come to an end. Farmers became workers, states from agriculture became industrial. In pursuit of resources, Europe became a colonizer, connecting other countries to industrialization.
Globalization and Poverty
People demanded welfare and new goods, while the industry could make them cheap only by saving on labor. By the time of the Second industrial revolution (the second half of the 19th and early 20th centuries), both innovative and social trends had deepened. The process of leaping, deep renovation of the productive resources of society with science boosting production has begun. This change was large-scaled and international, the breadth of influence on industry, agriculture, service, and governance, as well as on politics, ideology, education, health, life, culture, human psychology, human relationship with nature.
The Suez Canal was dug, a telegraph cable lay down the bottom of the Atlantic - the world was changing - but there was also a negative consequence. The power loom has become a "real social disaster," as his historian Fernand Braudel
points out, and poverty became the breeding ground for wars, making former workers' soldiers.
However, progress was doing its job: the development of stream production, the widespread use of electricity, hydrocarbons, and chemicals required skills, and the wages of workers still steadily increased. Blue-collar factions, part of the middle class that benefited from industrialization, stood out from the masses of the disadvantaged. The second industrial revolution highlights not only the invention of electricity and gasoline but also the fact that the population, prices, GNP, and wages are beginning to grow in industrial countries at about the same pace. Globalization was a rapid development at this time.
In the first half of the 20th century, the era of world wars, isolation, and decolonization, the trend was interrupted. The pause was unavoidable to level the effects of social crises. At the same time, it highlighted the gulf between countries. Former colonies, for the most part, cannot bridge the technological gap
Computerization of the World
The Third industrial revolution is an alternative name for the Digital Revolution of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Today, the largest number of employed (from half to two-thirds of the working population) is in the sphere of information and services. The process of reducing the number of people employed in the industry goes along with an increase in the number of scientists, teachers, health workers, and the service sector. Developed countries are becoming more socially oriented. Interrupted by the world wars and the Cold War, globalization gained momentum again in the 1980s, with the fall or transformation of communist regimes. Asian countries, agreeing to join the fairway of the West, received economic growth. Due to globalization, computers and mobile phones spread became a revolution. The Internet and social networks have completely changed society and have further accelerated globalization.
Again, there were the same causes and consequences: freedom as a locomotive of development, global stratification, the growth of cities with armies of support workers providing best practices (e.g. couriers provide online trading), dissolution of small entrepreneurs, undermining labor relations, and so on. But the scale has grown tenfold: there is more population, more global corporations, more goods of mass production. The impact of production on climate change has become impossible to ignore. Progress improves the quality of life of people in cities, while 800 billion people suffer from lack of food or water
Risks and Benefits of Industry 4.0
is a logical continuation of the process, and the same fears remain: the mass implementation of robotic systems into production and everyday life can be the same social disaster as once power loom. Each new technological leap leads to both positive and negative consequences.
The risks of developing and implementing high technology without sustainable consciousness are crucial. The vast majority of the world's population is unlikely to face the challenges of living in the post-industrial world, often struggling for survival (most of the peoples of Asia, Africa, and Latin America). Profits should be significantly higher than losses this time to be sufficient for compensation. The state and business should work together
to adapt the system to the needs of a more dynamic and globalized market.
Business leaders cannot remain only passive consumers of ready-made human capital. To ensure sustainable growth
, companies should be involved in the development of experts and make this a priority of their business strategies. In developing a technological shift, leaders must also remember how innovation can increase inequality in society. The responsibility of leaders in the face of imminent change is to build a future that reflects our common goals and values by learning to manage these changes.
Every effort should be made to ensure that vulnerable groups of people are not left behind by the technological revolution. Research and development costs should be increased and funding should come mainly from private sources. In the US
, about 75% of funding for research is covered by the private sector. Private funding has become a great engine for scientific and social progress. Today there is a massive number of financial instruments that allow any individual to independently support the technology that can not only enrich but also improve the world. Make it more sustainable, more transparent, and more balanced.
The world now depends directly on the actions of each person. Society must channel industrialization 4.0 in the right direction with new ideas, combined efforts, and investments. Communities and foundations investing in Sustainable Technologies and startups that support Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) criteria pave the way for sustainable development of society and technology.
Robotization, Internet of Things, AI, Blockchain, high-speed Internet generations 5G and by 2030 - 6G - are huge capacities that will transform society and the world. It is clear from the examples of history that technological development in isolation from social evolution, without regard to the climate changes, carries crucial risks. Only cooperation and conscious joint efforts
can make the world a safe and fair place.