The fifth industrial revolution
From articles by Regenesys Business School and Digileaders
Regenesys is a business school based in South Africa but available online internationally. In 2020, they published the article (abridged) below looking forward to the next industrial revolution. Is that where we are heading? A recent presentation at Digileaders brings us up to date. Let's digest the Regenesys article first:
The term Industrial Revolution was used by the 19th century economic historian Arnold Toynbee to describe Britain’s economic development from 1760 to 1840.
Let’s start with what we mean by Industrial Revolutions. An industrial revolution has two components. The first is the creation of new technology – for example, the invention of the steam engine. The second is a change in production brought about by the technology – for example, steam-driven weaving looms. Each time a new technology is created, the manufacturing [making] process ratchets up a notch. As the revolutions become more complicated, multiple new technologies are discovered, and the process accelerates.
The first revolution mechanised the textile industry. The second industrial revolution gave us the assembly line, high volume industrial production and high mass consumption. The third allowed information to be captured in digital format and to be cost-effectively transformed, manipulated and transmitted. The fourth industrial revolution has provided us with robotics, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and virtual reality. There were nearly two centuries between the first and second industrial revolutions but the period between each subsequent one has shortened substantially.
Along the way, we picked up globalisation, climate change, environmental degradation and multinational conglomerates with annual revenues larger than the GDP of many countries. More efficient production has meant increased pollution, reckless consumption of non-renewable resources, and ever-improving quarterly profit statements.
The fifth industrial revolution at first glance, seems like a new, improved version of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The Fifth Industrial Revolution (5IR) can be summarised as the combination of humans and machines in the workplace. But this is vastly oversimplified and does not even begin to explain the magnitude and complexity of the change.
Marc Benioff, the founder of Salesforce sees it this way: “I see a crisis of trust in technology,” he told the World Economic Forum. “in the Fifth Industrial Revolution, we’re going to have to have… a chief ethical and humane use officer. Are we using these technologies for the good of the world?”
The Digileaders presentation by Sarah Peña of Methods expands on 5IR as follows:
The Fourth Industrial Revolution brought about fear of competition, possibly replacement, and a complete focus on prioritising technical progress. 5IR is about building on each other’s strengths and incorporating the well-being of all — technology for people, planet and humane use.
According to a research paper by the World Economic Forum, “ 5IR technologies are expected to have a profound impact on the way we live and work, but their development must be guided by a human-centered approach to ensure that their benefits are widely shared and that their negative impacts are minimised. “
We have begun to see not only the rise of technology interaction displacement e.g. Zoom, but also the movement from ‘trusted’ people to technology, for example, robots performing medical operations, making food, putting together your prescriptions, to chatbots and voice assistants providing advice and guidance, or driverless taxis, e-discovery lawyers, etc.
We should all have a vested interest in shaping advancing technologies for the greater good by consciously and proactively seeking to achieve an enriched community, as well as greater efficiency, from each leap forward. In all industries, technology has been a powerfully disruptive force, but also one that binds. We must not lose sight of human value and that people matter — always — especially with the most complex technology deficits — intelligence, creativity, deep personalisation that matters, empathy, and judgement.
Even if a machine could determine an appropriate medical treatment plan, we still want to work with a doctor who has been trained to talk us through the options, who listens to and understands our thoughts and feelings, who helps us choose the option that’s right for us — someone who understands the art in the science. However, those machines can be oh so helpful, in diagnosis for example, identifying those highest at risk, the analysis of existing medicines whose properties could be used for emergent diseases / viruses, VR for ‘practice’ surgery, etc.
So, let’s use advanced technologies to help solve pressing social and environmental problems; AI, machine learning, computer vision, and data analytics to improve healthcare outcomes, and IoT and robotics to help make agriculture more sustainable.
Reports by The Rockefeller Foundation state “AI has the potential to improve the lives of millions of people… though we need to tear down and re-programme for human flourishing” and research highlights, “Whilst AI use has increased, there have been no substantial increases in mitigation of any AI-related risks.”
Implementing technology with a human touch is vital; we need to understand lived experiences. The cooperation and collaboration between people and technology can result in amazing achievements and we need to ensure we understand and maximise the best value of each.
By harnessing 5IR for good, fostering and leveraging human-machine collaboration, we can create a future in which technology and people dance together to create a better world for all.
How are you building values, ethics and positive outcomes into all uses of technology as you use it to create a better world?
Read the full Regenesys article here.
Read the full Digileaders article here.
See also the blog on this site - Ethics and Artificial Intelligence.
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From articles by Regenesys Business School and Dig, 24/05/2023