By Daniel J. McLaughlin
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is upon us. It is the robot revolution with advancing artificial intelligence changing the way we work and play - and even live. It will transform our lives, entering our workplace or when we are relaxing back at home. It could impact health care, transport, finance, communications, education, and many of the important aspects of our everyday lives.
It can bring both promise and peril. The world is changing around you, but are you willing to adapt to new surroundings? We are entering the fourth industrial revolution - but will you cross the threshold into a new age?
The first industrial revolution saw the rise of the machines in the late 18th century, with the mechanisation of the textile industry. According to The Economist, "tasks previously done laboriously by hands in hundreds of weavers' cottages were brought together in a single cotton mill, and the factory was done".
And then the second industrial revolution came along in the early 20th century, bringing with it the age of mass production, courtesy of Henry Ford who mastered the moving assembly line.
The third industrial revolution is known as the digital revolution, as computers and information technology evolved. The first industrial revolution saw the rise of the machines, the second witnessed the rise of mass production, the third is the rise of computers - and the fourth will be the rise of the robots (automation) and artificial intelligence.
We are currently experiencing the third industrial era, but it will not be long before the fourth grows out of the third. What is? explains: "[It is] considered a new era rather than a continuation because of the explosiveness of its development and the disruptiveness of its technologies."
The World Economic Forum argues there are three reasons why today's transformations "represent not merely a prolongation of the Third Industrial Revolution but rather the arrival of a Fourth and distinct one": velocity, scope, and systems impact. The fourth industrial revolution, and the speed of its breakthroughs, has no historical precedent.
It adds: "When compared with previous industrial revolutions, the Fourth is evolving at an exponential rather than a linear pace.
"Moreover, it is disrupting almost every industry in every country. And the breadth and depth of these changes herald the transformation of entire systems of production, management, and governance."
A new wave of technology, and a new wave of industry, will sweep away the old as it comes into shore. Each industrial age, while bringing wealth and prosperity, has to be destructive to be constructive.
City A.M. warns that businesses must adapt to the fourth industrial revolution, or risk being crushed by it. it argues that "no business has ever had the luxury of standing still", noting that, in the 1920s, American Express was founded as a delivery service - hence its name - and Marriott originally specialised in root beer rather than hotels, before they both adapted to change.
"Every month there is new technology that needs to be assessed, understood, and potentially adopted in order to keep up," it writes. "The only solution is to build a business that can continually be rebuilt. Greater adaptability is the most important adaptation any business can make."
With the fourth industrial revolution impacting not only businesses, but also governance and the lives of ordinary people, palpable change is coming. Are you ready for the next industrial era?