Tuesday, 15 December 2020 09:51

Problems of 2020. Industry 4.0

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BizTalk 2020 Series: Issues. Changes. Solutions. Part 3.
Transcript of video blog Ep 3. 4th Industrial Revolution. How it affects our lives. 

Written by Yuliya Suleymanova,
Ed.D. Candidate & Researcher, SULÉY Group Co-Founder.

In our Episode 2 we highlighted the most critical, most important issues and problems of this year, and now it is time to talk more about some historic and scaled perspectives of today's situation. So, what is the 4th Industrial Revolution, and what it has to do with COVID-19 or economic and social problems? Why is it relevant, and why should we even learn about it?

Well, for the last 250 years, the concept of describing socio-technical and socio-cultural shifts and changes, and their effects on our way of life, our mentality, our culture, and our perception of reality, has been defined by leading economists and philosophers as Industrial Revolutions.

This concept is well known among scholars but still remains as a scholarly subject and is commonly perceived as an abstract that has very little connection to the current realm.

Jeremy Rifkin, a renowned American writer, economic and social theorist, associates industrial revolutions in general with developments in communication, transportation, and energy sources. 

These three significant developments have impacted and transformed the way we live, communicate, trade, store information, and travel.

It all started in Great Britain with implementing mechanized spinning in textile production in the 1780s, followed by high rates of growth in steam power and iron production, which occurred after 1800. These new technologies spread from Great Britain to continental Europe and the United States in the early 19th century, with significant centers of textiles, iron, and coal emerging in Belgium and the United States and later textiles in France.

During the 19th century, steam-powered printing presses made newspapers and book printing a major source of information and cultural communications, which in turn led to the increase importance of literacy and education, latest discoveries of electricity led to developing of the telegraph, abundant coal, and locomotives on national rail systems and other rapid new scientific and technological advancements defined the First Industrial Revolution.

In the 20th Century, centralized electricity, the telephone, radio and television, cheap oil, invention of the assembly line by Henry Ford in 1913, which allowed mass production of automobiles, development of transnational and international highways, internal combustion and electric locomotives on national road systems, space exploration and harnessing of nuclear power converged to create an infrastructure for the Second Industrial Revolution or Technological Revolution.

Finally, at the turn of the 21st century, the development of the internet, wireless communications, digital technologies, robotics, personal computing, cloud informational technology, optical and satellite telecommunications grew into the system-wide infrastructure, which is being scaled up and built out for the Third Industrial Revolution, also known as the Digital Revolution.

Now humanity has been entering this new paradigm of inter-connectivity for the last, and it will require another thirty to forty years to fully embrace the new distributed and collaborative business models of the Third Industrial Revolution. The true nature of the inter-connectivity of the emerging digital technologies is to connect across virtual, physical, and biological borders.

However, things did not stop there. While the 1st and 2nd Industrial Revolutions both spanned over an entire century each, the Digital Revolution only lasted a few decades before it transitioned to a new level. In 2015, Klaus Schwab, executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, published an article "Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution," in which he introduced the phrase Fourth Industrial Revolution. It became the 2016 theme of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Schwab includes in this fourth era technologies that combine hardware, software, and biology (cyber-physical systems), and emphasizes advances in communication and connectivity. Schwab expects this era to be marked by breakthroughs in emerging technologies in fields such as robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, quantum computing, biotech, the internet of things, the industrial internet of things, decentralized consensus, fifth-generation wireless technologies, 3D printing, and fully autonomous vehicles.

Klaus Schwab said:

"The Fourth Industrial Revolution will impact our lives completely. It will not only change how we communicate, how we produce, how we consume. It will actually change us, our own identity..."

"What you will see is that everything will be integrated into an ecosystem driven by Big Data and by close cooperation of governments with business and civil society. This revolution will come with breathtaking speed, it will be like a tsunami. And actually, it is not just a digital revolution, it is of course digital, it is physical with nanotechnology, but also biological..."

What makes such rapid technological development so dramatic and how it correlated with today’s problems? Let’s take a look at the history first. Many times during the evolution of human civilization, major changes in productivity and communications caused very dramatic conflicts and socio-political turbulence. New ways of life demanded new social systems and growing contradictions between various social and age groups intensified conflicts between them.

The First Industrial Revolution sparked a series of violent bourgeois revolutions overthrowing outdated absolute monarchies. The French Revolution in 1789, led by Maximilien Robespierre and inspired by his famous motto LIBERTY, EQUALITY, FRATERNITY, which by the way did not save him from decapitation on the guillotine, established The National Constituent Assembly ending an old order of absolutism and setting a roadmap for prevalence of human rights, equality, and separation of powers. On the other side of the world, on July 4th, 1776, the newly formed United States of America fought for their independence and declared their own bill of rights.

2nd Industrial Revolution was even more dramatic. Growing technological and military powers of leading European nations, steam-powered ships and railroads, and development of telecommunications, such as the telegraph and telephone, invention of cars and airplanes allowed even greater colonial expansion. They required the introduction of new trade and business practices and a new set of rules in international relations.

By 1914, the competition over the control of resources and territories and tensions between world empires escalated and turned into a bloody and exhausting World War 1. In 1917, in Russia, the war and deep economic crisis ended the monarchy and allowed Bolsheviks to overthrow the interim government. Vladimir Lenin, just like Robespierre, used a powerful yet populistic motto to inspire the masses for an uprising. This time it was a promise of Land to the Peasants, Factory to the Workers, and Peace to the People. In reality, his promises turned into creating one of the most brutal authoritarian regimes in human history.

Germany, after the shameful defeat in World War 1, got into a long and deep crisis as well. A strong desire for revenge among the German elite and the hopes of working people for a better life allowed Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist Party to win the elections in 1933. His insane ideas of Aryan supremacy clashed with Stalin’s dream of “World Communism”, tugged most of Europe, the United States, Japan, and many Asian and African countries into the bloodiest war in human history, killing an estimated 70–85 million people.

In 1949 Mao Zedong, the communist leader of China, also followed the Soviet Union and established his version of a new society. His so-called Cultural Revolution, launched in 1966 took a toll of 20 million people, 100 million people were persecuted, and 80 billion Chinese yuan was wasted.

In the United States, the 2nd Industrial Revolution was marked with not only participating in World wars, especially with Japan starting with their aggression against Pearl Harbor, helping allies liberating western Europe from the Nazis, and ending the war with US nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  It was marked with a decades-long confrontation with the Soviet Union, known as the Cold War, wars in Korea and Vietnam, but also some very dramatic turmoil inside the United States starting with Great Depression in 1929, was on mafia and crime in 1930’s, the assassination of J.F. Kennedy in 1963 and anti-war and the human rights movement of the 60's and 70’s.

The new era, which we now define as the time of the 3rd Industrial Revolution, brought its own problems and controversies among nations and cultures. The collapse of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia in 1991 caused a series of regional wars and conflicts, many of which still remain hot and active. On September 11, 2001, a group of terrorists hijacked four passenger planes, killing almost 3000 people, destroying World Trade Center buildings in New York and part of the Pentagon. In retaliation, the United States started a war against the Taliban and the Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, allegedly responsible for the attack.  2 gulf wars against Saddam Hussein also changed the balance of powers in the Middle East.

The widespread use of the internet and mobile communications played an important factor in so-called “colored” revolutions and the Arab Spring, once again illustrating how a need and a call for change creates an unsolvable contradictions between the old social systems and traditions and the new realities.

Besides of all the problems, tragedies, and transformations, that our modern civilization experienced in the last 250 years, our quality of life, our mobility, and the tools that make our life much more comfortable and overall safer, changed so dramatically compared to the dark ages through the renaissance when it took centuries, and many generations for new technologies to evolve and for our environment to be turned around.

We now achieve much longer life expectancy, conquered many deadly diseases, and made the entire world interconnected with instant communications. Such transformations continue to accelerate, moving us into the future in giant leaps. 

We entered the 4th Industrial Revolution without even noticing it, completely unprepared for ongoing changes and new unknown challenges that are approaching inevitably and abruptly.

Biologically we are the same species as we were in the late Paleolithic era, except we are now even less adopted to live without the means of civilization and technology. What is even more important is that we now have weaponry that can wipe out every living being on this planet and completely destroy its ecosystem. We become more and more dependent on managing energy sources, supply of drinking water, and foods. Global cooperation and change in the way people interact with each other is the only way we can survive.

Still, many people, groups, societies, and even countries develop and adapt to new realities at a different pace. Even leaders, entrepreneurs, intellectual and creative elites often have views and ideas that contradict not only with each other but with the new reality as well. 

While some enterprises are still operating and managing their businesses using the new distributed and collaborative business models of the 3rd Industrial Revolution, others are forced to make a shift and transform the way they do business, especially in the current situation of COVID 19 epidemic where digital applications have become a vital mechanism for business survival. 

During his speech at the Global Digital Life Design Conference in 2016, Jeremy Rifkin said:

"We have to move from looking at individual product lines, and we then have to think about how we can use these talents to help integrate the entire infrastructure of this revolution and bring industries together...".

This trend is already happening with mega-corporations such as Facebook, Amazon, or Alphabet integrating a wide variety of services and products into seamless integration. They are breaking boundaries of verticals, which was never possible before since cross-industry business and communication was somewhat challenging and complicated. However, most of these companies started out without a complete and clear plan of how they would evolve and grow and how to respond to issues, such as privacy, efficiency of Artificial Intelligence, or negative effects of social media. 

It is now the time for a completely new social design, new socio-economic environment, new ecosystem, and infrastructure. The steam engines of the 21st century require networks of railways, bridges, train stations, and safety lights.  It requires a better understanding of human nature and a new type of visionary leadership.

In the next episodes I will talk about Change Management and how to adapt to a New Normal. We will be talking about Social Dilemma, role of media, about technologies, startups, and new opportunities.

Watch Episode 1: Problems of 2020. Intro To New Series. https://youtu.be/bv4j3wTufic
Watch Episode 2. Deeper View. https://youtu.be/cGxmKeX4U_M
Watch Episode 3. Trailer: https://youtu.be/KNmBofeTa3o

Yuliya Suleymanova
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Yuliya Suleymanova

Yuliya Suleymanova is a Doctor of Education in Leadership Candidate and Researcher. She is an accomplished college professor with 18 years of instructional experience, teaching Psychology at the Kamchatka State Teachers’ University in Russia, at the School of Fashion Marketing & Design at the Art Institute of Seattle for 12 years, and now at the Year Up program at the Seattle Central College where she leads Business Technology Management Classes.


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