The fourth industrial revolution is the current and developing environment in which disruptive technologies and trends such as the Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI) are changing the way we live and work. The fourth industrial revolution is growing out of the third but is considered a new era rather than a continuation because of the explosiveness of its development and the disruptiveness of its technologies.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution heralds a series of social, political, cultural, and economic upheavals that will unfold over the 21st century. Building on the widespread availability of digital technologies that were the result of the Third Industrial, or Digital, Revolution, the Fourth Industrial Revolution will be driven largely by the convergence of digital, biological, and physical innovations.
Like the First Industrial Revolution’s steam-powered factories, the Second Industrial Revolution’s application of science to mass production and manufacturing, and the Third Industrial Revolution’s start into digitization, the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s technologies, such as artificial intelligence, genome editing, augmented reality, robotics, and 3-D printing, are rapidly changing the way humans create, exchange, and distribute value. As occurred in the previous revolutions, this will profoundly transform institutions, industries, and individuals. More importantly, this revolution will be guided by the choices that people make today: the world in 50 to 100 years from now will owe a lot of its character to how we think about, invest in, and deploy these powerful new technologies.
It’s important to appreciate that the Fourth Industrial Revolution involves a systemic change across many sectors and aspects of human life: the cross-cutting impacts of emerging technologies are even more important than the exciting capabilities they represent. Our ability to edit the building blocks of life has recently been massively expanded by low-cost gene sequencing and techniques such as CRISPR; artificial intelligence is augmenting processes and skill in every industry; neuroethology is making unprecedented strides in how we can use and influence the brain as the last frontier of human biology; automation is disrupting century-old transport and manufacturing paradigms; and technologies such as blockchain and smart materials are redefining and blurring the boundary between the digital and physical worlds.
The result of all this is societal transformation on a global scale. By affecting the incentives, rules, and norms of economic life, it transforms how we communicate, learn, entertain ourselves, and relate to one another and how we understand ourselves as human beings. Furthermore, the sense that new technologies are being developed and implemented at an increasingly rapid pace has an impact on human identities, communities, and political structures. As a result, our responsibilities to one another, our opportunities for self-realization, and our ability to positively impact the world are intricately tied to and shaped by how we engage with the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This revolution is not just happening to us we are not its victims but rather we have the opportunity and even responsibility to give it structure and purpose.
All previous industrial revolutions have had both positive and negative impacts on different stakeholders. Nations have become wealthier, and technologies have helped pull entire societies out of poverty, but the inability to fairly distribute the resulting benefits or anticipate externalities has resulted in global challenges. By recognizing the risks, whether cybersecurity threats, misinformation on a massive scale through digital media, potential unemployment, or increasing social and income inequality, we can take the steps to align common human values with our technological progress and ensure that the Fourth Industrial Revolution benefits human beings first and foremost.
Sport and the fourth industrial revolution
The fourth industrial revolution has been evolving in a deeply unequal world. In fact, in parts of the global south, the second or third industrial revolutions are still incomplete. Nearly 1.3 billion people still lack access to electricity. Four billion people, mostly in third world countries, lack internet access.
The fourth industrial revolution in agriculture
The fourth industrial revolution (4IR) is starting to change how every agricultural player, from a family farmer to a global conglomerate, produces food and related products. The spread of the so-called essential eight technologies including AI, blockchain, drones, and the Internet of Things (IoT) to agriculture is leading to increased yields, lower costs, and reduced environmental impact. These tools are also empowering farms to unlock new plant-based innovations and increasing their resilience to extreme weather events and climate change.
However, this revolution in agriculture imposes new demands on producers and the organizations that serve them. To thrive in 2030 and beyond, agricultural companies must choose carefully among the new technologies, to avoid wasting time and money or worse missing out on critical opportunities. Many companies will also need to change how they organize themselves and their business lines to best use these technologies. The right approach to all these challenges requires that companies define their place in the digitized world of agriculture, then identify and develop the right capabilities system to succeed in it.
Generating a “so what” from data through digitized operations and advanced analytics
Digitization is perhaps the clearest example of how 4IR technologies can, and should, go beyond simply making traditional business models work better. New technologies are leading an all-new agriculture value chain, with digital businesses at each link of that chain tapping into new revenue streams.
These forward-looking agricultural companies don’t just capture and harness data. They help clients figure out what data they need and how they will get it; they also help standardize and analyze data to recognize patterns and formulate recommendations. In other words, they generate a “so what” from the reams of data in which so many organizations are currently drowning.
In practice, producing this “so what” usually means applying analytics in order to operate equipment more efficiently; determine more accurate feed formulations; manage animal well-being; create marketplaces; and better manage logistics, pricing, customer performance, and more.
Participating in and leading new collaboration ecosystems
It’s impossible for any single company to gather, manage, develop, and use all the sources of data and all the new technologies that emerging agricultural business models depend on. The autonomous super farms and biofactories that may soon provide much of humanity’s food? Those will require multiple stakeholders, from conglomerates to startups to farmers in the field, working together.
Leading agricultural companies will be skilled at partnering with other companies, large and small, and with universities and other sources of innovation to identify trends and capitalize on external knowledge. They will be “extroverted,” outward-looking organizations, with the vision to orchestrate new agriculture ecosystems. And they’ll use mergers and acquisitions to fill gaps in 4IR-based business models.
Collaboration should always be grounded in a company’s objective assessment of its own strengths and where it will be better off capitalizing on the strengths of an external partner. For example, one company may be strong in food processing but need partners for food formulation insights. Another may have exciting R&D but need partners to get its inventions into the marketplace. The key is to understand one’s role in the agricultural value chain of tomorrow, then build the partnerships and make the deals to strengthen that role.
Consider how McDonald’s (at the end of the agriculture value chain) recently acquired an Israeli AI startup called Dynamic Yield, which has strong capabilities in using analytics to personalize customer options. McDonald’s will use the new asset’s tools to vary digital drive-through menus based on the time of day, the weather, how busy the restaurant is, and trending menu items. When a customer places an order, the AI system will instantly suggest other items to complement it. Using the data it gathers, the system will improve its own performance over time.
Big companies are being stripped of their once privileged positions by small corporations that bring in their DNA an innovative differentiator.
The outlook is that in a maximum of 10 years, a wave of unemployment will be underway due to the mass deployment of robotics by companies of various sizes around the world.
You may not yet have an idea of how big the technology has come. To have a closer view of all that is coming, we must look at what is already happening, and the fact is this:
The largest taxi company has no vehicles, and there are no hotels for the largest host company.