Imagine you book something from your favourite food outlet online. A robot cooks the food and it is then delivered by a driverless van or a drone. A world where humans are being replaced by robots no longer seems to be a scene from a Sci-Fi film. Recently, a British online supermarket, ‘Ocado,’ successfully developed a completely automatic system of picking up grocery items for its customers. This is representative of the fact that we are moving towards a Digital Revolution, which is generally termed as the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ (IR 4).
According to policy makers, the world economy has been on a continuous decline for the last three-four years and a revolution seems to be imperative. In the past, a phase of substantial growth has always been preceded by a revolution. The first such instance dates back to the 1760’s, when Industrial Revolution 1.0 began and was called a Mechanical Revolution. It revolved around the production of machines that were powered and driven by water and steam. The Technological Revolution, which was the Second Industrial Revolution, entailed the usage of electrical energy in the manufacturing process, helping in voluminous production. The launch of the internet was the third revolution, which was termed the Virtual Revolution. The information technology sector had a boom, which promoted the use of electronics to automate the production line and achieve economies of scale.
Industry Revolution 4.0 and its impact
What sets IR 4.0 apart from the earlier revolutions is the speed at which the revolution is approaching the world, and how its effects will be intangible. Industrial Revolution 4.0 is where the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres get merged. Production, management and governance systems are likely to be revamped. And policies aligning Artificial intelligence (AI), drones and blockchain technology are already being implemented. Taking up AI technology helps in reducing the operational costs that are involved in the production process, increasing not only efficiency but also revenue. Improvement in the customer experience is also a benefit AI brings with itself. Only 15% of the enterprises in the world are using AI as of today, but 31% are expected to start making use of it in the coming 12 months, according to Adobe. The Fourth Industrial Revolution will allow hyper-connection. This will help connect not only one person to another person, but also machines to people. Amazon’s Alexa works using this technology and is representative of the hyper-connectivity between devices and humans.
The revolution will have an impact on a lot of sectors. The recruitment industry will be impacted in multiple ways. Firstly, less people will be required to be employed as robots will be prevalent. Secondly, the time taken to screen all CVs will get drastically reduced due to the invention of AI softwares, like Ideal, which will help recruiters. Increased automation is already phasing out the role of humans in the manufacturing industry and agriculture sector. It might even affect the pharmaceutical industry by replacing doctors with applications, and chemist with robots. Thirdly, the transportation sector will flourish with applications which help people to track their cab and ensure safety. The retail sector will also receive a lot of traffic as AI technology advances, where these online stores will already know what you want before you even place the order. With cashlessness taking over the globe, the banking sector will face a setback as everything will be online. With a substantial impact on each of these sectors, it surely will lead to digitising the globe.
Challenges posed to policy makers
Data forms the base of the revolution, and for a digital economy, exchange of data holds utmost significance. Facebook’s data breach took everybody by surprise. Security of the IT sector, privacy of data, maintenance of the integrity of the production process and excessive investment are few of the challenges associated with the transformation. Another challenge is the availability of AI talent. These people are in high demand, and the demand-supply ratio is quite skewed. The skill set required by the companies isn’t readily available in the job seekers currently. The maximum supply gap is at the middle-level. If these professionals get lured by high salaries being offered by companies in the developed world, it would not help to bridge the technological gap between developing and developed nations. Further, cities across the world are already grappling with parking space issues. The situation is likely to get worsened as by the end of the next decade, large fleets of drones will be very common and would need parking space. Policy makers have to equip themselves to solve these issues, both big and small.
Are we moving towards a “jobless future”?
A dystopian future where robots are ubiquitous and humans are merely power sources may be the norm in the coming decades. It is important for humans to change the complexion of the job market. A recent research by McKinsey says that 45% of the current jobs can be automated. Few beginnings have already been made in this direction. Japan has already taken the first step towards this advancement and there are companies that are in the business of “saying sorry.” They hire people to apologise on behalf of others. Not far behind, in China, one can hire boyfriends who can help ladies with shopping and take perfect selfies. Robots that have been created to help humans, may become job creators for humans in future. They will require an entire ecosystem of support staff to optimise their performance and to avail services such as robot maintenance and robot monitoring. Robot ethicists may also be in great demand. But what we need to understand is that AI as whole could be a big benefit to entire humanity if used in the proper direction. What a lot of experts believe is that to make a productive future, it is pertinent for humans to work alongside robots to make the process faster. Therefore, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see robots doing the work which requires mindless skills whilst humans work on managing the system and adding a creative touch to the process. Their jobs would transform, and re-skilling themselves and expanding their skill set is the need of the hour. This goes on to prove that jobs are changing, but not going away, humans simply need to change and keep evolving to fit in society better.
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