Well, it depends on who you speak to or what online reference you consult. According to Professor Chris Adendorff, Senior Futurist and Presidential Commissioner for the South African Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) began in around 2012 while other online sources – such as the World Economic Forum’s (WEF’s) start popularising the notion of 4IR in 2016.
So, the question remains: Are we on the brink of 4IR?
Depends on where you are.
In parts of the globe, for example, Europe as well as the United States, significant advances with 4IR technologies – such as 3D printing, virtual reality and computational technology – have been made. For example, the U.S. body – the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – has already approved 3D prints of body parts to be used in humans.
However, in third-world countries, the notion of storing information on the cloud still brings up security concerns with many small business owners still opting to store their information onsite – either in hard copy format or onsite servers.
Slow adoption of 4IR
4IR is all about how technologies are merging with our lives to enhance the quality of our day-to-day activities. A good example is Google Maps. This artificial intelligence solution (which is a hallmark of 4IR) has revolutionised the way that we navigate – whether it be on foot, by bicycle or car.
Another very good example is wearable fitness technology. By wearing devices that monitor our heart rate, sleep and exercise volume, we can monitor our health and have this information decoded into bite-sized chunks which others – such as personal trainers and medical aid schemes – can use in order to assist us further with monitoring our health.
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Miscommunication around 4IR
Especially in highly unionised environments in areas such as the manufacturing industry, there is a mistrust of bosses wanting to mechanise factories and fully adopt 4IR as it is felt that this will result in massive job losses. So, in order to mitigate risks of industrial action, manufacturing bosses are hesitant to put any mechanisation in place.
What bosses should really be doing is reskilling their staff so that they can take on jobs which aren’t necessarily present right now but will be in the future. For example, say a decision had been taken to mechanise a factory. Yes, it would make the people who are currently performing the mechanical processes – that are being overtaken by machines – redundant but these people can be redeployed in other areas in the factory. The trick is to broaden people’s minds to new opportunities and to assure them that all efforts will be made to re-employ them.
In John Sanei’s course, FOREsight, he teaches students how they can flourish in a fast-changing global economy – like the one that we find ourselves in currently. In addition, he teaches students how they can look beyond their reality and create a future that is what they want it to be.
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