The Fourth Industrial Revolution
Three key themes were covered at the 26th World Economic Forum this year:
1) Growth in Africa: rising or falling?
2) The Fourth Industrial Revolution
3) Social entrepreneurship.
We will take a look at the second theme in this blog, the 4th Industrial Revolution, because we believe this theme holds important insights for HR, people and business managers. We have also chosen to underpin our Annual Convention and Exhibition around it this year. See more about the Convention here, taking place 13 – 16 November at Emperors Palace in Johannesburg.
According to Africa.com, the 4th Industrial revolution is characterized by:
‘a range of new technologies that fuse the physical, digital and biological worlds, impacting all disciplines, economies and industries, and even challenging what it means to be human.’
This theme was explored at WEF in Davos in January, and has been explored at other regional WEF gatherings throughout the world.
Whilst the 1st Revolution used water and steam to mechanise production, the 2nd created mass power through electric power. In the 3rd, the digital revolution, electronics and information technology automated production. And that takes us to the 4th Revolution that builds on the 3rd, where the fusion of technologies is blurring the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres. These ideas of Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, sound grand in theory. But what do they mean for us on the ground, and how do we respond?
What makes the 4th revolution distinct is the exponential pace at which it is evolving, and it is disrupting almost every industry in every country. The speed of current breakthroughs has no historical precedent. Consider AI, self-driving cars, drones and digital fabrication technologies.
Technology has increased the efficiency and pleasure of our personal and working lives, through new products and services. And innovation is likely to lead to long-term productivity gains. But the revolution could also yield greater inequality through disrupting labour markets. Will we see a job market that’s made up of mostly low-skill/low-pay and high-skill/high-pay, as the demand for highly skilled workers over lower skilled workers increases?
New digital platforms, according to Schwab, can lower barriers for businesses and individuals to create wealth, and this could change the personal and professional environments of workers. So in that case, will longstanding or established players be disrupted by newer entrants who are more agile and innovative, given the access everyone has to global digital platforms?
These are not easy questions to answer. It has become more difficult to predict the future. What we do know is that we need new forms of collaboration given how quickly we’re innovating and disrupting. And Schwab goes on to note: ‘the emergence of global platforms and other new business models, finally, means that talent, culture, and organizational forms will have to be rethought… business leaders and senior executives need to understand their changing environment, challenge the assumptions of their operating teams, and relentlessly and continuously innovate…
In the end, it all comes down to people and values. We need to shape a future that works for all of us by putting people first and empowering them. In its most pessimistic, dehumanized form, the Fourth Industrial Revolution may indeed have the potential to “robotize” humanity and thus to deprive us of our heart and soul. But as a complement to the best parts of human nature—creativity, empathy, stewardship—it can also lift humanity into a new collective and moral consciousness based on a shared sense of destiny. It is incumbent on us all to make sure the latter prevails.’
Have you booked your place at the IPM Annual Convention this year? There are many opportunities to consider our changing environment, as well as rethink how we go forward. Gear up for the 4th Industrial Revolution. The theme for this year’s event is HR Champions – winning solutions for the future.
Book your place and find out more: www.ipm.co.za/ipm-convention