Technological changes
Business Motivation

How should society prepare for an increasingly technology-based world

June 2, 2020

“The Fourth Industrial Revolution is still in its nascent state. But with the swift pace of change and disruption to business and society, the time to join in is now.”

Gary Coleman

The world as we know it is changing. Society is being reshaped, with an increasing dependence on technology. Technology did not just appear but seeped slowly into our lives through the arrival of the Industrial Revolution.

If you think the Industrial Revolution only happened that one time, I’m about to rain on you like confetti at an 80s wedding!

Look back in time to the 1st industrial revolution which began in the 1760s to around 1830s, and the 2nd industrial revolution which began in the 1870s to around 1914, that’s about 40 to 70 years between revolutions. It took another 40 years for the 3rd industrial revolution to emerge in the 1950s. And then emerges…..the 4th and 5th Industrial Revolutions, both at lightning speed, barely a few years away from each other.

We are now are now smack bang in the middle of the 4th Industrial Revolution of Technology, where humans seemed to be slowly phased out. And yet we’re already at the cusp of the 5th Industrial Revolution where humans are once again being recognized as essential to the functioning of industries. It is very clear that with the introduction of advanced technology, changes in technological advancements are transpiring at lightning speed.

Throughout history, every Industrial Revolution was built on the foundation of its predecessor, and shaped the world of industry as we know it today. Every Revolution meant that jobs were being automated and replaced by machinery, yet new jobs were emerging where that machinery required someone to operate them. New skills and training were always a constant necessity.

What we’re facing present-day is not as novel as we may think. However, the way we adapt to our new environments has changed exponentially. So what affect will this rapid pace have on current and future societies? Before we deep dive into the complexities of the modern Industrial Revolution, we must travel back in time to understand how all this came about.

A Short History of Revolutions

1st Industrial Revolution (Industry 1.0)

The Age of Mechanical Production – Circa 1760s to mid 1830s

Originating in Great Britain, the 1st Industrial Revolution was the 1st transition to new forms of manufacturing processes. Water and steam power were being used to mechanize production, and the growth of industries, such as coal, iron, railroads, and textiles began. All hand production operations were now replaced by machinery, iron production processes, and chemical manufacturing.

The 1st Industrial Revolution was a considerable turning point in history. Nearly every aspect of everyday life was affected in some way. Growth in standard earnings gave rise to a better standard of living and those who were left jobless were now given the opportunity to train for new ones.

As with every great change comes the good and the bad. The negative effects on the environment were monumental, with air pollution being the most noxious. Efforts were made to get the pollution under control, but these efforts did not come into full effect until many years later.

2nd Industrial revolution (Industry 2.0)

The Age of Science and Mass Production – Circa 1870s – 1914

Originating primarily in Great Britain, Germany, and US, the 2nd Industrial Revolution saw the development of electricity, petroleum, and steel. During this period, steel replaced iron and was widely used in areas such as construction, industrial machines, ships, railroad, and many other industries.

This is a time where electricity was a luxury and candles and gas lamps were used to light homes. Until Thomas Edison invented something we all take for granted today…. the light bulb, and Alexandra Graham Bell brought us the magnificent telephone. Electricity was now being used for transportation. In 1879, the first electric railroad appeared in Berlin, and as early as 1880, electric streetcars began to replace horse-drawn carriages in major European cities.

The first internal combustion engine was introduced in 1878. And with the emergence of liquid fuel, such as petroleum, it was now practical for widespread use. The internal combustion engine led to the development of the automobile and airplane.

The 2nd Industrial Revolution saw the introduction of some of the most indispensable products and industries which we still value to this day. Can you imagine what fear and joy one would experience living in this era? The fear of so many changes to adapt to, and the joy of tremendous opportunities and possibilities.

Does this sound familiar to you?

3rd Industrial Revolution (Industry 3.0)

The Digital Revolution – Circa 1950s

Now we’re entering into more familiar territory. The 3rd Revolution is where we see the rise of electronics, telecommunications, and our beloved, all-important computer. This is an era of space expeditions, research, biotechnology, and nuclear energy!

The 2nd revolution moved all things analog, to digital. It brought forth most of what we know and still use today. Semiconductors, mainframe computing, personal computing, and the Internet. Hurrah for the Digital Revolution.

4th Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0)

The Age of Cutting Edge Technology – Circa…..Now!

The first 3 Industrial Revolutions represented profound societal, economic, environmental, and technological changes, and brought us to where we are today. We have learned faster and efficient progression, and with fewer mistakes as in the past.

This is an era of robots, artificial intelligence, genetic editing, 3d printing, and vertical farming. The technological advancements we are being introduced to in this Revolution will be the firm foundation on which all future societies will be built.

The world in which our children and their children’s children will live and thrive is the one we are now currently building, one byte at a time. Therefore it is essential that we familiarize ourselves and adapt to these changes, as we will soon be obsolete if we do not.

5th Industrial Revolution (Industry 5.0)

The age of Human-Machine Collaboration – Circa……real soon!

The trend in all previous Industrial Revolutions has shown us that the march forward to progression always seems to leave an element of dehumanization behind. The 5th Revolution aims to reintroduce the human factor into rapidly advancing technological progression. After all, machines cannot be strategic or creative. They cannot make decisions based on reason and consequences. And so, the human-machine relationship begins brewing.

Governments and organizations are recognizing that the 5th Industrial Revolution is upon us, with some countries dedicating entire departments to keeping up with these changes, such as the UAE’s Ministry of Artificial Intelligence and AI Academy.

The future of employment recruitment will be reshaped to the point where humans will no longer be the ones matching individuals to jobs. Bots and AI tools will be taking over the most mundane tasks such as scheduling interviews, answering common questions and scanning resumes to prescreen candidates with the right qualifications.

This new recruitment process places substantially more significance on human intelligence and skills as never seen never before, as AI enables recruiters to more precisely capture profile matches. This ups the stakes for competition in the work arena, as if the competition wasn’t enormous enough already! It is up to us to remain ahead of the curve.

How can we stay ahead of the curve

1. Redefine your purpose and adjust

It is not solely up to organizations to adjust to our new norm. Organizations continuously have to review their competitors, re-evaluate their strengths and weaknesses, and make the appropriate changes using the tools available to them in an ever-changing environment.

We seldom take the time to sit down with pen and paper and re-evaluate our own strengths and weaknesses, pay attention to our environments and make the changes where necessary.

I remember a time when I was perfectly satisfied in my corporate life, when overnight my company had restructured, and the next month, I was out. Contrary to my perception of the matter, the restructuring did not happen overnight. There were signs everywhere that I did not pay attention to. If I had my wits about me, I would’ve been well prepared by being proactive instead of reactive. There would’ve been a plan A, B, and C to turn to, but instead, I was whipped into a frenzy trying to find my footing on unstable ground.

Be Prepared

Before you need to react to an unfavorable event, evaluate your circumstances, your environment, and your skills. How can you use your immediate environment and any possible future changes to your advantage? Should you expand your knowledge in a certain topic, sector, or industry? Should you change direction entirely to what you’re really good at or where there are more opportunities?

Put pen to paper and write it down. When you look at it on paper, it becomes more realistic. Now figure out what you have to do to remain ahead of the curve and in a favorable position. Do not fight a new or emerging environment, use it to your advantage instead.

2. Have a rock-solid plan ready and take action

The way businesses and organizations assess what they need to do next, is by using analysis tools. These tools make it transparent what current and future issues need to be addressed, and what to do about it. One of those tools is a SWOT analysis.

To address my strengths, weaknesses, skills, and environment, I like to use the SWOT analysis.

S=Strengths

W=Weaknesses

O=Oppotunities

T=Threats

3. Putting Pen to Paper

Evaluate your Strengths, Weaknesses, and Opportunities at the same time

Your strengths are what I’m good at now, and what you could potentially be good at with the right training or mentorship. Once you’ve identified your strengths, look at what type of jobs are posted on recruitment sites to see how your strengths match up with the current working environment.

Pay close attention to the requirements and what the job entails. From there you can find ideas on how to increase your strengths according to the current work environment. Then research future trends in your area of expertise to see what you should know, that you don’t know yet.

Once you find the answer to that, try to find educational material or professionals in the field who are willing to mentor you. You’ll be surprised how many people are willing to help you when they recognize a proactive mind!

This step covers most of your SWOT analysis, as you will know what you can do well, where the opportunities lie current and present, and what you need to do to pursue those opportunities.

Threats

Your threats are what could happen in the short term within your internal and external environments.

By internal, I mean, pay attention to the environment in which you interact daily, work, and personal. Listen actively to what people are talking about. Perhaps your company has implemented a new procedure, which could possibly make certain tasks or departments obsolete or redundant. What can you do to keep yourself in a favorable position? Perhaps your landlord has started dropping hints about selling… what will your new landlord be like? Will your rent suddenly increase? Perhaps you should prepare with some cash reserves for any potential sudden changes and perhaps you need to amend your budget to account for that.

By external, I mean what is happening in the world. Has the economy taken a nose dive, or are economic conditions affecting your industry while others are thriving. For example, are there any legislative changes as a result of political issues that may stop trading between countries, while you may be working in logistics with clients in that country? You can apply this to your own environment, but I’ m sure you get the idea!

4. Do not be afraid of technological changes, embrace them

I am certainly not tech-savvy, and I’m sure many of you can relate. I’m always the last one to learn how to use technological devices. I was still using a flip Nokia when everyone was already on smartphones!

However, I slowly learned that all you have to do is start and every day it becomes easier. I’ve even done little courses out of curiosity, as there are certain aspects that I just could not wrap my head around. And I never thought I would need some of the knowledge I’ve learned, but there is always something that I picked up from my ‘curiosity courses’ that I can use in my work or personal life. And sometimes it helps me to understand something else that I’m trying to tackle. Knowledge can never go to waste!

CURIOSITY NO LONGER KILLS THE CAT

There is no harm in pursuing something you know nothing about, or you’re not experienced in. In fact, that may well be the very definition of innovation.

Become more curious and don’t be afraid to learn something completely new to you. You never know, you might grasp something that can assist you in your daily or professional life.

There are several learning platforms which are incredibly low cost such as Udemy, Coursera and Lynda Learning, where you can find almost anything you want to learn. They are also recognized by most employers.

The future is already upon us. Embrace it, and you will find yourself thriving in an environment full of untapped possibilities.

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