The 4th Industrial Revolution

Timeline of Industrial Revolutions

As if three industrial revolutions were not enough- we are now entering a fourth. Since the 17th century, society has shifted from heavy agriculture work to industry and manufacturing domination. We have had scientific breakthroughs like steel and electricity that catapulted mass production and in the 1950’s, introduced electronics and computers into everyday society. And finally, leading us to today (the fourth industrial revolution). Devon McGinnis, director of corporate messaging at Salesforce, defines this revolution as “… a way of describing the blurring of boundaries between the physical, digital, and biological worlds. It’s a fusion of advances in artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing, genetic engineering, quantum computing, and other technologies.” The first three revolutions did wonders for the labor market because most technologies were helpful tools, but humans still had the superior skill set. For example, during the second industrial revolution, assembly lines curated factory jobs and moved people from rural to urban locations. The third revolution introduced the internet, which in turn created internet commerce. Online businesses such as Amazon, Craigslist, and eBay were born.

Technology shift during the Pandemic

We can’t talk about technological advancements without mentioning the effects the Pandemic had/has on the industry. Before the Pandemic, many would say that companies were hesitant to integrate and rely on a cloud-based system. COVID-19 didn’t leave much room for alternatives to anything other than technology-oriented work environments. Company executives had to sink or swim and decide to integrate with the technology they were avoiding for so long. AI, machine learning, and virtual reality played essential roles in keeping businesses afloat while working remotely. This new adjustment also came with an influx of job loss. We once needed people for positions like bookkeepers, assistants, and data entry professionals- we now have the technology to attend to these tasks and contribute more productivity and personalized data in the long run.

Future of the Labor Market

Experts have been going back and forth on how these new advancements will affect the labor market. The old as time question of “where will we find work” lingers in the minds of the working-class. Automation will create new job opportunities, but many fear that most of the population will lack the skillset to prepare for these new positions, not to mention the lack of government policy enacted on such advancements like robots and AI machines. “Millions would need to be reskilled to cope with the change, while governments would have to provide stronger safety nets for displaced workers.” (Kelly, Forbes, 2020). Most are still optimistic that new jobs will emerge to replace the obsolete ones; it will just take learning new skills and adapting to different work environments that many aren’t familiar with. “While AI will automate some jobs, A PwC study has found that ‘any job losses from automation are likely to be broadly offset in the long run by new jobs created as a result of the larger and wealthier economy made possible by these new technologies.” (WEF, 2020, PwC, 2018).

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