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The 4th Industrial Revolution

(113 Posts)
daphnedill Mon 06-Mar-17 11:18:55

A recent article by Bernard Marr in Forbes:

The 4th Industrial Revolution And A Jobless Future - A Good Thing?

It’s estimated that between 35 and 50 percent of jobs that exist today are at risk of being lost to automation.

Repetitive, blue collar type jobs might be first, but even professionals — including paralegals, diagnosticians, and customer service representatives — will be at risk.

This isn’t just science fiction, it’s happening now. Manufacturing are the first places we see robots and automation eliminating human jobs, but it’s hard to think of an industry that will be left unaffected as robots and AI become more affordable and widespread.

Rather than fight this advancement and wring our hands over the robots “stealing” our jobs, maybe it’s time to envision a jobless future.

Most people are in jobs they don’t particularly enjoy, with lots of mundane and repetitive tasks. Is it not our obligation to pass those jobs to machines?

From a business standpoint, any consultant would tell you that any task that can be systematized and automated should be. Many jobs are not jobs humans should waste their time doing.
The challenge is to rethink our economic model to ensure the people who will do something more interesting and enjoyable can afford to do so.

What would a jobless future look like?

All these technological advances that we are creating today — big data, artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things — represent a significant challenge to capitalism.
The more we automate and systematize, the more we see jobless growth and productivity. Taken to its logical extremes, we have a paradox of an exponentially growing number of products, manufactured more and more efficiently, but with rising unemployment and underemployment, falling real wages and stagnant living standards.

The 4th Industrial Revolution has started.

In other words, more products produced more cheaply and efficiently — but no one able to afford to buy them.
In fact, it’s already begun.

The rate of technological progress and worker productivity is on the rise, but wages are stagnating, factories are eliminating jobs, and researchers estimate that anywhere between 35 and 50 percent of jobs that exist now are in danger of being lost to automation.

But what if the prognosis weren’t all doom and gloom? What if all this automation were instead to provide so much luxury that we enter a post-work era, when humans are required to do very little labor and machines provide everything we need?

Fully Automated Luxury Communism describes an idea and ideology that in the (relatively near) future, machines could provide for all our basic needs. Humans would be required to do very little work on quality control and similar oversight, and have much of their time free to pursue other things. The result would be attainable luxury for everyone.
Robots, AI, machine learning, big data, etc. could make human labor redundant instead of creating even further inequalities. It could lead to a society where everyone lives in luxury and where machines produce everything while humans are free to pursue the creative explorations that robots and machines are incapable of: science, art, music, poetry, invention, and exploration.

How a jobless society must work

The trick, however, is subordinating the technology to global human needs rather than to profits.

Putting modern technology to work for the people is an excellent goal, and democratizing the advantages of our advances is already happening in some sectors. Bringing governments and nonprofit organizations onto the same technological footing as for-profit companies is a good step forward and could result in huge strides towards improving living conditions, decreasing crime, ending poverty and other problems.

I believe that if we can collectively turn our technology to the good of everyone, technology would not just be pruning away the jobs that are too mundane for humans to do, but also create new opportunities to replace the ones that were lost. Crucially: the jobs will be pruned regardless, but it is up to us to create the opportunities.

It’s the idea that the next Mozart, or Einstein, or Edison may be waiting — but because of inequalities like poor schooling, hunger, inadequate housing, etc., they may never reach their full potential.

If technology can provide an equal playing field for those children of the future, providing for all their needs, and that is done through the loss of the low-wage, monotonous, unfulfilling jobs we are clinging to today, then I say, destroy those jobs. Make way for the new generation and give them the tools they need to create incredible things.

Any comments?

POGS Mon 06-Mar-17 11:43:39


Any comments?

Yes, and I apologise for being flippant but the Labour thread where I tried to raise the subject of the 4th Industrial Revolution proved to be a challenge. grin

gettingonabit Mon 06-Mar-17 11:56:03


Not sure if any of you have heard of Charles Handy, but he was proposing a similar idea-that of the "portfolio" career-some decades ago (mid 80s). I said at the time that it would never come to pass. But it has. The workforce seems to be made up of people with more than one job, who may be self-employed, underemployed or -horrors-on zero hours with little or no security.

Maybe the 4th Industrial Revolution is simply another step along.

daphnedill Mon 06-Mar-17 11:57:11

That's why I thought it might be worth having a thread of its own. It's a fascinating topic and will almost certainly change life in developed countries in the next decade.

Apart from changes to the workplace, there are implications for democracy itself. Some people favour 'direct democracy' where we just press a button to vote on various issues, but others have pointed out the dangers of that approach.

The American Founding Fathers were very wary of democracy, because they were worried it could be 'rule by the mob'. That's why they described America as a Rebublic rather than a Democracy and why the constitution has so many checks and balances in place.

gettingonabit Mon 06-Mar-17 12:04:51

It IS a fascinating topic. I'm ashamed to say I haven't really read up on this but I do fear for the future prospects of our kids and grandkids.

daphnedill Mon 06-Mar-17 12:05:14

gettingonabit Indeed! And the governmment needs to catch up with reality. For example, people with a number of little jobs aren't eligible for the new workplace pensions.

One in seven people is now self-employed. Some will be people like plumbers or electricians, but others are people like me, who pick up all sorts of jobs to make ends meet. However, that's not new to the 4th industrial age.

The author of the article states that robots will take over the boring, less well-paid jobs, but I don't see that can be true. It's true for factory work, but society is always going to need people to provide personal services such as care work. I don't think I'd be happy to have my hair cut by a robot either.

POGS Mon 06-Mar-17 12:25:23


I would like to apologise to you again, you are correct 4IR (4th Industrial Revolution) is indeed a fascinating topic.

I have posted on other threads how I find 4IR interesting and to be honest it is a downright scary prospect and deserves to have a 'designated' thread of it's own.

I will be watching with interest.

PamelaJ1 Mon 06-Mar-17 12:36:22

I can't offer any INFORMED opinion but here goes.
It sounds terrific but until we move away from the way many employers treat their staff it's not going to work.
If they look after their workers and pay them well enough to enjoy the leisure time when not at their place of employment then all well and good.
But they probably won't, they seem to be hell bent on treating them as badly as they can get away with. ( I do realise that statement doesn't apply to all employers!)
My husband will be retiring in 2 weeks and his full time job is being split into 3, so instead of enabling 1 person to get a mortgage ect. 3 people will eke a living unable to move on to home ownership, probably not even earning enough to rent. On top of that they will probably be on zero hour contracts so not even sure of a regular income at all.

daphnedill Mon 06-Mar-17 12:41:17

I'd hoped you would contribute. Maybe Ankers has something to write.

Operations have already been performed on patients by surgeons thousands of miles away via internet/robots,which has to be a good thing if you need highly specialist care.

We have drones dropping bombs and carrying out surveillance, which is better than have real pilots shot out of the sky. Who knows? In future, we could even have robots instead of soldiers on the battlefield.

The jobs being lost are the repetitive ones. Anybody 'of a certain age' might remember typing pools and shorthand typists. My grandmother was a telephonist, which at the time was a relatively skilled job, which required passing civil service exams. Those jobs have long gone and now it's the turn of jobs which require beef and brawn (ie 'men's jobs). Most of these jobs can be done by robot, which means they are not tied to a geographical location. It's much easier and cheaper to relocate robots than thousands of human beings.

It's going to be a challenge for younger generations and I fear that many really will be 'left behind'.

daphnedill Mon 06-Mar-17 12:44:03

I agree with you, PamelaJ. I think people should wake up to what's happening and demand that their governments think strategically and long-term.

There's a scary potential for a handful of people to be in control, while the rest of us scurry about like worker bees.

daphnedill Mon 06-Mar-17 12:49:15

Amazon is the biggest retailer (by value) in the world, but doesn't have any shops. Netflix distributes thousands of films, but doesn't own a cinema. Facebook and Twitter disseminate news more quickly and to more people than any physical newspaper. Wikipaedia holds more information than even the biggest physical encyclopaedia. And so it goes on...

Ankers Mon 06-Mar-17 12:49:36

I think my biggest objection is calling it all a 4th Industrial Revolution.

Things "progress" but twas always thus.

Everytime I see robots, they still seem to be somewhat in their infancy. And that has been the same for the last 40 years!

So I remain underwhelmed.
Yes, robots, or you could just use the name machines are operating in factories, but that too has been happening for a century?

So, as to say robots cutting hair? Not for another century!

Ankers Mon 06-Mar-17 12:52:38

Automation though does take jobs.
Someone said to me[dont think it was on gransnet] that there will be driveless cars operating in London within the next 10 years.
Yes, I wouldnt be surprised at that.

And I do have concerns about loss of jobs in the future. There already are not enough of them.

I have always wondered about the field of robotics getting funding.
But "progress" cannot be stopped, else we just lag behind other countries, and end up having to import more.

daphnedill Mon 06-Mar-17 12:57:26

It was the same with former industrial revolutions, but what makes it a revolution is the pace of change and the extent to which it will change people's lives.

The first industrial revolution had implications for family life, because it destroyed cottage industries. There was a pull factor towards towns and cities, which changed the countryside and villages. It also accelerated the growth of capitalism, because people no longer worked for themselves or owned the machinery to do their jobs. They became mere 'factors of production'.

The industrial revolution changed politics too, because people woke up the fact they were being exploited. They also became better educated, because they had more contact with others in cities rather than in isolated villages, so gained the confidence to voice their opinions.

None of this happened overnight, but there was a definite break with what had gone on before. I believe that the early twenty first century will be judged in a similar way by future historians. The changes are already happening at a pace which many find hard to cope with.

daphnedill Mon 06-Mar-17 13:02:09

What is happening now is more than automation. It's the combination of machines and remote technology which is different (the 'Internet of Things'). In theory, there is no requirement for the person controlling an action to be in the same place, which is why we have remote medical operations, drones dropping bombs, the ability to 'do' housework when at work or in the car on the way home.

daphnedill Mon 06-Mar-17 13:03:21

Driverless cars have already been tested on the streets of London:

MawBroon Mon 06-Mar-17 13:06:59

I knew I had heard something recently on Radio4 about robots as Carers. You might find this interesting if you have not heard it already.

Ankers Mon 06-Mar-17 13:10:00

It was the same with former industrial revolutions, but what makes it a revolution is the pace of change

The changes are already happening at a pace which many find hard to cope with.

It may be just me, but I like change. I realise a lot of people dont. I get bored if there is no change.

Also it may just be me, but it does not feel anything like a "revolution".
It could be though that living through something is quite different to looking at things with a historic eye, if you see what I mean.

I find myself wondering whether the industrial revolution felt like a revolution at the time? To the people that actually lived through it?

Ankers Mon 06-Mar-17 13:13:26

My computer system is too old to get that link MawBroon.

I think I saw too much Tomorrows World as a child.

There were programmes that used to revisit it, and so little of it ever came to fruition that I became jaded by it.

POGS Mon 06-Mar-17 13:15:36


Thank you I was being juvenile and you chose to take the higher ground.

I think 4IR is a prospect that indeed also fills me with fear for our children.

As a generation, like so many before , we have seen so many changes throughout our life time as indeed will happen to those who follow us will inevitably do so as well.

The rise of what has been dubbed 4IR is a double edged sword but there will be no stopping it. It affects every aspect of our lives from employment, how we communicate with each other, how governments interact , defence etc. etc. etc.

I posted this precis on another thread :-

"The Fourth Industrial Revolution, or 4IR, is the fourth major industrial era since the initial Industrial Revolution of the 18th century. The Fourth Industrial Revolution can be described as a range of new technologies that are fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds, and impacting all disciplines, economies and industries.[1]

Central to this revolution are emerging technology breakthroughs in fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3D printing and nanotechnology.[2]"

The world is changing at a pace/rate so fast we have probably just let it wash over our heads because it is so technically incomprehensible as to how our lives have been changed. We simply go with the flow and say 'Wow'.

Who would have thought we would ever see a 'face transplant' or the likes of 3D Technology that could build a house?

The question is how will civilisation cope with no jobs , industries becoming obsolete, the dangers of artificial intelligence , virtual reality etc..

It is nothing short of sci films turning into reality.

Have you ever watched the childrens film ' WALL E '?

daphnedill Mon 06-Mar-17 13:20:55

I doubt if it did feel like a revolution. People would have realised relatively gradually that there was less demand for their goods. They would have realised that there was more work in factories, which would have meant moving to towns and cities. Some people did realise what was going on, which is why there were food riots throughout the 18th and 19th centuries and why groups such as Luddites rebelled. In 1830, there were riots known as "The Captain Swing Riots", but they died out and progress continued.

Eventually, food insecurity caused by factors such as bad harvests, resulted in the abolition of the Corn Laws, which abolished tariffs on cheap grain from America, which made bread cheaper but farmers couldn't charge such high prices. This had political repercussions, because farmers were no longer quite so wealthy and powerful as they had been.

Politics, economics and society are always linked.

daphnedill Mon 06-Mar-17 13:22:36

I've heard of WALL E, but never watched it.

POGS Mon 06-Mar-17 13:23:03

The 4th Industrial Revolution by the way is a book title by Klaus Schwab, the founder of the World Economic Forum, DAVOS.

This link will hopefully be interesting too.

Ankers Mon 06-Mar-17 13:27:42

One of my children is in high tech stuff. Another is in research.
So perhaps without realising it, it has all become part of my life somewhat, and so I dont feel the change in quite the same way.
I also have other relatives in IT so I feel it is all quite normal.

I have probably become a bit immune, and perhaps I shouldnt be.

POGS Mon 06-Mar-17 13:28:51

1st Industrial Revolution
1780 - 1840. Water , Steam , Power, Mechanized production.

2nd Industrial Revolution
1870 - 1914 Electric power. Mass production.

3rd Industrial Revolution
1945 - 1970. Electronics and information technology. Automated production.

4th Industrial Revolution
1970 - ... Fusion of technologies.

Blurred lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres.