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Defining the fourth industrial revolution Defining the fourth industrial revolution
by Joseph Gatt
2020-07-23 08:44:32
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First, you had hunting and gathering. Then you had farming and herding. Then, you had the industrial era that took shape in four stages, which I'll describe briefly.

-Steam and coal (1760-1890 roughly)

The first industrial revolution used steam and coal to power machines.

indrev001_400Factories were often located in cities (London, Manchester, Liverpool, Paris, Rome, Frankfurt, Buenos Aires, New York City etc.).

Almost every machine either used steam or coal. Railroads started being built using steam or coal.

Cities became very dirty with all the coal pollution. There were no environmental rules, anyone could set up a factory anywhere.

Urban planning and industrial planning tended to be poor.

Factory workers tended to be paid very little money (if at all). Factory owners tended to become very rich.

This industrial revolution also led to mass print media and large cities (London and Paris were the first cities to reach the million inhabitants).

Some people thought that the coal and steam era would last forever. Social democracy and Communism were born to fight for workers' rights.

-Oil-Petrol and chemicals (1890-1950)

The second industrial revolution was one where oil (petrol) and chemical products started being used.

That is during the first industrial revolution it was mostly pure, natural wood, cotton, sand, iron and other elements that were used.

During the second industrial revolution, a lot of production was made using more synthetic and mixed several chemicals.

Plastic started being widely used. So was rubber. Steel and other iron derivatives started being used. Oil and petrol derivatives started being used as an energy source.

And chemicals were being used for everything, from synthetic textiles to chemical soap to chemical concrete to build solid buildings to medication to everything else.

This was also an era where weapons used a lot of chemicals, thus leading to the horrors of World War I and World War II.

Air waves were mastered and that gave birth to television and radio in addition to the written press. Magazines started using colors in them, photography and the record industry booms.

And this mastery of chemistry and chemicals led to the invention and wide use of cars, ships and planes . Travelling around the world was never easier.

-Computer science (1950-2008)

Now this industrial revolution did not make great innovations. There were some mild and moderate improvements in industrial products (faster cars, more comfortable shoes, more comfortable clothes, tastier food, cleaner soap etc.)

But this industrial revolution did not revolutionize industry itself. No substitute for petrol was found, no substitute for steel was found, no substitute for rubber was found.

But computers entered the scene and made communications easier and more affordable. Computers also allowed more precision in designing and manufacturing products.

More importantly computers enabled information to be archived and easily retrieved (in the old days you had to go to the basement and dig up the archives, and that could take hours, or days).

You also no longer had to rely in the post office for communication. And information and communication devices multiplied and exploded (laptops, desktops, cell phones, beepers, pagers, smartphones, email, Internet cafés etc.)

The entertainment industry did not “invent” any concept (it's still music and movies and series) but entertainment became widely available, the choice was much larger, and a plethora of artists tried to break into the entertainment industry.

Interesting statistic: in 2010, 24,000 people in France (a country of 65 million) had registered business bank accounts with “comedian” as the stated profession. How do you fit in 24,000 comedians into the lives of normal people who only dedicate 3 to 6 hours a day on entertainment? 

-Artificial intelligence

The fourth industrial revolution: the use of “artificial intelligence.”

That is during the first three industrial revolutions, human beings were the ones doing all the “brain” work, perhaps with the help of a calculator or spell check or “search” button.

But starting around 2005, and mainstream in 2008, you have “machines” invent “machines.” Machines started inventing machines, or at least machines and computers were helping us design and invent machines.

Machines are also helping us communicate, produce products (food and clothes and everything else). There's an “app” for everything, from GPS systems to programming a 3D printer to produce X amount of “statues” or “plates” or “glasses” or name a product.

The applications of artificial intelligence are infinite. You can now “talk” and your voice recognition system will recognize everything you say. You can clap your hands and the lights will switch off.

Artificial intelligence can also “give you suggestions” as to what you will eat for dinner or what movie you will want to watch next and enjoy.

-The limitations of the 4th industrial revolution

Artificial intelligence has huge memory and analytical capabilities, more than any human will ever have.

But, artificial intelligence does not have the kind of “common sense” we humans have.

Here are three examples of how artificial intelligence fails big.

In 1987, the first models of artificial intelligence were developed to analyze stock market trends. A lot of people were convinced the computers could predict when stocks would rise and when they would fall. And because too many people were buying (or selling) the same stocks at the same time, the stock market crashed. People got rid of those AI programs, and the stock market bounced back quickly.

In 2001, AI models predicted that “online stores” and “online businesses” would be a safe bet. But here's how AI works. If a lot of people are buying something, AI simply signals that a lot of people are making the investment. AI does not know whether it's a safe investment or not. All kinds of people saw the AI trend and started purchasing all these .com companies. Problem is, most real people did not want to shop online (real people were worried about scams!). So the market crashed.

In 2014, AI predicted that 2015 would be a great year for all kinds of industries, from travel to leisure to entertainment to fashion to so much more stuff. Problem is, in 2015 and 2016, and even 2017, a series of terrorist attacks around the world meant people were scared of leaving their homes, and were scared of travelling.

In sum, you get help from a machine, but I would trust AI the same way I would trust a Bostonian who arrived to New York City yesterday for the first time to show me around town. Yes, he's seen it all on TV, but he still gets West and East mixed up. You get the idea. 

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