Industry 4.0 is here. But only we can decide how successful it will be.

In light of the current annual World Economic Forum meeting, Davos 2019, we will be doing a three-part series based around its topics. The theme for Davos 2019 is Globalisation 4.0, the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0) and its effect on the global future. We’ll begin with the basics: is Industry 4.0 really more good than it is bad?

The Davos meeting will discuss:

  • The future of the economy and industrial reform
  • Geopolitics
  • Industry systems (and the Fourth Industrial Revolution)
  • Cybersecurity
  • Human capital (changing work)

The goal of Davos is to encourage a global future to the economy which prioritises open markets. Industry 4.0 is fundamentally built upon this idea.

If you haven’t heard of Industry 4.0, that’s understandable. You might not hear the term on the news often, but we’re living it right now.

Industry 4.0 refers to the technological revolution of the twenty-first century. It’s the fourth major industrial era, involving new technologies that will change the way the workforce functions, globally and economically. Industrial eras have always changed how society interacts with work.

Industry 4.0 will completely restructure the workplace, as artificial intelligence, automation, blockchain and machine learning can do what we can’t (or won’t).

So, is this really a good thing?

Some might question whether the restructuring of our society because of technology is a good thing at all.

The short answer? Ultimately, yes, it is.

Industry 4.0 means several things:

  • Reduced danger in the workplace as automation takes over dangerous jobs
  • More jobs in other sectors – primarily technological
  • More connectivity and accessibility for marginalised communities

Safety in the workplace

Industry 4.0 will mean automation and artificial intelligence making the workplace safer. Machines can do unsafe jobs that humans would otherwise do. This includes jobs like construction, mining and factory automation. Automation isn’t new to factories, but it will eventually take over the majority of jobs.

This doesn’t necessarily mean a loss of jobs – rather, these jobs will be redistributed into other, safer sectors.

Many struggle to see automation’s rise and recognise it as a positive thing. This is because it’s hard to ignore the loss of jobs it will bring. We, as a society, don’t exactly trust robots – even the ones who do simply factory work. But automation and AI will also mean safer workplaces in multiple industries.

More jobs in other sectors

Industry 4.0 will bring more diverse jobs into the economy, largely centred around technology.

Developing nations may suffer. The WEF addresses this in their coverage of Erik Brynjolfsson’s 2017 talk. The current situation exploits low cost labour in developing countries. While ethically, the situation will be improved; economically, people may feel the change far more than developing countries. Since Industry 4.0 is still new, we have time to formulate an approach for problems like these.

Some suggest that it will affect developing nations positively, resulting in an increase in “safe and rewarding” jobs.

Industry 4.0 has more potential for increased employment and wealth in the global economy, but with less dangerous and difficult work.

More connectivity and accessibility for people in marginalised communities

While smaller communities may suffer from less employment, they will be able to connect more with the global community. This can bring positives such as better services, increased employment opportunities and better standards of living. Technology will become more accessible to poorer communities.

With work, Industry 4.0 has the potential to ease inequality rather than encourage it.

This will also mean easier accessible healthcare, better communication and less dangerous conditions for poor communities. Industry 4.0 has the potential to help make societies more sustainable and equal.

What does it take to make Industry 4.0 successful for everyone?

Industry 4.0 will require a collaboration across countries, markets and industries.

The workforce will change, moulded by technology. Companies will find ways to implement technologies to make work easier and ultimately more productive.

To find out more about technology’s potential to revolutionise industries (like mining), click here.