There is a lot of buzz about the Fourth Industrial Revolution around the world. Since we’ve had had three industrial revolutions already economists and business leaders understand that we’re already seeing the signs that we’ve entered another. While artificial intelligence, genomics and virtual reality are revolutionary in and of themselves, along they don't make for a revolution. So, before talking about the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on you, let’s take a look at what it is.
What Is An Industrial Revolution?
An industrial revolution is marked by the convergence of technological evolutions and revolutions across industries that changes business models, products, and life styles. By its nature an industrial revolution is disruptive, creating some new that displaces what exists on a large scale. For example, in the First Industrial Revolution we saw machines replacing skill artisan labor (like cloth making) and simple repetitive labor tasks (cotton picking). New energy or power sources, like the steam engine. New transportation systems like the rail road. In the Second Industrial Revolution we saw the introduction of the assembly line, which forever changed manufacturing. The introduction of the internal combustion engine and automobiles and the rise of the oil industry. The Third Industrial Revolution brought us computerization of tasks and eliminated the needs for secretaries. These are just examples of the disruptions that occurred and there were certainly many more.
And of course, there were also great new opportunities, especially for those who understood the technologies and created their own businesses. In the Second Industrial Revolution we saw the rise of the likes of Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, JP Morgan, Thomas Edison and many others. With the Third Industrial Revolution we have Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Larry Ellison and many others.
“With disruption comes opportunity to great personal achievement and wealth creation. It can also leave you behind if you don’t keep up.”
What is the Fourth Industrial Revolution?
Today we’re seeing the early developments, and a lot of hype, around new technologies from artificial intelligence to genomics, alternative energy sources and energy storage, new materials, augmented and virtual reality, drones, autonomous vehicles, blockchain and cryptocurrencies, and even cyber-human connectivity. But it’s not just these technologies by themselves that are creating the revolution; it’s how they are also combined and reshaping the way we think about and conduct business and live our lives. It’s important to note that industrial revolutions take some time to fully work through, typically around 40 years.
From all of these advances there are great opportunities to learn new skills, become more productive. Even starting your own business is easier than ever. Having learned from past industrial revolutions entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and corporations are intentionally looking for ways to create disruptive technologies and combine technologies in disruptive ways. It is critical to understand this for your career and financial well-being, so you can both take advantage of opportunities as well as avoid being left behind.
“Understand there are people developing products that are intended to either replace your job or put the company you work for out of business. You can either join them, ignore them or fight them.”
How Will the Fourth Industrial Revolution Impact You?
While the details will vary from person to person and with the industrial revolution just starting there is much we can’t even imagine yet. Still, there are some clear directions which you should know and being taking steps today to prepare for – prepare to take advantage of opportunities and prepare to avoid being left behind.
“Would you rather take a chance on riding the wave of technology to success or ignoring it for the status quo and risk being left behind?”
Live longer and healthier: Perhaps the most significant and underappreciated change from the industrial revolution will be that you will likely live much longer and spend most of that time more active and healthier than previous generations. From genomics, lab grown organs, and smart cities life expectancy is expected to continue increasing, and very possibly exponentially. This is critical not only for retirement planning but also finding purpose and deciding what to do with your life. In a recent AARP sponsored conference, I attended it was eye opening to see how little consideration we all give to our life in our 80s and beyond aside from “grandchildren”. What will you do with your life from age 65 to 110?
Investment changes: One thing to be certain of is new companies in new industries will be created and companies you’ve long known will fade away. Both will impact investments you have, whether they are directly stocks or through mutual funds and ETFs. New financial products will also be created, perhaps even based on cryptocurrencies or tokens. Regardless, you want to develop personal risk management strategy for dealing with companies on the rise and fading away.
Career changes: In terms of your career you will need to be ready for change. The company you work for may become irrelevant, outdated or unable to keep up and go out of business as a result. At the same time, new fast-growing companies in new industries or using different business models or process will rise up. You need to be skilled up, aware of the trends and ready to make a move. At the same time technology will increasingly be making its way into to workplace. Whether its AI or AR or any of the myriad of new and developing technologies, you will be expected to use them to increase your productivity.
How you buy things: Already we are seeing hints of what’s to come changing the way we buy products. From Amazon Go’s cashierless store to paying with smartphone apps to voice activated digital assistants to smart refrigerators that automatically decide it’s time to order milk to be delivered by drone. We haven’t seen changes like this since the advent of credit cards, ATMs and direct deposit. Not everyone made those transitions well or even at all.
Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There is much more to come that we can’t see or even imagine from our perspective at this time. Join our Facebook Community, Future Proofing You, to share your thoughts, observations, concerns and to ask or answer questions and share.
About the Author
Larry Boyer, CBE, ACC helps people and businesses prepare for the changing and evolving economy of the 21st Century. As a recognized leader in advanced analytics, finance & economics, future technologies and personal development. He speaks, writes and consults on these topics and their impacts from a high level bringing them down to a more personal level where you can take action. His book The Robot In the Next Cubicle: What You Need to Know to Adapt and Succeed in the Automation Age is available for purchases where ever you like to buy books.