The implications of the arrival of fourth industrial revolution are both vast and complex. First, it was the progression from agrarian to urban societies and then it was the introduction of electricity and mass production, and its tremendous effect on almost every industry. After that, came the development of digital and mechanical technologies – most importantly, the personal computer and the Internet. Currently, something different is happening. In contrast to the preceding three, the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is defined by innovative technologies that combine the biological, digital, and physical worlds. 4IR is known for innovations such as self-driving vehicles, quantum computing, 3D and 4D printing, and artificial intelligence – all of which are transforming the way humans work, live, and eventually interact with each other.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution will impact our lives completely. It will not only change how we communicate, how we produce, how we consume, it will actually change us, our own identity.
Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum
Innovation 2050 – A Digital Future for the Infrastructure Industry
The urban design and functionality have altered drastically since the advent of 4IR. Roads are getting “smart” to detect congestion, street lamps are connected wirelessly to specify malfunctions, and novel advanced materials are being used in the construction of skyscrapers, etc. The way foundation is laid is also changing. In Balfour Beatty’s blog post, the writer predicts the appearance of building sites and what it means for humans. Most remarkably, it is anticipated that by 2050, construction sites will be mostly humans-less.
The pieces will be put together by robots and production will be supervised by drones, who will give up-to-the-second direction. The implementation of 3D and 4D printing will make construction, less intrusive, faster, and affordable, and might ultimately lead to the development of smart objects that will have the ability to self-assemble and react to varying environmental conditions. Humans will manage projects, accessing data and visuals gathered from on-site machines. “The very few people accessing the site itself will wear robotically enhanced exoskeletons and will use neural-control technology to move and control machinery and other robots on site,” says the writer. Balfour Beatty affirms that there will be difficulties but encourages other infrastructure companies to adapt themselves to the changes brought on by the 4IR if they want to be successful.
Those companies at the forefront of the digital revolution, which integrate new technologies most effectively, updating their business capabilities and their offer, will reap the biggest rewards.
The Real Story of Automation Beginning with One Simple Chart
In Scott Santens blog post in Medium, he uses a chart that plots U.S. oil rigs and the number of workers employed by the oil industry to explain the increasing presence of automation and its effect on workers in this field.
Santens observes that with the declining number of oil rigs, there was a decrease in the number of workers in the oil and gas industry. The most fascinating part, however, is that even as the rig count started to increase once again in May 2016, the number of employees remained the same. What’s the reason behind it? It is an easy guess - technology intervened and began to play a key role in the industry. Some of the most hazardous tasks in the drilling process, once carried out by humans, are now handled by heavy duty machinery known as “Iron Roughnecks”. Similar to most other industries, automation is considerably increasing productivity on oil rigs.
Santens informs that what once took a group of 20 will soon take a group of five, but with that naturally comes major unemployment. His argument is that this trend happened when the oil industry fell – it was necessary to think efficiently. Unemployment driven by technology is inevitable and cannot be avoided. As a rule, companies will continue to invest in automation if it they can produce at a lower cost. In conclusion, Santens strongly argues that for humans to survive, income should be decoupled from work and an unconditional basic income for all must be established.
How Artificial Intelligence will Impact Accounting
Based on numerous studies, accounting tops the list when it comes to industries threatened by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, particularly automation. These machines are moving into repetitive and predictable process-driven roles where the cost for every mistake is low. This only covers some of the accounting tasks. Author Oliver Griffin quotes Michael Whitmire, CEO and co-founder of FloQast, an accounting software start-up in Los Angeles, who reinforces the idea that accounting departments will be redirected or forced to focus more on strategic initiatives – basically things that engage more human thought.
Now comes the question, how will junior accountants emerge through the ranks and learn the essential skills to become senior employees? Industry leaders are suggesting that young workers should work on aspects such as communication and interpersonal skills that they may have overlooked when they first enrolled in school. Griffin notes that this shift will lend itself to a more holistic educational experience. The limelight will be on The Big Four firms as they steer through this complex tech-fuelled landscape. According to the president of Thomson Reuters’ Tax & Accounting business Jon Baron, only 10% of firms are transforming their workplace and plunging into technological innovation. This will likely help them survive these changes and even, thrive.
It is undeniable that 4IR, at some point, will change people’s roles and responsibilities at work. Like the previous industrial revolutions, the 4IR will cost many people their jobs, and for others, it will mean new opportunities. It’s time to start thinking about the prospective role of humans, i.e. where will they add value and how they can work along with automation and other technology advances in the 4IR to continue to develop and advance as a society? It is essential for industry leaders to be proactive when thinking about this shift – getting ahead of the curve will lead to less disruption in the workplace.
This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Teledyne DALSA.
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