The Agricultural Revolution resulted in increased labor and land productivity, catapulting population growth and decreasing the agricultural portion of the labor force. What resulted was an urban workforce, paving the way for the Industrial Revolution. Moving from hand production methods to machine tools and factories, rapid industrialization led to increases in average incomes for workers. The Industrial Revolution created the modern-day labor market model. A Third Revolution came about in the mid-twentieth century, coined the "Information Revolution." It heralded computerization and electronic technology. Today, we are experiencing the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which focuses on artificial intelligence (Al), robotics, and various combinations of technologies. This revolution is characterized by a fusion of many technologies and is evolving exponentially faster than past revolutions.
The key digital influences of the Fourth Revolution each have different impacts on people and need to be considered separately. The first being automation which displaces jobs. The second being augmentation (both cognitive and physical, which enhances human capability) thereby elevating jobs and freeing up the minds of curious and imaginative experts. The third being the use of digital technologies to search for new sources of revenues/cost improvements and answers to tough questions.
While some are apprehensive about the impact the Fourth Industrial Revolution may have on businesses, jobs, and the economy, many see this revolution as an opportunity to shape our future for the better.
A lot of media attention has focused on the destruction of jobs due to automation. However, technology and automation positively affect the workplace. While job destruction is a real effect of automation, historically, efficiency and productivity gains from automation helped create jobs. We see the same phenomenon with the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Collaborative augmentation tools powered by AI can provide significant competitive advantages to organizations that successfully incorporate them into existing operations. This alleviates otherwise costly and time-consuming operational bottlenecks. Moreover, intelligent augmentation tools can lower the barrier to entry for otherwise non-traditional competitors to participate in historically resource-intensive industries.
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