The Fourth Industrial Revolution and Why We Should Care About It
By Ann Nakaska
Imagine that you have been transported back in time to the year 1970. The news media wants to interview you. People want to know what jobs will be popular in the future and what industries should they be going into? Imagine answering that question and not talking about computers?
Think about the technological changes that have happened in our lives in the past 50 years. The majority of people now own at least one computer, tablet or smartphone, if not multiple devices, and use email, social media, the internet, and video games in our daily lives and workplaces. We are now in what is known as the fourth industrial revolution (4IR). While some of the technology and innovations of this revolution have been around for 20 to 30 years, we are only at the beginning. The fourth industrial revolution is the computer era on steroids.
But with so much else happening in the world right now, why should anyone care about the fourth industrial revolution?
Understanding the Why
The fourth industrial revolution is so much more encompassing than anything else that is happening right now as it is impacting every human being on the planet. While the pandemic, the Black Lives Matters movement, and the 2020 presidential election were major events, the fourth industrial revolution and its impact are far more over reaching.
Just as the computer and the information age changed the world of work forever, the fourth industrial revolution is once again changing current workplaces across industries with the creation and implementation of artificial intelligence, automation, robots, and augmented reality, plus much more. Why that matters to practitioners and our clients alike is that while millions of jobs will be lost to automation (The Associated Press, 2018), there will be an increase in the need for highly skilled, highly trained people to work in the growing fields created by this revolution. If people do not know about these new career options, we will have huge skill gaps in these high demand areas (Goldman, 2017).
Fourth Industrial Revolution and Technological Areas of Study
The fourth industrial revolution is the combination of the digital, physical, and biological worlds. If we take these three components and combine them, we develop a multitude of different technological areas of both work and study (Nakaska, 2020). As practitioners, we need to help our clients consider these potential work opportunities. As you explore this short list of a few 4IR technologies work worlds, ask yourself:
- Which technological areas are you familiar with?
- How many companies do this type of work, and which ones do you know?
- What are the job opportunities available in each area?
The digital world expands the world of current computer usage exponentially. The digital world includes:
- artificial intelligence
- the internet of things
- cloud computing
- big data
- augmented reality
- virtual reality
In the physical world, physical objects are being manipulated, and we are creating:
- autonomous vehicles
- advanced robotics
- new materials
- 3D printing
In the biological world, we are expanding the fields of:
- synthetic biology
More Reasons for Workplaces to Be Concerned
While the skills gap is the biggest reason to be concerned, there are many other reasons to care about what it will mean to us and our clients. Here are just a few of the reasons and related questions that workplaces need to be concerned with.
The Need to Ramp Up Training Programs and Post Secondary Education: From a workplace point of view, we are still behind in the information and computer age. If we are behind in the information age, how will we be ready for the 4IR? Information technology is a high demand field, continuing to grow. Advocacy for more training and education needs to increase across the board and in all industries (Mehra et al., 2021).
The Need for Security and the Need for Privacy: As our dependence on technology continues to grow, we need to continue to protect our data and privacy. An article by Goldman (2017) states we will need 1.8 million cyber security workers worldwide by 2022. With the pervasiveness of the issues of security and privacy, could this be the broadest of workplace concerns, touching government, health care, business, construction, utilities, etc?
The Need for Workers in New and Exciting Fields: While humans are limited physically with how much they can do in space without harming themselves, the increased use of robots and 3D printing will allow increased space exploration, travel and tourism. Morgan Stanley estimates the aerospace industry will be a 1.1 trillion-dollar industry by 2040 (Archer, 2017). How many new workplaces will be created to meet this growth?
The Need to Balance Energy Consumption, the Environment and Industry: As the world embraces technology, the demand for power increases. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (2020) predicts energy consumption worldwide will increase by 50% by 2050. Who will solve the extraordinarily complex problems that arise from meeting more energy demands with environmental solutions?
The Need for Ethics: Most importantly, as workplaces start implanting chips into their workers, as hospitals learn to print body parts, and as we move into space, we will need to review our ethics, laws, and industry policies as a society (Vermeulen et al,, 2017) creating new specialization areas within the legal profession and at all governmental levels. People will need to ask the question, “which institutions will ensure that policy keeps up with technology?”
Being Ready for the Future
Why do students, educators and career practitioners today need to know about the fourth industrial revolution? Because just as the computer changed the current world of work, the fourth industrial revolution is also going to change the future world and we all need to be ready.
Archer, S. (2017, Oct 13). Morgan Stanley: Here are 20 companies that are best exposed to the growing space economy. Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/space-companies-morgan-stanley-best-exposed-to-the-growing-space-economy-2017-10
Goldman, J. (2017, June 8). Cybersecurity workforce gap to hit 1.8 million by 2022. eSecurity Planet. https://www.esecurityplanet.com/networks/cybersecurity-workforce-gap-to-hit-1-million-by-2022/
Nakaska, A. (2020). Innovation, imagination and career opportunities of the future. LinkedIn. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/innovation-imagination-career-opportunities-future-nakaska-ba-med/
Mehra, A., Mann, G., & Green, S. (2021, June 28). Reskilling the workforce, one person at a lifetime. World Economic Forum. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/06/reskilling-the-workforce-lifelong-learning/
The Associated Press. (2018, September 17). Machines will do more than half the work by 2025, report predicts. CBC News. https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/jobs-of-future-technology-davos-1.4826623
U.S. Energy Information Administration. (2020). International Energy Outlook 2020. https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/ieo/
Vermeulen, N., Haddow, G., & Seymour, T. (2017). 3D bioprint me: a socioethical view of bioprinting human organs and tissues. Journal of Medical Ethics 43, 618-624.
Ann Nakaska, BA, M. Ed., CDF, is a career consultant who specializes in career decision making. She is optimistic about the future of work and loves exploring the exciting work opportunities created by the fourth industrial revolution. She has also contributed a longer version of this article to LinkedIn on this topic. She can be reached at: Ann.firstname.lastname@example.org or Ann Nakaska BA, MEd | LinkedIn