4th industrial revolution

The Perspective of impact

The perspective of impact is subjective; it is changing with time and is often influenced by something we call the “ecology-of-the-self” (the context in which decisions are made facing natural disasters, data hacks, climate change, bubbles in the economy, geopolitics, wars, and more)

We are surrounded by more smart things, more money, more people moving into the cities, and more capacity and more speed. Yet, in the eternal universal mechanism of equilibrium, wherever there is more, less is sure to appear as well. Less healthy food, fewer farming landscapes (and worse, less knowledge about farming), less serotonin, and weaker human bonds.

At the end of the day, the main impact of the industrial revolution was to develop industries and business models around the core building blocks that have always been essential to humanities survival. The building blocks are slowly dying.

The industrial revolution turned out to be not a revolution at all, but a more linear evolution. The further we move away from its baseline, the easier it has become to forget the delicate balance of its intended impact.

Today, technology and business models are giving us the potential to travel to other planets, build colonies on Mars, connect our brains to the internet, grow organs, extend or lifespan, play God and create intelligence. We want to automate every aspect of our lives and live in parallel universes, ones that are written in code.

We cannot continue to use resources to improve the past (for example, the industrial revolution 4.0) Furthermore, we must educate a new generation of leaders if we are to pave a path toward collaboration and establish new economic behaviors. A path that is not anchored in copying the past into code, but rather using code to rethink the narratives of efficiency and productivity for a better, more bountiful future.

Losing sight of the problem

Since the industrial evolution, the global economy has not experienced such a dramatic transformation. We have several solutions, but we have lost sight of the problem. Every move dramatically altered the strategic and tactical landscapes. Leadership and innovation is how we address the changes.

Killing in the name – When everyone wants a job but no one wants to work anymore

Amazon has stopped using their six-wheeled robot, “Scout,” for home deliveries. FedEx is planning to discontinue its last-mile robot, Roxo.

FedEx chief transformation officer Sriram Krishnasam told employees that the last-mile delivery robot will be scaled back.

“Although robotics and automation are key pillars of our innovation strategy, Roxo did not meet necessary near-term value requirements for DRIVE,” Krishnasam wrote in the memo. “Although we are ending the research and development efforts, Roxo served a valuable purpose: to rapidly advance our understanding and use of robotic technology.”

At one hand, this is brilliant for humans who work with package logistics supply chain—they get to keep their jobs. I have always argued that we shouldn’t blindly replace human jobs with technology, and that technology is here to make us better humans, not replace us. Yet, I cannot help but wonder about the larger issues—the gap between policymaking, technology development, and social needs, wishes, and preferences.

Technology-driven automation has been around for a while. However, our physical and social infrastructure was always able to accommodate these technologies and the users repurposing of that technology.

With the advancements of technology and its impact on our social fabric, along with the lack of accountability and smarter decisions by policymakers, our infrastructure is beginning to show signs of wear.

Look at South Korea. The demographic problems are clearly showing a disconnect between the situation to its potentials. Samsung is placing a lot of emphasis on automation due to a lack of available workers. The construction industry is facing a shortage of 250,000 employees. Schools are closing due to a lack of students. The taxi industry is lacking 30% of its manpower. The South Korea crisis wasn’t entirely unexpected, given the writing that was on the wall for some time now. However, it was pushed back by those who cling to the past.

South Korea must be a red flag to Europe and the US. The demographic challenges and the shift in social needs, wishes, and preferences where everyone wants a job but no one wants to work anymore will require a new set of policies.  We cannot continue to patch our societal building blocks and infrastructure with temporary fixes. We must allocate enough management power, budget, and intellect to reflect on our future before it will become our present.

Amazon and FedEx’s struggle with their automated delivery services is a failure only if policymakers, cities, and business are unwilling to learn from it, as it is not a failure of technology, but of the business model and infrastructure.

Falling apart

Humanity is facing an unprecedented change in its perception of reality and in the narratives that defined its existence. Much as significant extinctions that pushed the reset button for the entire planet, thus enabling rejuvenation and new creation, humanity is but a whisper away from such a reset. Since the invention of the axe, technology was always the force that paved the way for better and smarter social constructs. From Watt’s steam engine in 1775, Sewage Systems, elevators, and shipping containers to screens, smartphones, processing power, and machine learning, it is technology that helps us to push the berries and build our world. It’s the one function that never stops, it continually changes itself, reinventing and defining new horizons most, unfortunately, are now beyond our ability to understand.

The industrial revolution wasn’t just a buzzword, it was the cumulative impact of humanity’s maturity and acceptance that met with technology on the same field of understanding and mutual benefits—values. Yes. It bolstered urbanization, innovation, and creativity for many years, yet it is fast approaching a critical peak and is about to leave us facing the unknown, naked from knowledge.

For the past few years, a new breed of technologies is stepping into our arena. Areas such as Artificial Intelligence, robotics, genomics, biotechnology, neurotechnology, adjustable reality and the codification of value interactions enable us to re-examine and repurpose every aspect of our existence. From our digital-selves to the cities we live in, from mobility, energy, and communication to new financial models; the idea of our future is now anchored in code.

The future always required strategic, patient thinking and to be honest, before the 50s, these are qualities we possessed. Most books, art, or movies; written and produced had a holistic view of things. They describe a point when the world was dominated and powered by technological gadgets, body enhancements, artificial intelligence, autonomous cars, flying cars, cities in the clouds or underwater but most importantly they investigated the impact of these ideas on society. Sometime around 1983 – 1984 computation power shifted humanity’s focus from imagining to engineering. Suddenly, we had machines that could do the things we always did, but better and faster. We became addicted to them, we enslaved our mind, innovation and creativity, we outsourced our potentials and started to build technology for technology. We replaced our strategic vision with a tactical search for answers, we have surrounded ourselves with buzzwords like “the 4th industrial revolution”, “IoT,” “smart cities” and more, all while forgetting that technology was meant to be nothing but a means to an end.

Focusing on the means, we are now left behind and unable to see the end.

Maybe it’s time to rethink life by imagining the potentials and the desired impacts not only from a technological perspective but also incorporating ethics, morality, trust, and education into this equation.

 Without a point of reference that is anchored in experiences, it’s hard to tell the future

Hawking dismissed the idea that the existence of the universe can be attributed to a single point, in which everything that happened before is meaningless. Yet, we cannot ignore the fact that we did evolve from that point of the big bang, and we do not carry the heritage of things that existed before that peak. Throughout the years we have struggled to understand intelligence, and even so that organic and inorganic matters are both made from the same building blocks we call atoms, we still cannot breathe life to silicon. Maybe, intelligence is the narrative that manifests itself via the bonds and reciprocal relationships in the creation of a self-contained universe. Perhaps it is not a stand-alone “brain” but the fact that that brain is derived from the complexity and context that pushed that brain into existence. We have created beautiful technologies, but as we cannot break our “anchored in historical chains” perspectives while searching for life on other planets, we cannot “build” intelligence by merely copying existence into a code, and we are left with machines that operate in the realm of life yet are not alive.

It was not long ago that innovation boomed from the ideas of individualism, self-interest, logic, reputation, and honesty and by all accounts, life was good. It seemed that we had found the formula for economic growth and while the White House was busy with extracurricular activities in the Oval Office, a strange thing happened. Alan Greenspan, in the aftermath of the collapse, said: “I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interest of organizations, specifically banks and others, was such that they were the best capable of protecting their shareholders.”  The bigger mistake was that even so, all data showed almost no growth in productivity, the government sided with the 0’s and 1’s that continued to push numbers to new, unimaginable heights. We assumed that the “room can speak Chinese,” we were dazzled by the output. We had a perfect “distance economy,” and we missed the fact that John Searle’s “Chinese room” experiment created the illusion of intelligence to disprove that producing output that is identical to the product of understanding is equal to intelligence. Let us examine this for a second, in history, the success of intelligence systems depended on the idea that situations should be driven by their potentials and value is determined via the beneficial reciprocal relationships between the actors who make the system. In Searle’s demonstration, even so, that we defined the wished outcome, there is a disconnect between the actors. In the model of the economy, we took this yet one more step further, we placed a singular actor to define the inputs, outputs, and the value creation mechanisms—the banks. To make things worse, at each point of action there was a different view on the model. 

Why is that important? Because It was not the model itself that failed, it was the way we implemented it, and we are about to repeat the same mistakes just on a much larger scale. The internet did not create itself, it was humans who created the framework, and it is this framework which now defines our evolutionary path.

 The most significant risk we have as a society is not from the unknown, but for the known to fall apart.

For the first time in history, (at least the one we can trace back to the big bang) natural evolution had peaked its potential, there is no place to go from a biology perspective. Yes, we might be a bit faster and jump a bit higher, but we have reached a point where our organic structure just cannot evolve more. Even with genetic modifications, eventually, we will hit a potential limit. It is not only our organic structure that is facing an evolutionary stop, our mental abilities are also limited by their maturity peaks. This is also translated to the narratives in which we create the surrounding reality from geopolitics and global C-Suites. We manage the world with a limited understanding of the challenges ahead, and thereby underutilizing our evolutionary potentials in almost every area. The fundamental building blocks of society can be folded into three domains, mobility, energy, and communication. Traditionally, they always operated with degrees of freedom yet, they never applied that to the reciprocal relationships between them. Today, and because of technological development, these connections can manifest themselves via the codification of the logistic systems that carry the societal interaction models, yet instead of letting this natural process evolve itself, we are confining it to the limited information input/output model of yesterday’s society, and are therefore leaving us with output patterns from days gone by.

When the sovereign knows about the needs of a free market less than the players who are supposed to compete in that market, the value creation is twisted by bias. The role of the sovereign is to create a set of societal API’s that will define its own operating boundaries and at the same time will be open, so the market can repurpose them to its benefits.

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