Planet Care

165: 4IR: Fourth Industrial Revolution


Over a century, the Second and Third Industrial Revolutions have had their advantages, but also their disadvantages including the dirtying and the climate destabilisation of the Planet.


The Fourth Industrial Revolution

For all the inventions and machines in this book to work together, an overall smart plan called the Fourth Industrial Revolution for the Earth has been developed. 4IR is the brainchild of Klaus Martin Schwab, a German engineer and economist.

In 2015, Klaus Schwab 77-years-old, decided to address the increasing frenzy around technological disruption. As founder and executive chairman of the WEF, he published an article in Foreign Affairs, “Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution“. 4IR became the theme of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in October 2016 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, when the opening of its Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in San Francisco was announced.

In his 274-page book of the same name, Schwab includes in this fourth era technologies that combine hardware, software, and biology (cyber-physical systems), and emphasizes advances in communication and connectivity.

Schwab expects this era to be marked by breakthroughs in emerging technologies in fields such as robotics, artificial intelligence, virtual reality (VR), nanotechnology, quantum computing, biotechnology, the internet of things, the industrial internet of things (IIoT), decentralized consensus, fifth-generation wireless technologies (5G), 3D printing and fully autonomous vehicles.

With time to save the Planet running out, there are two key attributes that differentiate the 4IR from the industrial revolutions that preceded it: speed and efficiency. This is what creates a remarkable opportunity for technological innovations to secure the sustainability of our planet.

The 4IR for the Earth programme is a collaboration between the World Economic Forum, PwC, and Stanford University, and which is also supported by the MAVA Foundation. The programme is looking to accelerate tech innovation for Earth’s most pressing environmental challenges.

It will help identify, support and scale new ventures, partnerships and business models that harness tech to transform how the world tackles environmental challenges.

This AI-infused, digital geospatial dashboard for the planet may enable the monitoring, modelling and management of environmental systems at a scale and speed never before possible – from tackling illegal deforestation, water extraction, fishing and poaching, to air pollution, natural disaster response and smart agriculture.

The top 20 4IR patent applicants at the European Patent Office from 2011 to 2016 include 4IR pioneers such as Sony, LG, Samsung, Google, and Intel—a majority of these companies are Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) subscribers (European Patent Office).

Patents filed in the United States follow a similar trend. In fact, a recent study shows that IEEE is cited more in U.S. patents related to several key 4IR technologies than any other publisher (1790 Analytics LLC).

According to Stanford University, the share of jobs requiring AI skills has grown 4.5 times since 2013. During 4IR, that percentage will rise as the world’s most innovative companies invest more in AI applications.

The downside is that 4IR will disrupt labour markets and create further inequality. Over 7 million jobs will be affected over the next five years in the world’s largest economies, as technological progress in 3D printing and robotics starts to disrupt manufacturing and other industries.

It will also end the lives of some traditional organisations, similar to previous industrial revolutions.

Discover Solution 166: Water-based fuel

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