The Fourth Industrial Revolution
“We are at the beginning of a revolution that is fundamentally changing the way we live, work, and relate to one another. In its scale, scope and complexity, what I consider to be the fourth industrial revolution is unlike anything humankind has experienced before” writes Klaus Schwab in his book, The Fourth Industrial Revolution. This has been the key topic at the World Economic Forum since 2016, where Klaus Schwab is the Founder and Executive Chairman.
Technology professionals are creating these days new products and services by leveraging the latest generation of technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT), Virtual Reality (VR), Bitcoin, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Autonomous Vehicles, Robotics, Nanotechnology, 3D Printing, Genomics and Bionics. What is different this time is that physical, digital and biological worlds are merging with each other and creating a new world of Cyber-Physical Systems. “Many of these innovations are in their infancy, but they are already reaching an inflection point in their development as they build on and amplify each other in a fusion of technologies across the physical, digital and biological worlds” continues Schwab.
Genomics very soon will allow us to create new human body parts based on the person DNA – this simply means that we digitized ourselves in form of DNA data and can rebuild all or parts of the body any time at our will. When we can create a digital design and 3D print anything from a car to a house – this means that products become nothing but a set of data. More and more tasks are being picked up by Artificial Intelligence – this means we are replacing our biological human brain with a physical world of computers. Bionics will let us complement our biological body with physical parts to enhance our physical abilities – our bodies become more Physical.
The compute processing power is continuing to grow exponentially year by year as per Moore’s law. The extrapolation of computations per second into the future shows that we should be reaching the processing capacity of a human brain by 2035. This doesn’t mean thought that computers will become smarter than humans at that point of time itself. Cloud computing is already exceeding human abilities in Chess and Go games. As time progresses, Narrow AI will outperform humans in many of the administrative and cognition tasks. With time, General AI will match human capabilities in a broader sense – the Singularity point of time expected by 2050. From then onwards, humans will not be able to compete with computers, only to steer them into certain direction. Until then, AI will be the key component required to amplify human capabilities to achieve those major scientific breakthroughs that will take us to the Cyber-Physical World.
Artificial Intelligence as a field of science existed since 1956, but made major breakthroughs only recently in 2015 and 2016. The AI powered Computer Vision and Natural Language Processing (NLP) could match and exceed human vision and language processing capabilities. In simple terms – the computers opened eyes and ears, and can see and hear as well as humans – almost like when a baby is born. Today, in 2017, the AI capabilities can be compared to a Toddler who “can carry on conversations, recognize letters and words”. The AI capabilities that we will have in the coming years will only depend on the speed with which AI will learn, but what we know for sure – AI will become better and better day by day.
Impact on Industries
Over the course of the coming years, the impact on industries from these new technologies will be much more drastic than ever before. “We are witnessing profound shifts across all industries, marked by the emergence of new business models, the disruption of incumbents and the reshaping of production, consumption, transportation and delivery systems” writes Schwab.
AI will eliminate many of today’s professional occupations and hopefully create some new ones. In the short term, it will be in form of augmenting humans where AI will take over basic mundane tasks. Narrow AI applications will automate the work of a Knowledge Workers today. The industrial Robots with Vision will be able to execute much more precise operations at manufacturing production lines and even surgery on humans in the healthcare segment.
The impact in the longer-term is that most of the jobs of a human worker can be fully replaced with AI and Robotics. At some point, for humans to be productive, they need to become cyber-humans with in-build brain to computer interface for direct input-output with much faster information transfer than speech, gestures or typing interfaces used today. Post Singularity milestone, it is not even clear if the human brain will be contributing much to what AI is doing, hopefully involved in giving a strategic direction. At that point of time physical, digital and biological will merge and life could theoretically continue only in a digital form. Humans as biological machines will be obsolete.
The fact that we are probably some 30 years away from such profound changes explains that the rate of change we will see in the coming years will blow everyone away with its ever-accelerating speed. The life-span of any new product on the market is now few years instead of decades and companies need to continuously launch new products and services as the only option to survive. Traditional businesses need to reorganize themselves to significantly accelerate in-house innovation and integrate with external innovation such as research labs and startups.
Ability to innovate fast will determine which companies will stay in business and which not. “Every company across every industry is now compelled to reconsider their traditional ways of doing business to keep pace with rapidly changing technology and consumer expectations”, states Marc R. Benioff, Chairman and CEO, Salesforce.
By Andy Zhulenev, VP of Innovation, Silicon Valley Innovation Center.
If you’d like to learn more about the latest in AI and its value for business, consider attending this Silicon Valley Executive Briefing on AI where 20 Disruptive startups will talk about the innovative business applications of AI.
When: April 27th Where: San Mateo, CA