The Long Winding Road Towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution

The fourth industrial revolution is an evolution of sort of the digital revolution. Its implementation is taking shape in the 21st century. 3 min

steam engine locomotive

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The fourth industrial revolution is arguably the ultimate in technological advancement like never seen before. It embodies plenty of possibilities and changes in how we connect and communicate.

The ultimate aim is to bring together the human, physical, and digital components into ONE experience. It is, and will disrupt and enhance our lives socially, politically, economically, and culturally.

It is easy though forget the root of this technological marvel, and how long it has taken us to reach where we are today.

Fact is, preparation for modern advancement started a long time ago in 1700s, actually. It started with basic workarounds to enhance productivity using iron and other tools. This was just the first industrial experience. It was replaced by the second, third, and ultimately, fourth industrial revolution, with each lasting 100 years.

1. The First Industrial Revolution (1IR) – Iron and Textile

Clothers were made only by hand

The first industrial revolution came to replace, the previous evolutions popularly known as Stone Age and Bronze Age. It was a move in a different direction to mechanize production. This happened between the 18th Century through to the 19th Century. The years lay somewhere between 1760s to 1850s. It was a phenomenon experienced mainly in Europe and the Americas., with Britain very much in command.

The 1IR was marked with rural societies becoming urban, and agrarian existence transforming to industrial societies. Industrial production was powered primarily by steam-based engines to improve coal extraction and create steam-powered cars and trains. This was an upgrade from rudimentary water pumps and lifting contraptions which still existed at the end of the 1960s.

The iron and textile contraptions such as cotton mills, and Spinning Jenny, invented by James Hargreaves in 1964, were the predominant equipment used to enhance productivity. While weaving was previously done at the household level, the emergence of cotton mills ushered in factories for mass production of cotton by-products.  

2. The Second Industrial Revolution (2IR) – Steel, Oil & Electricity

second industrial revolution
Electricity marked the second industrial revolution

The second industrial revolution started 100 years later in the 19th Century, between 1870s to early 1900s to be specific. This was just before the first World War.

It was characterized by improved industrial development and new innovations and discoveries in steel, electricity and oil. Electricity soon became the most important tool for mass production.

Other advances and innovations happened in the following sectors:

  1. Internal combustion engine
  2. Light bulb
  3. Telephone
  4. Telegraph
  5. Phonograph

These inventions and others experienced exponential growth as the world embraced the concept of large factories and assembly lines to serve the increasing numbers of consumers. This was as a result of urbanization.

3. The Third Industrial Revolution (3IR) – Digital Revolution

woman on phone
Woman on a phone, a component of third industrial revolution

The 3rd industrial revolution took shape 100 years later in the 20th Century, in the 1970s and 1980s. Its hallmarks are till much at play even in the 21st Century and have spread across the world.

Also referred to as the digital revolution, it pioneered the mass use of digital equipment for mass production and communication. The digital evolution saw the shift of industrialization from analog and mechanical equipment to electronic computers powered by transistors and microprocessors.

Electronic computers ranging from the massive supercomputer down to the personal computer were and are still used today to supercharge economies all around the world.   

The following landmarks of the digital revolution:

  1. Personal computers
  2. Internet
  3. Robotics
  4. Mobile gadgets
  5. 3D printing

4. The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) – Connectivity & Communication

Robotics is becoming the norm in the latest industrial revolution

The fourth industrial revolution is an evolution of sort of the digital revolution. Its real implementation has taken shape in the 21st century, though the roots are traced way back in the 20th Century.

It is designed to embrace and revolutionize the use of digital equipment to the next level.

The 4IR is basically evolution in communication and connectivity.

It bridges three aspects of our coexistence majorly, the physical, digital and biological realms in what is now known as cyber-physical systems. It is a fusion of computer-based algorithm with internet and working closely with humans and other digital equipment.

Exploration in the fourth industrial revolution is happening in the following areas:

  1. Artificial Intelligence (AI)
  2. Robotics
  3. Quantum computing
  4. Nanotechnology
  5. Internet of Things
  6. 3D Printing
  7. Autonomous vehicles
  8. Biotechnology
  9. Virtual reality
  10. 5G

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