INDUSTRIAL revolution which began in 18th century initially took place in Britain before it spread throughout Europe and North America during the era of steam engine and coal as the major power sources for transportation within transition from hand made to mechanized productions. For the first time in human history, people earned income for living by working outside from their typical home environment.
The revolution continued in second phase with further improvements and innovations that help to produce large-scale steel, iron and other productions and more efficient transportation system through introduction of electricity and widely use of combustion engine. Massive productions aggressively brought down the cost of productions and made many goods and services which previously too expansive for ordinary people to buy become affordable.
For the past few decades the industry sector experienced the enhancement of efficiency and productivity of mass productions through the uses of electronics and information technology (IT). The production processes become more automated and machines possess the higher capability to perform more complex tasks. At this point of time, many low-skilled labour were gradually pushed to be laid off. And the momentum of the progress continues as we reach the beginning of new industrial revolution called Industry 4.0 where intelligent robots and machines together with more powerful sophisticated computing system increase the speed and produce far greater volume of advanced productions.
The direction of the revolution we are heading has become more prevalent that robots, computers and many forms of machines are increasingly taking over human roles and jobs.
We have entered the era in which computers can act on their own without our interventions. And it has become part of our new normal life to frequently interact with these artificial intelligences as to make our life easier. Phone applications or simply called Apps represent perfect example for this. You can see that today’s phone is no longer confined to the traditional use of calls and messages. It is now become a precious asset for most people as it can perform so many things thanks for the existence of this technology. Just select your preferred Apps on your smart phones and you can start to order your food for dinner, locate a place you never been there before, transfer funds, switch TV channel, get updates on breaking news, ride sharing with someone you don’t know and check your health conditions. On a global scale, cost of transportation, communication and trade has dropped significantly opening up for new markets and drive economic growth.
Despite enormous benefit gained by producers, customers and many people, there are some consequences and challenges that need to be addressed. As manufacturing works are shifted from manual labour to computerized automated machine control, employees with low skills and to some extent high skill workers in manufacturing would suffer to lose jobs and employments opportunities become scarce. It would also result in a decrease in service sector jobs as automated services require fewer workers for delivery. The disruption in labour markets has consequently produced income stagnation and for some worst case scenarios, workers are paid far lower than market rate as merely to make themselves competitive to non-human rivals. The heavy reliance on technology and machine has started to erode human life values as we tend to have less conversation and interaction with people around us.
We can’t stop the revolution. There are many opportunities that come with diverse challenges that we need to overcome at the current stage of Industry 4.0. We must not forget that human beings invent and innovate the creation of advanced technology and machine for the benefit of all. Let us create a better future for our next revolution without undermining the importance of people and human values.