EIT Stock ImageThe so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution has had a lot of media coverage over the past year. This refers to the big upswing in developments in robotics, artificial intelligence (think of self-driving cars), genetics and cloud-based computing. This list goes on and on, of course.

Dear Colleagues,

EIT Stock ImageThe so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution has had a lot of media coverage over the past year. This refers to the big upswing in developments in robotics, artificial intelligence (think of self-driving cars), genetics and cloud-based computing. This list goes on and on, of course.

The First Three Industrial Revolutions
You may remember from your happy high school day that the first industrial revolution occurred with the mechanization of production using steam and water (often in ‘Satanic Mills’). The second one was when mass production using electrical power arrived (e.g. Henry Ford) and the most recent one was the digital revolution using electronics and IT in the late sixties – starting shortly before I launched myself with blind enthusiasm into my engineering education and career.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution
The fourth industrial revolution is underpinned by six design principles:

1. Interoperability through IoT and Internet of services
2. Virtualization
3. Decentralization
4. Real time access to data
5. Internet of Services
6. Modularity

As  a result of this, the predictions are that 47% of workers in USA will lose their jobs in next 20 years; there will be downward pressure on developing country jobs and middle skill professions such as clerical work & customer services will disappear.

The full (sombre) report from the World Economic Forum is contained here: reports.weforum.org/future-of-jobs-2016

Do We See Any Impact?
If you look around you, you can see an impact from various forms of the fourth Industrial revolution from such items as the implosion of publishing newspapers, the demise of traditional printing, streaming music and movies and the drop off in postage services and so forth.

I would say that I doubt that the dire predictions are going to eventuate as there is always inertia in change. But we should certainly be tuned into handling the changes coming to avoid being dumped on the scrap heap. Well, the employment scrap heap that is.

How Best to Deal with these Changes
The suggestion from the pundits is that we need to continually reskill with a focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). I disagree with this blind assertion.

I somehow doubt that mathematics skills are required as much today as in years past - software does much of this these days. And I have met many highly skilled engineers and technicians who are unemployed or who are earning pitiful salaries. One also only needs to look around town at the enormous number of science graduates who can’t get jobs. So this is patently nonsense.

What I do believe is that the the age-old skills for success are still required – more than ever before - such as being able to communicate well, be pro-active and positive. And in being entrepreneurial and handling failure are also high up on the list of useful skills. We need more small businesses forming – most of which will undoubtedly fail – but in having a number succeed which then grow into larger enterprises which employ people.

What is Really Required
So this is what is really required. More engineering, technology and science entrepreneurs. Visionaries. Experimenters. Triers…..whatever…

I am not sure if Kelly Lynch has considered the impact on our environment  but her comment is prescient:I just think we're living in a time of massive, amazing change, like the Industrial Revolution on acid.

Yours in engineering learning,

Steve

Mackays Musings 26th January16 #584       
125, 273 readers www.idc-online.com/blogs/stevemackay