We all learned about the industrial revolutions in our world history class - due to the increase in wealth from violent colonialism, Europe invested in technology and created the cotton mill and steam power in the late 1700s to early 1800s. And now, more and more technological revolutions have led us to this new, debated Fourth Industrial Revolution, a revolution that is radically changing every business sector.
What is the Fourth Industrial Revolution? It is characterized by the connection between the digital, biological, and physical worlds and the growth of technology in fields such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing, robotics, 3D printing, the Internet of Things, and advanced wireless technology. It’s a movement towards data being a global currency. The consumer market is now much more informed in buying decisions and can expect more personalized buying or browsing experiences. Overall, it has brought us everything that we see as indispensable today compared to the last industrial revolution that brought us computers.
How does this affect businesses? First, the constant technology change requires companies to be forever students, learning as new inventions keep popping up each year. Second, as data changes the scope of how people live and how businesses interact with each other, we shape interactions around the digital marketplace. Third, introducing new technologies that disrupt the original supply chain on the supply chain is nearly constant. Finally, there is increased competition, as overseas competitors are at your consumers’ doorstep with only a bit of typing separating you. Overall, businesses have been affected in four distinct manners: customer expectation, product enhancement, collaborative innovation, and organizational forums.
On specific companies, we have seen the rise of Amazon, based in the United States, and the modernization of Volkswagen, based in Germany, along with Japan’s Nintendo having a complete revolution of what’s possible in the videogame market. In our newly globalized world, we need to analyze successful companies and replicate how they interact with a new world; however, we must be wary of the social dilemmas of such rapid change.
It is important to note - this fourth revolution brings on societal changes that we should be careful to avoid. As technology takes over “low-skill labor” such as manufacturing and emphasizes “high-skill labor” such as programming, we are risking severe shifts in inequality. We also need to understand the policies at play that disallow developing countries to join the Global North in their endeavors of ever-increasing technology. We cannot allow progress to overshadow people. As growth continues, we need to understand that multiple powers are always at play and fight against growing inequalities.