pros and cons of the 4th industrial revolution

What better way to start this new century than to go over the pros and cons of the 4th Industrial Revolution. The 4th industrial revolution is a term coined by Professor Klaus Schwab. He is the founder and Executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, so he has some good credentials. He described the 4th industrial revolution as a “current and developing environment in which disruptive technologies and trends such as the Internet of Things, robotics, virtual reality and Artificial Intelligence are changing the way people live and work”. So this is the era of AI and machine learning, genome editing, 3D printing, Internet of Things, augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, and much more. And we’re not talking about the future here. These things are currently affecting our personal and work life and they are ever evolving. Today we are living on the cusp of this Forth Industrial Revolution. Which is also referenced as Industry 4.0 or 4IR. For some reason, people love 3 character acronyms and I really think these acronyms could be one of the characteristics and disadvantages of this industrial revolution.
That brings us to the main subject of this article and that’s the pros and cons that this 4IR brings. And because we’re talking about the 4IR, let’s cover 4 of each. Convenient, right?

By the way, if you’d rather consume this content in video format, please do so:

The pros of the 4th industrial revolution

1.Higher productivity

This happens with each industrial revolution and apparently productivity of each industrial era goes up 50 times over the preceding age. In the next 5-10 years, it’s estimated that productivity will increase by 5-8%. This is mainly because of increased automation.

2. Improved quality of life

Technology has made possible new products and services that increase the efficiency and pleasure of our personal lives. One Channel CEO, Bernard Ford, exemplifies this by mentioning how “ordering a cab, booking a flight, buying a product, making a payment, listening to music, watching a film, playing a game” and even controlling the lights and temperature in our homes can be done remotely. Not to mention that soon we’ll have fully autonomous cars, or maybe we already do – depending when you’re reading this, and who knows what else.

3. New markets

Klaus Schwab mentioned that “a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between physical, digital, and biological spheres” will create new markets and growth opportunities. It will blend improvements from several fields, that were often previously separated, to create a new product or a new service. Not only there will be more knowledge workers, but knowledge workers in new fields.

4. Lower barrier to entrepreneurship

We can already see that with new technologies such as 3D printing for prototyping, the barriers between inventors and markets are reduced. Entrepreneurs can now establish their companies and test various products with lower start-up costs without the traditional time and cost constraints often encountered with traditional prototyping methods. The typical barriers to entry are removed from the entrepreneurship equation.

The cons of the 4th industrial revolution

1. Inequality

It is all about who gets the benefits of these technologies and of the results they help produce. The reality is that the largest beneficiaries tend to be the providers of intellectual and physical capital (shareholders, investors, and innovators). Technology is one of the main reasons why incomes have stagnated, or even decreased, for a majority of the population in high-income countries. Shocking, isn’t it? The demand for highly skilled workers has increased while the demand for workers with less education and lower skills has decreased and the part in between them will start to wear thin. So this could also lead to potential job losses. Not to even mention that for developing countries there are technological and infrastructure challenges and skill challenges that are not easy to overcome.

2. Cybersecurity risk

When everything is connected, the risk of hacking data and tampering with it or using it for malicious intent is now more prevalent. It is not as contained as before. It’s more and more frequent that we hear the dreaded news of a new data security breach. So often, in fact, that it does not shock us anymore. Not to mention that it challenges the very nature of identity and privacy, especially with the increased use of data analytics and machine learning.

3. Core industries disruptions

We see this already. Taxis are competing against Uber and Lyft, Traditional television and cinema compete with Netlfix and YouTube, the hotel industry with AirBnB and any store is competing against Amazon. This has ramifications in the type of services being offered and the model through which they are offered as well as the jobs associated with them.

4. Ethical issues

With improved AI, genetic engineering, and increased automation, there are new ethical concerns and questions of morality that already differ greatly from individual to individual. With access to more data about an individual and a group of individuals, the risk of using it for personal gain and manipulation is even greater. I think we all remember Cambridge Analytica data scandal in early 2018 when it was revealed that Cambridge Analytica had harvested the personal data of millions of peoples’ Facebook profiles without their consent and used it for political advertising purposes. Plus, this is only an example of those data missuses that we know of.


So here we are on that edge of the 4th industrial revolution that radically impacts our daily lives. It can be an era of economic and knowledge growth and improvements in the way we live and work, but we also need to be weary of its disruption potential and find ways to mitigate these risks.

Please let me know what other pros and cons of the 4th industrial revolution you are aware of and should be mentioned here.

  • In navigating the Fourth Industrial Revolution, it’s crucial to prioritize the well-being and flourishing of humanity. While technological advancements offer immense potential for progress, it’s essential to ensure that human values, ethics, and rights are central to decision-making processes. Placing humanity’s existence within this new environment means fostering inclusive growth, addressing societal inequalities, promoting ethical practices in technology development and deployment, and empowering individuals to adapt to and benefit from technological changes. Additionally, maintaining a balance between technological innovation and preserving the dignity, autonomy, and rights of individuals is key to navigating the challenges and opportunities of the 4IR.

  • Do you have any recommendations for how a leader might go about advocating and creating positive change toward greater equity amongst the world’s varying economical societies? If indeed, there will be increased economic inequality due to cost barriers experienced by those with less resources, how can we go about helping to elevate these suppressed groups so they can at least be breathing above water?
    Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated!

    • Addressing the challenges faced by individuals with fewer resources, knowledge, and background is essential in the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). It’s crucial to ensure that technological advancements are accessible and beneficial to all members of society, regardless of their socioeconomic status or level of education. This involves:

      1. **Digital Inclusion:** Promoting access to digital technologies and connectivity for marginalized communities to bridge the digital divide.

      2. **Education and Training:** Providing opportunities for continuous learning and upskilling to empower individuals to adapt to the changing job market and participate in the digital economy.

      3. **Equitable Access to Opportunities:** Creating policies and initiatives that promote equal access to employment, healthcare, education, and other essential services enabled by technology.

      4. **Community Engagement:** Fostering collaboration between governments, businesses, civil society, and communities to address local needs and leverage technology for social good.

      5. **Ethical Considerations:** Ensuring that the development and deployment of technology consider ethical principles and prioritize the well-being of all individuals, especially those with fewer resources.

      By prioritizing inclusion and addressing the needs of marginalized communities, we can strive to create a more equitable and sustainable future within the 4IR.

  • Gordon SAUNDERS says:

    The potential for the necessity of socialistic control of the populations in order to minimize the potential for disruption when the emerging technologies of both 4th and 5th IR become realities. How these issues are handled will be the key.

  • Cybersecurity – We were connected 20 years ago and breaches were occurring at every level – they just weren’t understood and not publicized. Local authorities were not equipped to address the issue. Companies keeping their servers (not just data which – typically has been replicated and taken off site) within their 4 walls were and are sitting ducks. Leveraging 4.0 in a MT-Cloud environment reduces this risk greatly. Leveraging 4.0 in a traditional environment creates new, additional opportunities for an increasing number of bad actors – which is why most organizations will eventually phase out their on premises server farms and take advantage of Cloud technologies.

  • This is Scary, the Job Security is at risk. This is all about cost cutting and avoiding to pay people Salaries and benefits. There will be less people active in the economy due to lack of Jobs .

    • Aiman Wong says:

      With lack of jobs/income. There will be less need to produce more as there will less expenditure and more social unrest.

  • David Post says:

    You still need eat-You still need to breathe-You still need homes
    Even fully Robotic machines need to be fixed. What is life on a dead planet?

    • Aiman Wong says:

      what is a home without people, what is food if there is no hunger and why need work where there is no work to be done.

      • I wouldn’t see it at this stage …. If we just look back behind us or even going lower level than our you will find and other humans categories having their own world they live it their own way … the danger exist in how far will set a life classes between each others !!!!!!

    • Addressing the basic needs of individuals, regardless of technological advancements, remains essential in navigating 4IR, that’s are the reasons why big agglomerations introduced long time ago the following fundamental needs the day today work environment such as :

      1. **Sustainable Development:** Prioritize sustainable practices in resource management, energy production, and consumption to ensure that essential resources like food, water, and shelter are available for all, both now and in the future.

      2. **Community Empowerment:** Foster community resilience and self-sufficiency through initiatives that promote local food production, renewable energy sources, affordable housing, and access to clean water and sanitation.

      3. **Technological Innovation for Social Good:** Encourage the development and deployment of technology to address pressing societal challenges, such as climate change, poverty, and inequality. This can include innovations in agriculture, renewable energy, healthcare, and infrastructure.

      4. **Education and Awareness:** Promote education and awareness about sustainable living practices, environmental stewardship, and the interconnectedness of human well-being with the health of the planet.

      5. **Policy and Governance:** Advocate for policies and regulations that prioritize environmental protection, social equity, and the well-being of future generations. This can include measures to mitigate climate change, promote green infrastructure, and ensure equitable access to resources and opportunities.

      By integrating these approaches, big companies (Big Fish) works towards building a more resilient and sustainable society within the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, ensuring that the basic needs of all individuals are met while safeguarding the health of the planet for future generations.

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    About the author 

    George Firican

    George Firican is the Director of Data Governance and Business Intelligence at the University of British Columbia, which is ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world. His passion for data led him towards award-winning program implementations in the data governance, data quality, and business intelligence fields. Due to his desire for continuous improvement and knowledge sharing, he founded LightsOnData, a website which offers free templates, definitions, best practices, articles and other useful resources to help with data governance and data management questions and challenges. He also has over twelve years of project management and business/technical analysis experience in the higher education, fundraising, software and web development, and e-commerce industries.

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