History tells us that every industrial revolution helps us to grow and increase our productivity, however, many existing jobs are made redundant. Luckily, in the past, we have managed to create a substantial amount of new jobs to replace existing ones and keep our workforce employed. The next Industrial Revolution (Revolution 4.0) promises to transform the way we produce, consume, communicate, generate power and communicate, many economists fear that this time round we will not be able to create enough new jobs. In this blog post I would examine how realistic these predictions are, and the security of our jobs.

The invention of the steam engine in the 19th century brought the first Industrial Revolution, which led to immense growth in productivity and the raising of living standards. However, its benefits were exclusively limited for the middle and high class.

The latter part of the 19th century and early 20th century is the period when the world’s economy went through another era of high growth and productivity mainly led by advancements in manufacturing and production technology. Mass production models and assembly lines were the key drivers in this episode of growth and it is important to mention Henry Ford, who mastered the art of the moving assembly line and was able to manufacture auto-mobile at a much lower cost.

The 3rd Revolution also known as the Digital Revolution was the result of the wide-spread adoption of digital computing and communications technology. The latter part of the 20th century saw a massive transformation where the digitization of technology started and marked the beginning of the Information Age.

Moving onward, we are living in exciting times as another revolution labelled as ‘INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION 4.0’ is underway, which is not only going to transform the way we live and open up a plethora of business opportunities, but it also promises to raise the living standards of millions around the world. This new revolution is the result of technological advancements and innovations in many fields of science including but not limited to: Computer Sciences, Nano Technology, Bio Engineering and Engineering.

Furthermore, it is important to note that machine learning has also gained a lot of popularity again after Geoffrey Hinton recently made the most valuable contribution in this field and Kevin Kelly ( a Digital Visionary) argues that the next hundreds and thousands of start- ups would be in the area of Machine Learning and we shall see Artificial Intelligence system (AI) embedded in almost every tool and technology we use today. Recently, IBM Watson a computer system developed by IBM has beaten the former winners of American quiz show called Jeopardy and won the prize money of $1 Million. The financial and other sectors are already planning to use such systems to offer services that are traditionally done by knowledge workers. Cyber Physical Systems (physical and software components deeply connected to customize the behavior of the system) and Internet of Things (systems with the ability to sense, collect and exchange data across existing networking infrastructure) are some of the key technologies that are enabling this new revolution

Advancements in Nano Technology would enable us to build devices minuscule in size, still having the capacity of a high processing power with a vast range of applications in areas such as, nanomedicine, nanoelectronics, bio materials, energy production and consumer products. It is worth to mention that currently scientists are trying to create materials that can self-assemble which would not only hugely impact how we would manufacture goods in the future but also how our future industries would look like.

Robotics is another field that would transform our factories and change what and how we manufacture. Oliver Scalawag, an industrial thinker argues that development in this field would allow us to increase automation on our factory floors from 8% to 25% in the next 10 years, enabling us to achieve an additional 20% growth. Robots would be able to perform more intricate, complex and non–repetitive tasks and work side by side with us. He explained how these robots in 2015 helped Amazon prepare and ship all the orders for Cyber Monday.

Finally, 3D printing also a relatively new technology is a completely new way to manufacture, which would not only enable customers to order custom made products but would also allow factories to be more agile. 3D printing technology is also progressing well initially restricted to only plastic products, now making metal products is also becoming a reality. HuaShanh Tengda, a Chinese company who successfully 3D printed an entire 2 story villa and Local Motors, an American company that has successfully 3D printed and entire car are great examples of what is to come in the near future.

Rapid progression in technology would also eliminate the need for products to travel a long way before they reach customers, since far less labour would be required in manufacturing and the cost of manufacturing would stay the same regardless of where it is carried out. Without any doubt, this is a much cleaner, and an environmentally friendlier solution with a much lower carbon footprint when compared to already existing methods.

Like other industrial revolutions in the past many jobs are on the line and a number of economists fear that this round we might not be able to recreate enough jobs to keep everybody employed. Looking at the other hand, there are many economists who are optimistic about future outcomes. According to a report published by the World Economic Forum there would be a massive disruption to labour markets around the globe, which would result in a net loss of over “5 million jobs in 15 major developed and emerging economies”. They estimate that around 7 million jobs would be lost in these countries, mainly white collar and administrative jobs while around 2.1 million jobs would be created in the field of Computer Sciences, Engineering and Mathematics. Women especially would be hit the hardest by this change as they are gravely underrepresented in these fields.

David Autor, a professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a leading economist, argues that there are two major economic principles at work that might help us to overcome this crisis; one our ability to reinvent and innovate and second our desire to acquire more

He explains how after the invention of the ATM, the number of Bank Tellers increased as banks were able to expand and the number of bank branches increased by 40% which meant more bank teller jobs. Moreover, they were also engaged in more important work instead of just receiving and dispensing cash. For the former principle he reasons, that in 2015 in order for an average worker in the United States to attain an average living standard, they would only have to work 17 weeks in a year but nobody does that and still works the whole year.

As the economy grows so does the living standards of the people and with more free time available, we are allowed to invent new products and services. Who could have thought of broadband as a basic necessity 100 or even 50 years ago? Canada has rightfully declared high speed broadband a basic telecommunication service that every citizen should have access to.

David Autor also argues that it is important to ensure wealth created through automation has to be spent well he compared two countries; Noway and Saudi Arabia. Both of these countries are equally rich but Saudi Arabia is ranked lower (35th) on the World Happiness Report conducted by the United Nations. Norway comes as the 4th happiest country.

Furthermore, without a doubt the change is huge and many of us are not ready for it especially developing countries.

Overcoming these challenges would require us to:

1. Train/Retrain our workforce and encourage lifelong learning as a product’s life cycle has already been shortened

2. Bridge the gap between industries and academia

3. Start teaching engineering in our universities again

4. Invest in building and transforming our factories

On top of that, I strongly believe in the human capacity to innovate and overcome problems and challenges, as we have done so in the past. Also, I’m highly optimistic that our future generations would have an immensely better standard of living. I believe that they would spend more time in highly productive work and would be less worried about attaining the necessities of life such as food, shelter, education, health and safety.

In the context of Pakistan, some might argue that it is not very important for us as we still have a long way to go. However, I believe that it is as important for us as any developed nation, as we have analyzed that a large number of our work force especially those engaged in high value work(doctors, engineers) move overseas (to countries such as the USA, Australia, Canada) earning valuable foreign exchange for the country. Every year 10,000 student visas are granted to students from Pakistan. Also, more and more of our businesses are working for companies overseas and it is of utmost importance that new methods be adopted in order to stay relevant.