General Studies Essay Paper: Fourth Industrial Revolution

Fourth Industrial Revolution

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Syllabus: General Studies Essay Paper: International Affairs


Fourth Industrial Revolution – a Mean to embark a new prosperity or an intrusion in Human Life


Technology is not an exogenous force over which we have no control. We are not constrained by a binary choice between “accept and live with it” and “reject and live without it”. – Klaus Schwab

The fourth Industrial Revolution is the concept of blurring the real world with the technological world. We can see this happening in several areas already. Virtual reality that allows us to transport to new worlds or consume and interact with information in new ways, robots and software working side-by-side with humans, nano-bots that could one day be injected into your blood stream to cure you of an illness, 3D printing tools and limbs, voice controlling your house, tools like IBM Watson being used to help a doctor diagnose patients, and that’s just for starters. We also have to consider things such as the internet of everything and big data which are promising technologies and makes our works in the 21st century digital world.

Karl schwab of the world economic forum has recently in his book described that fourth industrial revolution will mark a definite change not only in industries but in our lives too. The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanize production and marked by spinning jenny boosting textile industry in Britain. The Second used electric power, Henry Ford’s technology to create mass production. The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production. Now a Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third, the digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of the last century. It is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.

It is estimated that this new phase of revolution will save precious time of human beings and make our life comfortable. Yet there exists many concerns too. The question to be asked is doing these concerns overweigh the benefits?


A new Dawn for Humanity

The Fourth industrial revolution is evolving at an exponential rather than a linear pace. The possibilities of billions of people connected by mobile devices, with unprecedented processing power, storage capacity, and access to knowledge, are unlimited. And these possibilities will be multiplied by emerging technology breakthroughs in fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage, and quantum computing.

Already, artificial intelligence is all around us, from self-driving cars and drones to virtual assistants and software that translate or invest. Impressive progress has been made in AI in recent years, which has raised the quality of our lives. Internet of things can exclude human errors from various sectors. Irrigation, farm inputs such as drone enabled fertilizers, climate conditions can be integrated by the use of Internet of things to ensure better yields. Also it can be used in power generation and power distribution. Timely control of these systems in an automated way can reduce losses.

The use of machine learning, Machine learning is a method of data analysis that automates analytical model building. It is a branch of artificial intelligence based on the idea that systems can learn from data, identify patterns and make decisions with minimal human intervention. The most prominent application of machine learning is Big data. The use of big data is recently seen in project insight of the finance ministry to nab tax offenders, big data analysis of service delivery helps in better governance.

Application of machine learning can be found in The Google car, self-driving is the essence of machine learning. Online recommendation offers such as those from Amazon and Netflix which defines Machine learning applications for everyday life. Knowing what customers are saying about you on Twitter Machine learning combined with linguistic rule creation. Fraud detection One of the more obvious, important uses in our world today.

A further revolutionary technology is a block chain, which works on the principle of transparency. Every one using the block chain can see the records of past being un –editable. Block chain in now being used for voting and essential service delivery in most of the countries. It is used for  Aadhar card enabled  payment  system and public distribution system delivery in India, which is a revolutionary step.

The use of data analytics is opening up efficiencies in sectors like agriculture that did not exist earlier. Cargill India, for instance, is allowing thousands of traders to be part of the system by using mobile-based pricing data. The entire value chain from farm to fork can provide livelihood to hundreds of thousands of people who may not have formal skills but are ready to share their understanding with the help of mobile connectivity.

Coupled with satellites the fourth industrial revolution has and will change the human life experience. Satellites for health and education services ensure that the fruits of development will reach to all corners of the country. The massive online open courses started by the government in the name of “SWAYAM”, ensures that the children can learn without the physical presence of teacher, at their convenient time, provided they have the internet facility. This technological revolution makes us to study at our pace and convenient.

Like the revolutions that preceded fourth revolution, the Fourth Industrial Revolution has the potential to raise global income levels and improve the quality of life for populations around the world. To date, those who have gained the most from it have been consumers able to afford and access the digital world; technology has made possible new products and services that increase the efficiency and pleasure of our personal lives. Ordering a cab, booking a flight, buying a product, making a payment, listening to music, watching a film, or playing a game—any of these can now be done remotely.

In the future, technological innovation will also lead to a supply-side miracle, with long-term gains in efficiency and productivity. Transportation and communication costs will drop, logistics and global supply chains will become more effective, and the cost of trade will diminish, all of which will open new markets and drive economic growth.


Downsides of fourth industrial revolution

There is much that India has to be worried about too. An overreliance on automation will shrink job creation. Automation and robotics in industrial manufacturing suits countries with low productive populations. But it does not suit countries like India, where 12–13 million people enter the job market every year.

A new phase is highly disruptive, a recent world bank study estimates that as almost 90% of the Indian jobs are in the informal sector automation threatens 69% jobs in India. it is a major setback for India as it is already facing a deficit in job creation. Automation leads to millions of low skilled labours unemployed. Repetitive processes are being increasingly automated. Banks in India are already using chatbots and even humanoid robots. A Kannada-speaking robot in Canara Bank in Bengaluru will direct you to the right counter. HDFC Bank has the Ira robot, which helps customers choose the right service and financial products.

Artificial intelligence additionally is a threat to the privacy and bodily integretity. The machines use finger print scanning, voice reorganisation and facial reorganization and have access to our location, any misuse of this information can lead threat to our life and liberty as guaranteed  by article 21 of the constitution.

Further there are risks of machines overpowering humans as portrayed in movies such as terminator. A recent debate between mark zuckerberg who said humans do not have to fear about machines while Elon Musk who doubted the safety of humans from machines. the  debate closed in favour of Elon musk, after  facebook technology developed a language of its own that humans could not decipher.

There are also threats like, persons hacking into their rivals internet of things to cause grave physical damage. house locks can be jammed , water temperatures may be varied by hacking into appliance network.

There are ethical concerns too. For ex: if a unmanned car crashes someone whose should take the responsibility for the harm caused is an open question. it is also said human beings will become lazy and live a distanced life through screens ,while ignoring the world in front of them. Relations will lose values ,as most of us now have  become busy on social media like face book, whats app etc.

Furthermore, the fourth industrial revolution, apps are playing a majority role in education and daily needs. There is “I Agree” clause, which we agree their terms and conditions, and once we do so there is a chance of   misusing user data for the gain of the company. The status of one’s digital data also remains hazy. Companies are now entering into agreement for buy and sell data of consumer to have better knowledge on consumer preferences. This violates the personal integretity. Even data assumes centre stage in the economy.


The way ahead

The benifits of fourth industrial revolution are many but the concerns can not be overlooked. government should take steps to ensure that we are able to capitalize on fourth industrial revolution rather than being the receiving end of it. India needs a collaborative effort. It will have to create a long term ecosystem that trains and educates professionals. India could collaborate with the US, Germany, and the EU. The central government can consider a joint platform between ministries, state governments and industry bodies to create a mission for making the most of the Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies.

First and foremost we need to improve the quality of education and training in order to create more skilled persons. which automatically reduces the risk of losing jobs. Government needs to focus on increasing market for the sector which requires man power like traditional handicrafts, handloom industries which can in turn increases the country’s economy.

We must probe the idea of universal basic income, proposed by economic survey .it will provide cushioning from any shock that economy may face.

We also need to have a strict data security and privacy law in a place. Setting up of the justice Shri Krishna committee is a heartening step. Our data use and sharing laws must be inline or better than the other European countries which currently hold the most robust data protection laws.

India also must take a firm stand in its international dealings to ensure that foreign companies do not colonialise Indian data. The strict TRIPS plus intellectual property regime being sought by major trade deals such as regional comprehensive economic partnership (RECP) must be firmly countered. The threat to data integrity must be countered from all corners.

Finally we need to increase internet penetration in India, especially in rural and remote areas. Partnership  of Bharat net project with google loom and facebook Aquila internet Connectivity projects may be beneficial.



We need to shape a future that works for all of us by putting people first and empowering them. In its most pessimistic, dehumanized form, the Fourth Industrial Revolution may indeed have the potential to “robotize” humanity and thus to deprive us of our heart and soul. But as a complement to the best parts of human nature—creativity, empathy, stewardship—it can also lift humanity into a new collective and moral consciousness based on a shared sense of destiny. It is incumbent on us all to make sure the latter prevails.

For India, the Fourth Industrial Revolution brings tremendous opportunities to leapfrog many stages of development, hastening its journey towards becoming a developed economy. In many ways, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is a leveller. The technologies being used in India will be the same as those in use in the developed world. Robots, AI, IoT are all technologies transforming industry in the West and are ready to do the same in India.

Saumya Sharma, IAS


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