Fourth Industrial Revolution: Robotics and Automation are driving the Change
Technology is evolving at the speed of light with evidence of the changes happening in every industry.
The industrial revolution, which took place in different time periods, has brought major transformations that changed production processes and socio-economic structure. In the last decade, technological progress was remarkable. Technology is evolving at the speed of light with evidence of the changes happening in every industry. With robotics and AI being the frontrunners, the globe is entering a fourth industrial revolution.
The world has been through three industrial revolutions so far. Each of them had its own set of changes, but they were the result of revolutionary innovations in common. The term ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ was first introduced by the World Economic Forum (WEF) founder, Klaus Schwab, in 2015 in an article in Foreign Affairs: The Fourth Industrial Revolution. The fourth industrial revolution is the current environment where disruptive technology trends such as the Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), autonomous vehicles, blockchain, cloud computing, genomics, social media, biotechnology, and much more are changing the way we live and work. Unlike other industrial revolutions, the fourth one is anticipated to take away jobs currently occupied by humans.
The World Economic Forum makes a similar assessment in its Future of Jobs Report as it said, “In purely quantitative terms, 75 million current job roles may be displaced by the shift in the division of labor between humans, machines, and algorithms, while 133 million new job roles may emerge at the same time.” The latest research from the forum forecasts that by 2025, machines will perform more current work tasks than humans, compared to 71% being performed by humans today.
The role of robotics and automation
Robotics and the artificial intelligence industry are significantly intertwined. The engineering feats of robotics are increasingly joined by advancements in software, which allows computers to work, learn and problem-solve an area of computer science. Recent developments in robotics are invading the industry premises. It is slowly replacing human labor with technology. Not just manufacturing, robots are firing human jobs in healthcare, defense, and transportation. They are far advanced compared to normal human work. Robots leverage the luxury to work 24/7 without any intervals. This drastically fastens the workflow. For example, a Japanese factory has been running in ‘lights out’ mode for 15 years, which means there are no human factory workers.
Tech giants like Amazon and Alibaba are also availing robots to perform simple fulfillment tasks that human employees would otherwise undertake. With the Covid-19 pandemic bring social distancing guidelines, automation in the industrial sector is further accelerated. Autonomous mobile robots are breaking the barriers and working full-time. They don’t need human intervention to guide them. However, such technologies pose a threat to human labor.
Reduction in taxpayers
When most of the work gets automated, the number of employees paying tax to the government will plummet over the years. Since advances in AI and robotics tend to replace employment rapidly, it also looks inevitable that there will be a severe erosion of tax revenue coming from workers. For example, the increasing need for Amazon products has pushed the company to switch to robotics in place of humans. In 2003, Amazon had 1,000 robots. Three years later, it went up to 45,000, and today, it is 100,000. The government is figuring out ways it could equalize the tax revenue. However, the changes have brought us to a stage where the question ‘Will robots pay tax?’ goes unanswered.
The World Economic Forum, in its report, stated that to mitigate the human-robot crisis, countries need to reskill opportunities, enable remote working, and build safety nets to protect at-risk workers and communities. Employees trained to do more meaningful and creative tasks will be more valuable, even if robots take over labor.