The Fourth Industrial Revolution: Are We Ready?
Thirty-eight percent of American workers may need to change occupations by 2030, according to PwC.1 That means about 45 million people already in the workforce might need to be retrained over the next 11 years. In the same vein, McKinsey Global Institute has estimated that approximately 50% of the activities people are paid to do, representing USD 16 trillion in costs to the global economy, can be automated using currently available technology.2
Rapid developments in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics— coupled with ubiquitous connectivity and vast, easily accessible processing power—are laying the groundwork for fundamental structural changes in the global economy. These mutually reinforcing catalysts are driving exponential innovation across a wide swathe of the economy, reshaping entire industries and creating new ones.
Interestingly, these catalysts are not new in and of themselves. For instance, the early work in modernday artificial intelligence began in the 1950s, even though progress was limited given the lack of necessary processing power; and, of course, robots have been commonplace in manufacturing for well over 30 years. What’s prompting this new era is the compounding effect of developments in each of these areas. For instance, massively powerful and easily accessible computing power has greatly accelerated developments across AI, robotics, and the internet of things. Similarly, rapid developments in AI have greatly enhanced the capabilities of robotics, complex network management, and our ability to make sense of the vast amount of data captured by an increasingly connected world.
It is not purely technical advancements that are facilitating this revolution: a cultural shift towards a more open, sharing economy has also lowered the barriers to entry for many innovative startups. The open source community has evolved to include valuable intellectual property and sophisticated foundational components made freely available by large companies, such as Amazon, Google, and Facebook, for use by third parties. Couple that with ondemand services, such as effectively limitless computing power, and it’s easy to see how many traditional barriers to entry have been lowered across many industries.