4IR: The Metamorphosis of Technology, Facilitated by Covid-19
Welcome to The Fourth Industrial Revolution; where the physical, digital and biological spheres have coalesced, fundamentally altering the way we live, work and relate to one another. Evolving at an exponential pace that has no historical precedence, this revolution is disrupting almost every industry, in every country, with the capacity to transform entire systems of production, management and governance. In 2020, the global pandemic of Covid-19 ignited a seismic transition that forced everyone, all at once, to adapt to a new, technological world, presenting a rare opportunity for change.
Introduced by Klaus Schwab (founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum) in 2015, the 4IR is defined by the blending of artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing, augmented reality, genetic engineering, cloud technology, quantum computing, machine learning and so much more. This amalgamation of collective forces has allowed us to create products and services that have fast become indispensable to our modern life. These advances have now been magnified and accelerated by Covid. But why did it take a global pandemic for humankind to embrace technology?
The human psyche resists change
Humans inherently resist change. We’re hardwired to. A part of the brain called the ‘amygdala’ interprets change as a threat and subsequently signals a hormonal response triggering fear and inducing the fight or flight reaction. In other words, our bodies physically react to an emotional situation by entering ‘protection mode’. We find comfort in predictability and stability. In fact, 93 per cent of all our actions can be predicted (think social media advertising and algorithms). According to a Northwestern study in 2010, our ‘clockwork-like’ desire for stability is a proven necessary for our development and feelings of wellbeing. Traditions have continually steered us to survive trouble, further embedding ritualistic behaviours and ingraining resistance to change – both within our societies and psyche. After all, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
The answer is to do with how the change is presented to us. First, we have to recognise that we are dissatisfied with the way things are now, then we need to position a positive vision of the future and finally, we need to plan definitive steps to make that vision a reality. People eventually comply and make changes if they genuinely believe it’s in their best interest to do so.
The force of Covid
But is that a bad thing?
Technology and the Internet have not only eradicated geographical barricades and increased efficiencies at lightning speed, but solution providers like N2 Technology are enabling and reflecting this moment in time. Services have become more sophisticated and are increasingly producing more intelligent results. Investors and entrepreneurs are now granted worldwide access to global connections – so what’s to stop an entrepreneur based in South Africa from partnering with their perfect investor based in Norway?
Technology is doing the long, arduous, administrative tasks, and algorithms will – and already are – transforming processes, freeing time for entrepreneurs and investors to do the important, intelligent, intuitive and creative work. Rex Woodbury referenced the economist Paul Krugman: “Productivity isn’t everything, but in the long run, it is almost everything.” At its core, automation unlocks productivity. That phrase captures the promise of AI: if technology does its job, workers can focus on more high-value and rewarding tasks.”
Let’s embrace the opportunity that we’ve morbidly been granted. Covid was the unfortunate catalyst that has triggered immediate action, so why not make a bad situation into a good one? Covid and the subsequent lockdowns and isolations have reminded us of the importance of community and communication. In an economy desperate for data, knowledge and resources have been shared freely and discussed across continents, causing the world to unite. Physicians in the US are calling doctors in China for strategies, findings and treatment ideas.