TACS Team Column – “The Fourth Industrial Revolution”

Recently, “The Fourth Industrial Revolution” has been an uprising topic. Back in the 1760s, the First Industrial Revolution began in Britain, and the development of steam machine and textile industry with factories and machines occurred. In the 1870s, The Second Industrial Revolution began with factories that have conveyor belts, a significant innovation that made both mass production and lots of employment opportunities possible. In the 1980s, The Third Industrial Revolution, which resulted from the development of electrical technology, computers, internet, and Information and Communication Technologies, led us to an information-oriented society.  The term, “The Fourth Industrial Revolution” was first founded by Klaus Schwab, a German engineer, economist, and the Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum.  Schwab claimed that the Fourth Industrial Revolution is a technological revolution built upon the original digital age, the biology, and the biochemistry of The Third’s.  In other words, the revolution of reality and virtual reality would be combined during the Fourth Revolution through network in many aspects.  With the rise of The Fourth Industrial Revolution, lots of changes and improvements are expected, but the changes can also be perceived drastic and even controversial.

The advantages are that there will be a big change in the industrial structure, such as in manufacturing, service, and public industries. Innovations, including 3D Printer, not only improve the quality of people’s lives but also make production system more flexible and effective. Also, precision medicine will be possible for each individual due to big data. However, an employment structure will be dramatically changed as the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) produces new jobs. According to World Economic Forum, about 7.1 millions of jobs will be reduced by 2020. Simple desk clerks and the jobs that can be replaced by machines will be the jobs that are most likely to disappear. Moreover, according to Thomas Dietterich and Eric Horvitz, current and former presidents of the Association for the Advancement of AI, three major risks that we need to focus on are “Complexity of AI software,” “Cyberattacks,” and “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” First, “Complexity of AI software” is something that demands a lot of attention and effort. The study of software systems is challenging, and as high-stake roles, such as running automobiles and surgical robots, are involved in AI software, they require researchers to question and study more. “Cyberattacks” is also an issue that we need to pay attention to. Because AI algorithms are used to make high-stake decisions, such as driving cars and controlling robots, it is important to make sure that these systems are free from cyberattacks. “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” is defined as a person who instigates a process which they are then unable to control. AI systems should have the capability of collaborating with people to obtain feedback. They must know when to stop and ask for help.

In spite of the risks that we have, the world is nonetheless getting ready for “The Fourth Industrial Revolution” because the benefits could outweigh the drawbacks we could meet. Even if we cannot predict the future, we should be getting prepared to prevent the negative outcome based on our current trends.

JiEun Rim /TACS Team, Tax Advisors for Champaign Society

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“The Fourth Industrial Revolution”