The future is in our hand

There are many different opinions about the Fourth Industrial Revolution and its impact on countries. Some people believe that the impact would be severe to developed countries like the U.S. European countries, Japan, or China than South-East Asia, or African countries. That is a mistake because this revolution will be more devastating to developing countries because many are not prepared for it.

The impacts of the Fourth Industrial Revolution can be defined as Velocity where impact happens very fast, often at the speed of the Internet. Scope where it impacts all industries, all businesses both large and small, all over the world. and Society where it impacts all people, all levels, both rich and poor, regardless of what job they do. The fact is many technology innovations like Cloud Computing, Internet of Thing, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Nanoengineering, 3D printing, Self-driving cars and trucks, Big data analytics, etc. are here and disrupting many things already.

For example, not long ago, a Self-driving car is a science fiction story, today it is a reality. Not long ago, smart robots that can do things only happened in movies, today it is a reality. Not long ago, low-labor-cost is a key economic factor but today automation and robotics are the economic advantages. Not long ago, outsourcing is a business strategy, but today moving factories back home to automate is the best thing to increase profit. Today companies like Uber, DiDi, Grabs are disrupting the transportation industry and push taxi and truck drivers out of a job. Soon with self-driving cars and trucks, many human drivers for these companies will be out of a job too. If you look further, Uber is only 5 years old company and Didi and Grab are much younger. How could a 5 years old startup easily destroy a hundred years old industry like that? If you look back in history, it took over 100 years for electricity to replace steam as the source of energy. It took over 50 years for the telephone to replace the telegraph. But it only takes less than 10 years for robots to replace many people in the manufacturing sector and it only takes 5 years for smart office software to replace people. An economist wrote: “I can see the technology tsunami is coming but people on the beach is still partying without knowing that their lives are in danger. The fourth industrial revolution will destroy many economies and societies quicker than most people think. There will be massive unemployment and chaos which will topple many governments and devastate societies.”

If we understand the impacts of Velocity, Scope, and Society we need to take action right away by prepare people for the jobs of the future. In this technology-driven world, we need to have a strong technical workforce by changing the education system quickly to meet this challenge. Currently, the mismatch between what the society needs and what the school is teaching is bad for everybody. We cannot stand still with a high unemployment, severe business damages, slow growth economy when other countries are rapidly advancing and take advantage of our weaknesses. If we want the advance of technology to benefit everyone, we need to change the education system by re-train every teacher and continuously upgrade our training program so our future generations can prepare to deal with this change.

Improving the education should be a whole-society effort, not just people who work in education. This time every family should demand that their children, from kindergarten to college, to get the best training program possible , so that every graduate, in every field, is well prepared for the job of the future. If we can imagine the change that will happen in the next few years when our children in elementary school are no longer need to memorize math formulas but using their tablets to solve complex equations. Just imagine in a few more years, our high school students do not worry about passing tests but write a program for the 3D printer to print out electronic components for their robots or design mobile apps for their smartphone. Just imagine soon our college students are working on complex algorithms to automate machines in factories and design solutions to improve business efficiency. Just imagine in a few more years, there is a vibrant startup culture in every one of our cities where hundreds of companies are being created with hundred thousands of engineers working together to solve worldwide problems. Just imagine many companies are investing in the re-training of their employees so they can be more productive and contribute to the profits of the companies.

The fourth industrial revolution is here and more things will happen soon if we are not prepared. To change or not is our choice at this time. We can continue the debate and spending more time in meetings to find the best solutions or we can take action by re-train our teachers on technology so they can educate their students quickly and prepare them for the challenge ahead. The future is in our hand.


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University

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