The Fourth Industrial Revolution with Jonathan Reichental

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Mission co-founders Ian Faison and Chad Grills welcomed author, podcast host, and tech thought leader Dr. Jonathan Reichental for an episode of IT Visionaries. In their conversation, Dr. Reichental shared his thoughts on the “4th Industrial Revolution”, and what you can expect as it approaches.

Here are the key insights from the discussion.

What were the first three industrial revolutions?

The first revolution happened with the introduction of steam engines. This was when we moved away from man and animal power and started using steam-powered engines to power movement.

Second was the introduction of electricity, which Jonathan maintains is still the most important discovery in human history.

“Without electricity, there’s no such thing as the modern world,” he says. “I mean, it is an incredible thing that we were able to discover and leverage – and it’s powering everything that’s happening right now.”

The third revolution happened during the information age, and the digital transformation of society in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. This is the age we are still in right now as we continue to move more into a digital world. There have been waves to this revolution: from static webpages, to e-commerce, to now – when we can click a button on our phones and get a ride anywhere. Jonathan thinks there are still a few more waves left in this digital revolution.

“The true value of the internet is yet to be told, and in part that is because only half the world has access to the internet,” he says. “We all woke up and checked our email and social media when we got up this morning, but about half the world didn’t. Sometimes, I’m envious of that. But it’s happening –perhaps in a decade or two, most who humans can get online will get online, and that’ll be a very different world. It’s very different to have 3.6 billion people connected versus a number approaching 8 billion. That’s a lot of good ideas. And, in fact, what it really is is a massive new marketplace for tons of global products.”

Why do we need to be concerned with the fourth industrial revolution?

In every revolution, there are winners and losers. And each revolution, by definition, changes the world. The fourth industrial revolution will be no different. While Reichental believes it will include more A.I., this revolution will primarily be defined by the velocity with which people adopt new technology, the scope of that adoption, and the impact of it and how it all converges.

Industries are constantly, as is technology and business strategy. Very few companies can withstand all that change, and the ones that do are constantly looking toward the future. The industries that take advantage of all those factors — scope, impact, convergence and velocity — will be on top as the new begins to take place.

“If you are a business that has succeeded for some time – or you’re a new business – what level of confidence do you have that your business will still be relevant five years from now, or even ten years from now?” Jonathan asks. “That’s a question you need to ask all the time. You need to be paranoid about that, because there’s a lot of competition, there’s a lot of disruption happening at same time. I think there’s a lot of interest from the C-suite, the board, and all sorts of leaders and managers to try to figure out where things are headed in their industries and in their lives.”

Knowing the future is impossible, so companies have to make calculated decisions on what the future will look like for them.

The impact of climate change

“To deny that the environment you are working in has changed – and will continue to change –would be foolish,” Jonathan says.

“You can’t talk about the future without now talking about climate change. It would be problematic to be talking about the emergence of this incredible new tech and what it means for society if we didn’t realize that the society – and the environment of society – will change in the same time horizon. Because the changes are already here.”

Listen to the entire interview here.

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