The Fourth Industrial Revolution

The Fourth Industrial Revolution

In this article, the K4 Global team breaks down the new industrial era, its unique characteristics, its expected benefits as well as its potential perils.

The stages of the industrial revolution

There have been three previous industrial revolutions in history, all of which completely transformed the way we live.


The first industrial revolution took place in Europe and North America during the 18th and 19th Centuries. It was during this period that mostly rural societies urbanised and became industrial. The iron and textile industries and the development of the steam engine played central roles during this period.


The second industrial revolution happened between the years 1870 and 1914, before the start of World War I. This period saw significant growth in existing industries and wide expansion in new ones including steel, oil and electricity.

Electric power went into mass production, and the era’s major technological advances included the light bulb, the phonograph, the telephone and the internal combustion engine.


The third industrial revolution – sometimes called the digital revolution – refers to the advancement of technology from analogue devices to the gadgets we all love today. The era started in the 1980s and is still ongoing. The great advancements of the digital revolution have been the personal computer, the internet as well as highly advanced communications technology.

What is the fourth industrial revolution?

The fourth industrial revolution is characterised by a fusion of different technologies that will blur the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres. There are emerging breakthroughs in a number of various fields, including:

  • 3D Printing
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Biotechnology
  • Fifth Generation Wireless Technologies
  • Fully Autonomous Vehicles
  • Nanotechnology
  • Quantum Computing
  • Robotics
  • The Internet

What does the fourth industrial revolution entail?

One of the greatest promises of the fourth industrial revolution is the potential to improve the population’s quality of life and raise their income levels. First World countries who already enjoy some of these benefits are somewhat prepared for this.

Our organisations and workplaces will become even smarter and more efficient. The advancements of the fourth industrial revolution may also help us better prepare for natural disasters. Additionally, we may be able to undo some of the damage caused by the previous industrial revolutions.

What are the potential downsides of the fourth industrial revolution?

The fourth industrial revolution may increase social tensions as a result of the socio-economic changes brought about by the new job market that will be split into low skill and pay to high skill and pay segments.

The first adopters of new technology are usually the ones with the financial means to secure it, and their continued success may increase the economic gaps further. Some jobs are likely to become obsolete altogether.

Preparing for the fourth industrial revolution

The key to a smooth transition into this new era is leaders and citizens coming together to shape a future that works for everyone. This can be achieved through empowerment and remembering that all of these technologies are tools made by people, for people.

Global cooperation and a shared view of how the technology will reshape our lives is, therefore, a must. This will require companies to further invest in their infrastructure and data analysis systems. Businesses that don’t aim to be smart and connected will simply fall behind.

Leaders will need to develop skills to manage the organisations through these rather dramatic shifts effectively. All professional people need to embrace change and understand that our jobs today may be completely different in the future.