The Fourth Industrial Revolution

  • February 24th, 2018

Have you ever given some thoughts as to the etymological reason of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and Industry 4.0? I guess many are not and simply absorb the terms without thinking, but some would feel annoyed and reluctant to accept the terms.

Reading the history of the world economic development, we learn about “Industrial Revolution” which cut across two horizontal time periods respectively named as First and Second. “Industrial Revolution” is a term introduced by Louis-Guilaume Otto, a French envoy, in 1799, and was becoming more common by the late of the 1830s.

The history has never recorded the existence of the Third Industrial Revolution (3IR), but then how come the 4IR is so widely used nowadays?

If we carefully recall our memory, the period of the 3IR, as described in many literatures, used to be commonly termed as “Information Age”, “Information Economy” and gradually evolved to become a more fashionable term known as “Knowledge Economy” which marked by the introduction of Program Logic Control (PLC).

Both terms of the 3IR and the 4IR first appeared about the same time in the documentaries of the Industry 4.0, a German national-level blueprint to confront the advent of the said 4IR. The official publication of Industry 4.0 in 2013 is widely perceived as a mark of the cornerstone for the beginning of the 4IR.

When President Obama took office in 2009, the automotive industry – the heartbeat of the American manufacturing sector – “was on the brink of collapse and the economy was on the verge the next Great Depression.” It was that President Obama successfully revitalized American automotive sector, and went further to reengineer the entire American manufacturing ecosystem. In June 2011, President Obama launched the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP), “a national effort bringing together industry, universities, and the federal government to invest in the emerging technologies that will create high-quality manufacturing jobs and enhance America global competitiveness.”

The impact of AMP was profound and apparent as evidenced by speedy recovery and regain the losing advantages of American manufacturing in the global arena. One of the agendas of President Obama’s second term presidency election, “Bring American manufacturing back to the American continent,” become a collective choice of American manufacturing at large which operating productions overseas.

Eyeing the bold move of America, Germany was not without doing anything. In 2012 German government commissioned a workgroup to study its national competitive advantage which directly resulted in the launch of Industry 4.0 initiative in 2013 and proclaimed the world entered into an era of the 4IR. This positioning swiftly earned the world limelight and the terms like Industry 4.0 and the 4IR have been dominating global publicity and popularity.

Why the terms Industry 4.0 and the 4IR have swiftly gained such a massive and sweeping popularity as compares to AMP which was introduced two years earlier?

I opined that the introduction of the terms Industry 4.0 and the 4IR are a deliberate strategic move of Germany backed by a team of sociolinguists, aiming to bring global widespread recognition that Germany is making a comeback as the leader in world manufacturing battlefield. To justify the valid use of the term 4IR, these sociolinguists purposefully created the term 3IR so that the public unwittingly accepts the advent of the 4IR.

This stand is supported by the facts: (1) the 3IR has never existed in the world economic development history text; (2) the period as denoted in the 3IR was widely known as “Information Age”, “Information Economy” or “Knowledge Economy”; and (3) both the 3IR and the 4IR first appeared about at the same time in the documentaries of the Industry 4.0.    

Once the use of the 4IR is justified, German sociolinguists have to establish its correlation with German official blueprint documentaries, hence the creation of Industry 4.0 which proven to be an excellent caption. Take note that, the use of Industry 1.0, Industry 2.0 and Industry 3.0 has never existed in the literature of history, they are all slyly introduced by German sociolinguists in Industry 4.0 documentaries with an implicit intent to direct public thinking pattern.

The main purpose of writing this article is to call upon Malaysian government to deliberate a good and meaningful caption when Malaysian version of the 4IR is made public. A good caption draws a clear destination and motivates Rakyat works towards the same destination. If I have a say, allow me to propose “Malaysian Industry Quantum Leap” as its caption.