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How Industry 4.0 Will Help Your Company Make the World a Better Place

By Pavan Muzumdar | Automation Alley | 11/30/2016

The ability to make our lives easier often comes at a price to others. Since the dawn of human civilization, there has been a tension between technology and manual labor. The difference this time is that the technologies of the fourth Industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0, are striking at human cognition. Many people are fearful of these new advancements in automated technologies, artificial intelligence and smart robotics because they may one day make many human jobs obsolete, resulting in increased poverty and wealth disparity. However, we must remember that those same fears existed with previous industrial revolutions. Think about the invention of the printing press and even the telephone. 

As people become disgruntled over potential job loss, tensions rise between the class of “owners” and “employees.” History has shown time and again that this is how a revolution starts – the disenfranchised with less to lose seek to take power back from those that control the wealth. If we are to avoid the next revolution, our mindset needs to shift from “us vs. them” to a collective “we.” This doesn’t mean overhauling our economy to a communist or socialist system. Instead, we need to transform our current capitalist system into “conscious capitalism,” one in which those who seek more wealth can do so, but not at the expense of others. Instead, there can be an opportunity to change the world as we know it for the better. 

How is this accomplished? Right now, owners believe they take all the risk, so they believe they deserve the reward. This is the key to unlocking the potential of a more advanced society. But, what if everyone thought and behaved as an owner?

To be sure, when we ask this question, we are also changing the paradigm of what it means to be an owner. In our worldview, ownership doesn’t just mean a claim to assets; instead it is a responsibility to nurture those assets for the greater good. And, I should be quick to add that ownership is a mindset. Many people who identify as employees today do not feel like owners, and that’s understandable.

We need to invest in education and awareness to change that mindset and it might take a generation or two. If we start changing how people view ownership at an early age, maybe there will be a time where there are no employees in a company, everyone would be a working owner.

If you think this is a pie-in-the-sky idea, not so fast! There are many examples of this in the real world. For example, the John Lewis Partnership in the UK and SRC Holdings Corporation in Missouri. Google them. 

Of course, this shift will not happen overnight, and we might need some changes in laws to support changes in mindset. But future generations could very well look radically different from ours, and in the words of Nobel laureate, Muhammad Yunus, “poverty might indeed be seen only in a museum.”

With that encouraging thought, if everyone was an owner, then we would all be aligning our interests in making our companies as prosperous as possible. And what we lose as demand for our time (jobs), we could get back in increased profits (dividends). When that happens, we no longer need to fear automation.

In fact, we now have the opportunity for robots and humans to begin working more closely. Collaboration in our minds is the key to accelerating prosperity. Instead of fearing automation, we can use our brains for higher level thinking, increasing our potential to solve the world’s greatest mysteries while our robot partners do the mundane, dangerous, and mind-numbing tasks.

The other big opportunity we have reveals itself when we look at the needs of humans and robots. Robots just need energy. When we get up in the morning, we’re reminded that we have all the energy we need from the sun. The more sustainable energy we harvest, the easier it is for robots to become self-sufficient. We can build robots that build robots that make solar panels!

As technology advances, energy from higher density areas can be transferred to less sunny areas. That energy can be used to fill one of our other needs: food. Also, cheaper energy means cheaper shelter, and more advanced sustainable methods of sourcing water becomes economically viable.

Humans, on the other hand, need food, water and shelter to survive. But we are also social, thoughtful, and curious creatures that crave knowledge and meaning. The psychologist Abraham Maslow artfully described this in his seminal work, “The Hierarchy of Human Needs.” With our robot friends helping, maybe we can all elevate ourselves up this hierarchy, and education and learning doesn’t become the means, but the end of fruitful and joyous journey.

We are hardwired to be fearful of the unknown; that’s what makes us successful as a species. It is this fear that drives us to create previously unimaginable solutions. But if we can recognize the potential instead of the despair of what automation can bring to us, then there is a possibility for a brighter tomorrow. There will be bumps along the road, but if we can tackle these problems now, there’s no telling what the future may hold.

Pavan Muzumdar is Automation Alley’s chief operating officer. In this role, Muzumdar is responsible for facilitating the smooth functioning of Automation Alley, enabling the organization to execute its strategic goals with excellence and realize its vision. Muzumdar has an extensive background in organizational management and is the creator of the organizational tool iCube, a collection of simple, effective techniques and disciplines that help companies run smoothly. In addition to serving as Automation Alley’s COO, Muzumdar is the lead facilitator of the iCube methodology in the organization’s successful entrepreneurship program, the Automation Alley 7Cs™.

 

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