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Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR)

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January 24, 2023

Why in news?

While World Economic Forum (WEF) advocates fourth industrial revolution, others fear corporate takeover.

What is Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR)?

  • Fourth Industrial Revolution - It is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.
  • It brings together digital technology and the physical world to create a new range of products and services.
  • Fields - 4IR is a collection of technologies such as cloud computing, big data, augmented reality, system integration, autonomous robots, cybersecurity, simulation, additive manufacturing, and the internet of things (IoT).
  • Recent examples - A pacemaker with wireless sensors that will dissolve in the human body after completing its job was unveiled by the US researchers.
  • The first living robot called xenobots was demonstrated in 2021 by a team of US scientists.

The term 4IR was coined by Klaus Schwab in 2016 when he described it as an industrial revolution that “does not change what we are doing, but changes us”.

What are the different stages of Industrial Revolution?

  • First industrial revolution - Used water and steam power to mechanise production (1800s).
  • Second industrial revolution - Used electric power to create mass production (early 1900s).
  • Third industrial revolution - Used electronics and information technology to automate production (late 1900s).
  • Fourth industrial revolution – It is built on the third revolution with data at its core. (now)


Why is everyone interested in 4IR?

  • It was claimed that artificial intelligence and other associated technologies will enhance human beings in the future.
  • Some futurists believe that artificial intelligence will surpass human intelligence by 2029.

What about the picture of 4IR in India?

  • In 2020, Union Ministry of Heavy Industries launched the Smart Advanced Manufacturing and Rapid Transformation Hub (SAMARTH) scheme, which brings together manufacturers, vendors, and customers to make them aware of 4IR technologies.
  • In 2022 budget speech, Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced new 4IR-driven projects, including Drone Shakti, to encourage start-ups that will facilitate the use of drone services.
  • In the field of education, DESH Stack ecosystem which will use blockchain technology to make the process of skill acquisition transparent and efficient would be announced.
  • India even has a 4IR centre in Mumbai run by WEF, which is closely working with several state governments.
  • The Centre has recently come up with the Fourth Industrial Revolution for Sustainable Transformation (FIRST) Cancer Care model in which 4IR technologies would be used to provide better healthcare for cancer patients.
  • India is also exploring digital twin technology (Creating a complex virtual model that is the exact counterpart of a physical thing) for creating models.
  • The pan-India 3D maps programme was launched for 100 smart cities so that 4IR-based projects, such as driverless cars, will become easier to implement.


Pros of 4IR

Cons of 4IR


Strategic competitive advantage               

Negative impact of data sharing in a competitive environment


Organizational efficiency & effectiveness

Total implementation of industry 4.0 is necessary for success


Organization agility                          

Handling employees and trade unions apprehensions


Manufacturing innovation                      

Need for highly skilled labour



Sado-technical implications of industry


Improved product safety & quality             



Delightful customer experience                

High initial cost


Environmental and social benefits



Improved operations


What are the concerns?

  • Job loss - The immediate fear is that of job loss as machines and technology will take over many jobs across sectors.
  • The employees of the Indian Railways (the largest employer in India) have already started protesting against the introduction of vending machines for ticket dispensation at stations.
  • Safety and ethics - There are several other critical concerns surrounding safety, ethics and the short- and long-term socio-economic impact.
  • For instance, there were massive disruptions in flights in the US in 2022 because of fears of interference between the C band of the 5G wireless technology and the altimeters of aircraft.
  • Inequality - The adoption of 4IR technologies is also going to be skewed as developing and least developed countries lack the data framework and infrastructure.
  • The problems in the real world are creeping into virtual reality.
  • Bias - Several studies show that facial recognition technologies have a higher chance of misidentifying African and Asian people compared to their Western counterparts.



  1. Down to Earth | Fourth industrial revolution


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