The Fourth Industrial Revolution in Perspective
24 June, 2019
There is a lot of discussion in society today about the effects of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (FIR) on:
- how it should change education,
- how it will enable us to spend our time doing more of what we want to.
I recently went to a talk on nano-technologies and this all added to my desire to test, with my own thinking, what the truth for me was around all this. This was necessary because in our daily work, we use a different orientation to things than what is put forward by the chief protagonists of the FIR like Ray Kurzweil and others. I wanted to make sure that I was not missing out. This is how I went about it and what I discovered.
In the very recent periods of evolution of Mankind, the last 250 years say, we have progressed from subsistence farming to the First Industrial Revolution and further. The First Industrial Revolution itself came about because of our humanity which inherently contained, consisted of, the qualities of:
- ownership of self,
These all lived in us in some way then and still do today, some elements strengthened, some weakened. They enabled us, then, to take ‘out of the future’ as it were, the processes and products of the first industrial revolution such as electricity, the internal combustion engine and more. Our inner gaze became more and more directed towards what we had created outwardly in the marvel of the steam engine, automobile and lighting. We all wanted these and used them. In this very process, economic activity became accessible to the everyday person and not only to Monarchs, Emperors and other elite groupings. Our inner balance tipped to one of self-indulgence in the sense of wanting to possess these material items, we simply wanted to use and experience these outcomes of the first industrial revolution.
Jumping forward in time, and observing the consequences of these items on modern civilisation, we see that city people often have no concept of simple realities like friction and momentum when using their cars. Why should they? Cars have engines and brakes after all. To overtake on up-hills and use excessive amounts of energy is no issue to a city person. Applying brakes on downhills reassures people that they are in control – momentum is not an issue. To a rural person that has ridden or walked long distances to school each day, momentum is not wasted and braking on downhills is only done if absolutely necessary. City dwellers who have never had real contact with these simple trials of life, use the accelerator and brake at will because that’s what they are there for. The use of power in the form of fuel or electricity is used because it is there and without consideration for the consequences of excess that is not always necessary. These are clearly matters that have affected Mankind and that were not foreseen in the mad rush for material possessions that followed the first industrial revolution. The qualities of our humanity have been developed in some ways but eroded in others. (Refer to Lens openers and Lens closers.) If these are just a sample of what the effects have been on Mankind from the first industrial revolution, then it begs the question, what are the effects of the second, third and the coming fourth industrial revolutions?
Just as we took the items of the first industrial revolution ‘out of the future’, as this is the future before they were here, so will we take more ‘out of the future’ going forward. We will do this exclusively with our humanity as nature does not do this. Since the first industrial revolution, we have taken more ‘out of the future’ in the sense of the second and third industrial revolutions. These also came from our Humanity being exercised – no animal, plant or mineral could do this.
However, we should be mindful of the reality that along the way, we have not:
- defended these very human qualities,
- worked on them,
- owned them,
- sensed their real value,
- linked this to what is appearing in this technological age both in the technology and the consequences of this technology on the very source that brought it into being.
All the current technology is also coming from our humanity, but not from a conscious knowing that our humanity itself needs to be treasured along the way or this technology itself will not be possible going forward. By this is meant that our selflessness has been replaced by self-indulgence, our compassion for despising those that cannot be what we are. These two elements alone are enough to drag us into imbalance and chaos. Our self-indulgence in search of fame and Capitalism seeing that it creates material wealth and therefore ‘righteously’ despising those that cannot be in Capitalism.
The technology of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (FIR) is not to blame or be shunned. It is the fact that we are not in consciousness around our humanity that needs addressing. If we were addressing this, we would go about understanding the impact of anything new before we allowed it to take root in our societies and possibly erode our very dignity as Mankind. We would want our human qualities to be much more entrenched in ourselves to be able to make the judgment just proposed. This is where we need a lot more focus if we want the products and process of the FIR to not remove us even further from our relationship to God’s plan and from being able to heal the damage we are doing to God’s Earth.
If it is real that we as Mankind have still not been able to deal with the unforeseen consequences of the first industrial revolution in terms of momentum, for example, what then are the unforeseen consequences on our humanity of the second and third industrial revolutions? One would expect them to be more subtle as the developments from the latter industrial revolutions have become less mechanical and more electrical and digital in nature. For me, an example would be when we try think through the use of a computer program that simply does not allow the form that our thoughts need. For example, when one is unable to use MS Word or Excel properly, from a skill point of view, one’s thinking becomes inhibited as one gets diverted from the thought to the use of the software program. We want the software to do this or that but it does not allow this or that but only what the human developed hardware, and the programming logic allows. The result is that our thoughts get tied up in a web of constraints in the name of technology – this technology is not allowing us to connect our humanity with the process – it is, however, really useful in getting things typed, corrected, printed, stored and so on. The latter is convenient and cost effective at first blush. The prior, our human thinking, and connecting this to the outcome that we desire, is what really makes the difference though. To say this in another way, if we take as truth, a concept that we have faith in, that all planning must be done using one of the MS Office packages, or similar, that this ease with which we can type, calculate, and so on as what is critical to life, we are on a path that wants more of this as this is our truth. If this is our truth, then we lose contact with the possible other truth, this being that when we can connect our thinking consciously with the outcome, then we are directly involved in the outcome.
The FIR is promising us that nano-technologies are going to be able to read our blood pressure, temperature, what we should eat by simply having small material devices planted inside us that feed us all this information. It has already given us the capacity to get a lift in a driverless car, and re-order milk from a sensor in the fridge via a cellular network. These are all things that someone, a human being, is thinking about and linking their humanity to the outcome of the effectiveness of all these examples. The problem is the complete lack of connection of all this with morality and understanding of what they are applying their ‘humanity’ to. They are designing mechanisms that will drug people with depression when they feel depressed because from the materialistic thinking point of view this is possible and the development of these nano drugging systems gives people a feeling of relevance. This feeling of relevance, when considered carefully, is a relevance related to personal fame and glorification before Mankind. They are feelings of relevance related to status, bank balances, hits on Google and so on. There are, however, feelings of relevance that are not feelings related to personal advantage but rather to advantage for the whole of Mankind. These feelings of relevance, that shift to moral relevance and even reverence, come from recognising the elements around us that go on whether I am there or not. Our time of day is still determined by the movement of the earth around the sun, not by any technology. Our seasons also go on despite us. If we take these thoughts into us in quiet, patient contemplation, we sense a bigger reality. Our need for individual relevance can become one of reverence if we see that we are part of a bigger truth that we have no influence over.
Then, going forward, the modern thinking that says that emerging technologies will reduce mundane human jobs and give people the chance to do something more meaningful needs some deep contemplation. Many people doing so called menial or mindless tasks are in fact doing just the opposite. They are doing something that they need for their own development, are fulfilling their own destiny and need to overcome their circumstances because they are in them. If mankind put themselves to removing menial jobs, what tasks are they going to give to these people who actually need these specific circumstances in order to further develop their humanity? This is why they are living. Is it right thinking to say that we will remove menial jobs but we have no idea what we are doing because we cannot even see the human capacities that can be developed in these so called menial jobs? To manually capture data from a manual document onto a digital device requires development of will, control of thinking, equanimity, positivity and more. Inwardly these people are developing. When you take these tasks away from them, what are they going to be given to do that assists them to develop these capacities? Those promoting the removal of menial tasks are unlikely to be able to think what has just been written and in this lies the real problem. People fascinated by human thinking directed towards automation but completely blind to the value of each human being’s development of soul, are not in a position to advocate much. They suffer ‘the missing linc’ syndrome – they fail to acknowledge the spiritual nature of us, the ‘I’.
In summary then, all the industrial revolutions come exclusively from Mankind and specifically from certain qualities within us. These qualities themselves are being challenged by the products we ourselves are producing. Are we focussing as much as we need to on what our moral orientation is to what we develop or not? From the simple examples given above, I would say not, and this is where the faith in the technology of the FIR needs much more checking than the current hope that the weakened humanity of today is giving the products and services of the FIR before they have taken their effect.
We at the Bosun Group are trying to be conscious of the above. We are trying our best to make sure that we are conscious of our humanity at as many points as we are able. We say that ‘Humanity is to Nature as Light is to Darkness‘. We say as a subset of this that ‘if we can think it, it can happen’. There is no alternative to these. We can see these statements in practice when we look at the quality of our product and know that this quality depends on what we hold in us both in our understanding and in our attitude. We practise this when we focus on facilitating the right relationship between the machines, the raw materials, and the people, to give us the product. The product reflects our humanity in that the product is a consequence of the facilitation described above. Animals cannot do this. It is what we are as human beings that can do this. The value transaction that then takes place with a customer and ends up in an exchange of goods or money also reflects the degree to which this human element, that made the product possible, is present in the product. People do place more value in high class products than entry level products. High quality is seen and valued above cheap, poorly thought through, alternatives. High class products originate in attitude and understanding, uniquely human qualities.
In our business, the specific mix of machine to man allows us to make an exact and direct connection of our humanity to the product. We train people with a manual machine, one up from using their own hands, to make the product, to allow them the opportunity to feel and understand what it is the machine is doing when it goes through the programmed cycle to make the product. This then creates an inner link and understanding in the operator of what the machine will do when they make changes to the program and push the buttons on the control panel. Their inner knowing of what is required, having made it manually happen in the first place and seen the actual outcome, then connects via the control panel, to the machine and to the end product. This connection of inner knowing and reality to the programmed steps of the operating machine determines the quality of the product. In this way, there is a direct link between our human qualities and the product.
The logical question that flows from this is:
- ‘what are we doing when we cannot connect our humanity to the outcome, the product, because the product is too ‘far’ away from the person to be able to connect with it?’ Or,
- ‘what if we have low levels of humanity and rely on the buttons that were designed to make things function in a certain way by another?’
These questions arise out of my knowing that I use a lot of technology that I don’t understand, specifically in the sense that I don’t understand or even question the effects that it will have on my humanity. The staggering truth is that humanity today is just working out that the first industrial revolution products have had an effect on us that we did not consider or understand at the time either. An example is that people that never walk, ride bikes, or play on swings have little grasp of the practicalities of momentum when driving their cars. This can be measured and proven. Do cyclists use less fuel than non-cyclists for example? I am sure that this would be the finding of objective research on this topic. The internal combustion engine, brilliant in itself, has impacted on our human connection to the reality of momentum. Many others could be made around the use of mobile phones in social life and so on.
However, in search of detail around how the modern technology is affecting our humanity, let’s take an example of the first question above. What are we doing when we cannot connect our humanity to the outcome, the product, because the product is too ‘far’ away from the person to be able to connect with it? Here an example would be someone mining the metal that is ultimately used to make bombs. They can connect to their part, being the metal preparation, but not to the end product. The same would be the case where people mine the metal to be included in medical equipment. Similarly, someone writing software that enables the processing of vast amounts of data that others then use for different purposes, puts their humanity to the way that the software works with and manipulates the data. They check this by validating the data in versus the data out. There does not seem to be an issue with what individuals are doing where they operate with good intent. Even a pilot learns how to connect his controls to the actions of the moving parts of the plane. This can be done by way of mechanical, electrical or digital systems. The fact is that the pilots can still make these associations between their humanity and the outcome of it.
If this were correct, we would be able to find a direct and valid example in life. How about this one? A manager wants his warehousing to work better. The two scenarios are the following:
- Firstly the manager can think the layout, the cycle of products through it, the controls and so on. The manager can link his thinking to his hands and pencil and draw this all out and write it up. He has a clear picture of what is required because he has made the effort to think it all through and write it up. For this reason, he can pass this all on to his support staff and all can become involved in the process with the same clarity, due to careful human interaction. There is a discussion between the manager and his staff. They respond and he can hear where they are not on the same page. He assists them to get the right understanding and asks them to repeat concepts to him for certainty. (This manager has one problem in that they cannot copy it easily, make corrections other than on paper, file it digitally where fish moths don’t get to it.) For the rest, the humanity of the person and his staff are involved in and connected to the final product, a functioning warehouse.
- Alternatively, the manager can think the layout, the cycle of products through it, the controls and so on. He now opens up his laptop and wants to draw the plan, the controls and so on. He does not know exactly how the program works and spends hours trying to figure out how to get the sizing right and the symbols correct. He goes on a software course and gets fascinated by the options and tools available in the software. His computer is just a bit slow now for the drawing program. He needs an upgrade and spends some time understanding the different options. He puts the warehouse project on hold for a few days while he takes in all the training and upgrading. He then gets back to his plans. He now gets stuck in to his faster newer computer and realises how much of the software program he has forgotten already but persists in getting the drawing right, after all, once he has the drawing right, he will show his work of art to the Ops Manager and file it for reference. He will now type up the procedures and so on using MS Word or similar. He will feel great that it is now on his computer in digital form and part of the easily obtainable information on the company QMS system. What has happened to his original intention?
He can print everything out easily and hand it over to everyone to read. When others read the information, they give no response generally and say that they have read it.
There is certainty that the plan has been somewhat compromised by the lack of skills and the inability of the software to exactly translate thoughts. There is certainty that the computer has the capacity to produce the documents in digital format, colours and symbols and be filed onto a digital storage system. This is all really cool. In addition, the manager gets his staff onto computer training and onto the network so that they can simply be emailed the documents and read them. This is technology. Where is the functioning warehouse in all this?
In the second scenario, we have the same warehouse requirements but the humanity of the person is separated from the desired outcome by the fascination with technology, or not? This fascination is fantasy in the illusions of the perceived promises of technology, laziness in that something can be done more ‘easily’, fear of not being with it and so on. These are all lens closers, the elements that hide our true humanity from becoming recognised and sought in modern daily life.
Let us then briefly deal with the second question that we raised at the beginning
which was, ‘what if we have low levels of humanity and rely on the buttons that were designed to make things function in a certain way by another?’ Well, this is quite simple – we fire off bombs against real people in the name of being superior in our judgement. These people do this saying to themselves that there is no God in this world that would be able to justify this action of ours in any other way. In this approach, we are really saying that our low level of humanity is just the same as not connecting our humanity to the outcome. In this case, however, we are just passengers of others, slaves, dependents on the thinking of others. Why is this different from the response to the first question? I would suggest that it is different in that the prior, those proclaiming the righteousness of the unbridled place of technology in society today, are disconnected from their humanity but in arrogance and self-assuredness rather than in innocence and laziness. The answer to both questions is, therefore, the same in the sense that we have not engaged our humanity to its fullest extent in either case. The difference is that they are different qualities that we have not engaged. These disengaged human qualities, or Lens closers, have both been fed by technology because we have been, mostly unconsciously, prepared to give up our true human qualities for technology that has been guided by these very same human qualities in the mastering of the mineral world.
As has been described above, the manager who can think, design, and implement a functioning warehouse through his own conscious human capacities of patience, openness, skill, experience, selflessness, care, courage, clarity, objectivity, positivity, and more, is going to feel that he is relevant. The moment he gives up his selflessness and care for example, he will lose his moral orientation to things. He will become more and more numbed by the promises of an easier life through technology. When the flame of the light that keeps any darkness at bay weakens, the darkness simply gets closer, our perspective less. When the humanity in us is eroded through the promise for easy, fast, entertaining, done by others, cheap satisfaction, we allow the world of technology to dull our relevance as humanity. Our relevance has to be fought for by bringing our human differentiating qualities to life in each and every one of us through the love for our relevance and not the illusion that we are shown in some meaningless deviations of technology. Only the development and making conscious of our true human qualities and capacities will lead to us being able to keep technology that is relevant and distance ourselves from that which seeks to dim the flame that gives us perspective in the darkness. We can facilitate the light that will keep us in the knowing and understanding that we need. We just have to do it.
For guidance, keep in mind that your humanity must be able to connect to the outcome that you are working on and that anything that diverts, fragments, disperses, freezes your own clear thinking, moral orientation and commitment, will hide your relevance as a human being from you and therefore from what you do. Most of these diversions are coming from technologies that have not been considered in counterbalance with what we really need to hold fast and strengthen in our humanity. This strengthening is essential for future developments that lie dormant, awaiting our readiness to unfold them.
I hope that you can reflect on this article and sense the humanity that is possible in us all. It is freely available to every one of us. There is no retailer of patience or any other dear human quality. God has no store for these things. They are freely available for a bit of our efforts. It is this very humanity in us that needs to be made conscious and nurtured in order that the technologies that will continue to come from this source, are not developed at a pace above our capacity to manage them.