IR4.0 — evolution or revolution?

by RAIS HUSSIN MOHAMED ARIFF / pic by BLOOMBERG

THE first thing to do in any good poker game is to find the “mark”. If you don’t know who the mark is, then it’s probably you.

Figuring out what the “revolution” is in the fourth industrial revolution (IR4.0) is a bit like that. Is it artificial intelligence, blockchain, digital currency, the Internet of Things, robotics, or what exactly?

In fact, the IR4.0 has an accumulative effect. Any one of those technologies can be viewed as evolutionary, if viewed and used on a standalone basis; when used together, their impact will be revolutionary.

Don’t be fooled either by the notion that this growing trend is a long way off. Instead, try this analogy: By the time you hear the thunder, it’s too late to stop the lightning.

The golden rule of the Information Age — with the explosive use of personal computing and the Internet — is Moore’s Law. It states that the speed of processing power will double every two years.

Innovations that power IR4.0 will make Moore’s Law look like a walk in the park. The quantum acceleration of analytics combined with the ubiquity of connectivity will structurally change the concept and utility of data — ergo, the ensuing Digital Age of IR4.0.

When every physical object and individual action can be digitised, monitored, stored and analysed, then is it an evolution or revolution?

The bigger, and more critical, question: When the outcome allows you to not just interpret, but also replicate and predict objects and actions, then please tell me what is it?

This is IR4.0. It’s neither a marketing gimmick nor highfalutin jargon. It is a catch-all term for this change in the human experience.

The awesome power of IR4.0 technology has the potential to control or liberate, depending on whether technology is placed at the centre of society or society at the centre of technology.

By advocating for the latter, we have added another catchy term to our lingo: Malaysia 5.0.

Inspired by Japan’s Society 5.0, it is the goal of implementing IR4.0 technology evenly across society, so that the benefits accrue to all and not just the chosen few.

That sure sounds to me like the stuff revolutions are made of.


Datuk Dr Rais Hussin Mohamed Ariff is the chairman of Malaysia Digital Economy Corp. The views expressed are of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the stand of the newspaper’s owners and editorial board.

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