Active Thinking Topic 54   The 4th Industrial Revolution

Saturday 1 April 2023, 1:30 to 3:30 pm

Any replies to the organizer -

Venue: Zoom online

Talking Points:

1. What does the term, '4th Industrial Revolution' actually mean?

2. Is 4IR a dream, a mirage, a hyped con trick, or the end of life as we know it ... or all of those things, ... or something else?

3. What native skills will 4IR children have that the rest of us might struggle with? The third industrial revolution brought us into the digital age. Now most people under 30 are digital natives. Many middle aged or older people still struggle with computers or avoid them. (I have heard that the Presidents of both Russia and China cannot/will not use basic programs like MS Word or even a keyboard).

4. Socrates (died 399 BC) famously said that literacy was a terrible thing because people were lazy and no longer develop memory skills. More recently calculators have resulted in many people being no longer able to do simple arithmetic. Now ChatGPT will write letters for you and code web pages. Will we become zombies? What jobs will disappear? What new jobs will appear? How will schools change?

5. A key feature of 4IR is machines talking to machines, both inside organizations and remotely to anywhere in the world. This is a productivity multiplier. It also creates perils, not least for businesses and the people in them. What might some of these perils be?

6. What will be the roles and rewards for genuinely creative people in the 4th Industrial Revolution? Creative people in every field have generally lived very insecure lives. A few of them make huge incomes. Most creative people have earned far less than regular professionals, managers and workers - who are really parasites on the creatives.

7. Digital twinning is the reconstruction of some known object(s) in digital form. For example, it is being used in medical research to explore treatments etc, e.g. with digital hearts, livers etc. You can build a digital bridge or airplane with all the known properties of the real thing. What are other uses you can envisage for digital twinning? What advantages and limitations might it have? How might it change our world?

8. 3D technology, also called additive technology, had a lot of publicity ten years ago. It has fallen out of public attention since. 3D tech can be used to construct everything from engine parts to houses. What are its advantages and disadvantages? Does 3D tech have any special significance for a mid-sized country with a limited market, such as Australia? What is the current 3D tech scene?

9. 4IR is the next step in humans replacing or seducing Nature's limitations to serve human ambitions and desires. There is even research to make death optional. Where are we going? [There is an ancient legend going back to at least 900 BC of a sorcerer's apprentice who learns his master's magic, but doesn't have the wisdom to control it. This has been made into many stories, music, and films (the latest by Disney, 2010]. What does this ancient parable tell us about 4IR?

10. The 4th Industrial Revolution is typically described at being about AI and Automation. However, the humans in human societies are also changing. There are huge population changes from falling births to mass migration. Very different new skills are needed while whole occupations disappear. How will this changing balance of people and machines stabilize, or won't it?


Extra Reading

The World If (July 6th 2019) "What if robots don’t take all the jobs - The real danger to future prosperity could be too few robots, not too many. An imagined scenario from 2030". The Economist @  [Quote: "Second, the 2020s showed that the level of employment depends on more than just automation: it also depends on ageing and immigration. As their populations aged, rich countries saw their workforces shrink. Many invested more in robots as they aged, and some let in more migrants, plugging some of the skills gaps and boosting productivity. Countries with relatively slow ageing and lots of robots did best. But those that underinvested in automation, or shut themselves off from the world, were hard hit".]

Vanessa Thorpe (19 March 2023) "‘ChatGPT said I did not exist’: how artists and writers are fighting back against AI." The Guardian @ 

Jeff Pao (March 11, 2023) "Chinese industries to go digital or die - ‘Digital China’ plan emphasizes ‘industrial internet’ in a state-led drive for world-class competitiveness and supply chain supremacy". Asia Times @ 

Scott Foster (March 13, 2023) "Hokkaido to become Japan’s new silicon island
Rapidus picks northern Chitose as site for new $37 billion state-of-the-art chip production facility designed to challenge TSMC". Asia Times @ 

Sabine Hossenfelder (11 March 2023) "I believe chatbots understand part of what they say. Let me explain". @ . [Sabine Hossenfelder is a physicist with a gift for explaining the inexplicable].

Shira Ovide (December 26, 2021) "Tech won. Now what?" The Age @  [Quote: "Technology won. One proof of that victory is that it’s hard to define what “technology” even is. Tech is more like a coat of new paint on everything than a definable set of products or industries. Health care is tech. Entertainment is tech. Schools are tech. Money is tech. Transportation is tech. We live through tech. ... Once, perhaps, technology felt like things that magical tech elves invented in their workshops and handed over for humans to adore. No more. Technology is normal, not magic. And — like everything else in the world — it can be good and bad. ... Technology is neither the cause of nor the solution to all of life’s problems".]

Calla Wahlquist (20 December 2020) "The sneaky revolution: 'It's changing absolutely every job" The Guardian @  [Quote: “This industrial revolution is a sneaky one,” says Dr Alan Montague, a lecturer in business at RMIT. “It’s changing absolutely every job, and we just take on new skills without realising that we’re using new technology.” ... We are talking over Microsoft Teams, something which, just a year ago, Montague would not have done. But when the pandemic struck in March, use of it and other video conferencing platforms proliferated. ... “Before Covid-19, even though I am very capable with computers, I wasn’t using Teams,” he says. “And now I want to use Teams all the time.” ... The sneaky revolution, says Montague, is shown in the things left behind. If your employees are able to complete their work at home, and even prefer to do so, then a large inner-city office is no longer an essential part of doing business. Which means the cleaners who cleaned that office, the parking attendants, the barista making coffee in the foyer, are also no longer needed."]

Kevin Drum (November/December 2017 Issue) "You Will Lose Your Job to a Robot—and Sooner Than You Think - Automation helped bring on the age of Trump. What will AI bring?" Mother Jones @  [Quote: "The two most important problems facing the human race right now are the need for widespread deployment of renewable energy and figuring out how to deal with the end of work. Everything else pales in comparison. Renewable energy already gets plenty of attention, even if half the country still denies that we really need it. It’s time for the end of work to start getting the same attention."]

Zigor Aldama (25 April, 2019) "Vein-pattern recognition is the latest technology driving China’s AI, robotics revolution - A new world order is coming, driven by Chinese companies such as DeepBlue Technology and Yitu Technology. Artificial intelligence, vein-pattern recognition and computer vision are already being adopted across China". South China Morning Post @ 
[Quote: "it’s not only blue-collar jobs that will be lost. Yitu is developing advanced AI medical diagnosis systems that, the company believes, will replace doctors in many instances. Chen adds writers to the list of endangered professionals: “They have various levels of ability. A report or a simple composition can be written by machines, but not a piece that requires consciousness, innovation and inspiration.”]

Tory Shepherd (23 March 2023) "Australian military looks to build crucial space capabilities that will support Aukus nuclear subs - Defence department puts out call for satellites that can talk to each other and to the ground, are ‘scalable, rapidly deployable and re-constitutable’". The Guardian @ 

Gabriel Honrada (March 24, 2023) " Australia satellite mesh to track China’s subs and hypersonics - Planned constellation will also provide space-based infrastructure for AUKUS alliance AI, drone and quantum computing projects". Asia Times @ 

Dr. Li Jiang (2 March 2023) "Survival Strategies in the Era of AI Taught by Stanford | Stanford AIRE Director". Yutube @ 

Kevin Scott (22 March 2023) "Bill Gates on AI and the rapidly evolving future of computing". Youtube @  [56 minutes]

The WAN Show (21 March 2023) " AI is Scaring Its Own Creators". Youtube @  [Thor, comment: This is really good]

Anna Tong (March 26, 2023) "AI company restores erotic role play after backlash from users ‘married’ to their bots". The Age @  [Quote: "The company’s recent removal of adult content devastated many users, some of whom considered themselves “married” to their chatbot companions. .. Replika’s chatbots are powered by generative AI, a new technology that has attracted a frenzy of consumer and investor interest due to its ability to foster humanlike interactions. The removal of erotic role play and subsequent customer outcry showed how powerfully AI technology can draw people in, and the emotional havoc that code changes can wreak".
>> Thor, comment: Love substitutes never cease to amaze me. Many are not sentient, or even high tech: "A golden elm near Punt Road, South Yarra, is the most popular tree in the City of Melbourne. Every tree was given an email address by the city council, via the Urban Forest Visual website, to help with maintenance, but people started sending love letters. This beautiful tree has received the most love". The Age @  ]

Jonathan Barrett and Stephanie Convery (27 Mar 2023) "Robot recruiters: can bias be banished from AI hiring? - A third of Australian companies rely on artificial intelligence to help them hire the right person. But studies show it’s not always a benign intermediary". The Guardian @ 

Will Pavia (March 27, 2023) "You want a piece of cheesecake? Let me just turn on the printer". The Australian @  [Quote: "A drawback of food printing is that you have to use pastes. An advantage is that you can make things with extraordinary precision. In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl imagines a new type of television that broadcasts not only pictures but actual chocolate bars viewers at home can pluck from their TV set. Digital food manufacturers could offer something similar during commercial breaks. “A QR code pops up on the screen, it says: "Check out this’,” Blutinger said. “You take a picture of it, send it to your machine, it prints it for you.”]

Jyoti Narayan, Krystal Hu, Martin Coulter and Supantha Mukherjee (March 30, 2023) "Elon Musk and others urge AI pause, citing ‘risks to society’". The Age @  [Quote: "Earlier this month, Microsoft-backed OpenAI unveiled the fourth iteration of its GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) AI program, which has wowed users with its vast range of applications, from engaging users in human-like conversation to composing songs and summarising lengthy documents. The letter, issued by the non-profit Future of Life Institute and signed by more than 1000 people including Musk, called for a pause on advanced AI development until shared safety protocols for such designs were developed, implemented and audited by independent experts".]

The 4th Industrial Revolution  (c) Thor May 2023

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