Fourth Industrial Revolution: RSTV – In Depth

Rajya Sabha TV programs like ‘The Big Picture’, ‘In Depth’ and ‘India’s World’ are informative programs that are important for UPSC preparation. In this article, you can read about the discussions held in the ‘In Depth’ episode on the Fourth Industrial Revolution for the IAS exam.

Anchor: Smriti Rastogi

Why in the news?

  • The Fourth Industrial Revolution is a term that defines our present technological age.
  • It is the fourth industrial era since the initial industrial revolution of the 18th century. Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave an institutional shape to the expression, by launching the center for the 4th industrial revolution- which is an initiative of the World Economic Forum.
  • This will initially focus on artificial intelligence, and machine learning.
  • These are the key elements of the fourth industrial revolution that are the fusion of technologies, ranging from physical to digital to biological spheres, and is marked by diverse technological breakthroughs that bring together the fields of robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, biotechnology, and a host of others.
  • In short, the fourth industrial revolution describes the huge changes brought about by smart technologies.
  • This edition of In-depth will look at all these areas, and also the journey of India and the world that has brought us to the present stage of humankind’s industrial evolution.

Larger Background:

  • India became the fourth country in the world, where the World Economic Forum (WEF) opened its Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution India.
  • With this, India is about to embark on a massive digital and technological transformation.
  • Speaking at the launch recently, Prime Minister Modi said that the Government has taken major initiatives for the fourth industrial revolution, over the last four years.
  • Taking a giant leap towards becoming a technologically advanced and digitally empowered economy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution India recently.
  • Prime Minister Modi said that his government is open to policy changes to help reap the benefits of the new Centre.
  • He added that it has opened doors to infinite possibilities for India.
  • The Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution India was setup by the World Economic Forum as part of a network that includes the USA, China and Japan.
  • The Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution India would work in collaboration with the NITI Aayog, to co-design new policies and protocols for emerging technologies with an initial focus on artificial intelligence, block-chain technology and drones.
  • Prime Minister Modi said that the components of the fourth industrial revolution will change the nature of jobs and provide more opportunities to the youth.
  • He asserted that the revolution will take India to newer heights.
  • Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, the Internet of Things (IoT), Block Chain Technology, Big Data, can act as a catalyst towards taking India’s growth story to newer heights.
  • It can also create many employment opportunities and can make the lives of every Indian better.
  • Prime Minister Modi exuded confidence that India’s contribution to the next industrial revolution would be astonishing.
  • The Prime Minister informed that the Government is working to improve people’s lives and prepare the youth for changing technologies through schemes like Skill India, Startup India, Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), Digital India, and others.
  • He also listed areas where the fourth industrial revolution can help in transforming India like in the fields such as:
  1. Poverty alleviation;
  2. Better and low-cost healthcare;
  3. Enhancing farmers’ income by providing them with new technology and equipment
  4. It will strengthen infrastructure and improve connectivity to every last village
  5. Artificial intelligence can be used to empower and enable differently-abled people.
  6. It will improve the ease of living and the ease of doing business;

  • India has recently announced its drone policy as well, which will enable drone-mapping and other applications as per the fourth industrial revolution.
  • The fourth industrial revolution is sometimes referred to as “Industry 4.0”. It ushers in a series of social, political, economic, and cultural upheavals, that will unfold over the 21st Century.

Different Stages of the Industrial Revolution:

  • Human history has been one big roller coaster ride. First, we discovered fire, then agriculture, wheels, then factories and trading which were followed by steam power, electricity and mass production. Then came the age of computers, the internet, gene-editing, block chain, self-driving cars, and artificial intelligence, to neuro-technological brain enhancements.
  • The evidence of dramatic change is all around us and it is occurring at an exponential speed. The industrial revolution was one of the most significant game-changing periods of human history.
  • Also termed as the industrial age, it was a period of immense technological, socio-economic and cultural changes. This period introduced mass production and replaced hand tools with machines.
  • The first and the second stages of the industrial revolution span a period from 1760 till 1914.
  • It is widely agreed to have begun in England and later spread to Europe and then to other countries.
  • Previous industrial revolutions liberated human-kind from animal power, made mass-production possible, and brought digital capabilities to billions of people.
  • The third industrial revolution used electronics and information technology to automate production.
  • The third industrial revolution created the foundational infrastructure for an emerging, collaborative age. The fourth industrial revolution is built on the third.
  • The fourth industrial revolution is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres. It is meant to impact all disciplines, economies and industries, and it even challenges the idea of what it means to be human.
  • According to Professor Klaus Martin Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, and author of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”, the new age is differentiated by the speed of technological breakthroughs, the pervasiveness of scope and the tremendous impact of new systems.
  • In the fourth industrial revolution, the process is moving from electronic towards becoming a combination of human beings and electronics. Thus, processes like artificial intelligence have broken the distinction between man, machine and intelligence.
  • The fourth industrial revolution is marked by emerging technology breakthroughs in a number of fields, including robotics, artificial intelligence; block chain, Nano-technology, quantum computing, biotechnology, the Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing, and autonomous vehicles.
  • Like most software applications and electronic devices, the industry 4.0 refers to a software revision meant to indicate the overall shift towards digital platforms. Modern digital technologies and applications transform nearly every industry and sector, including medical, energy, manufacturing and retail.
  • As these fundamental transformations are underway, it is in our hands to proactively shape the 4th industrial revolution.
  • The 4th industrial revolution can be moulded towards being inclusive and human-centered.
  • This revolution can be looked at as an opportunity to unite global communities and to build sustainable economies.
  • The 4th industrial revolution is therefore not a prediction of the future, but a call to action.

An Indian Perspective:

  • The industrial revolution came late to India due to its complicated political and economic relationship with Great Britain. Although India, which was a British colony, dominated the global cotton textile markets in the 18th Century, the Indian textile industry took a hit when the Industrial Revolution began in Great Britain.
  • India was famous for her handicrafts right from the pre-British times.
  • In the Mughal period, India had a considerable variety of arts and handicrafts.
  • In several handicrafts, specialization of jobs had advanced to such an extent that particular classes of artisans, undertook distinct processes, and the finished products had a huge demand in foreign markets.
  • However, the industrial revolution as it is known in the rest of the world, came late to India.
  • This was mainly due to India’s complicated political and economic relationship with Great Britain.
  • Although India, which was a British colony, dominated the global cotton textile markets in the 18th Century, the Indian textile industry took a hit when the Industrial Revolution began in Great Britain.
  • The use of steam power in British mills reduced the cost of British cotton by 85%, making its textile goods internationally competitive for the first time.
  • Britain quickly became a leading world exporter of textiles, displacing India in the process.
  • In addition, in order to protect its new textile industry, Great Britain began to restrict its textile imports from India and other countries, by establishing tariffs and other protective policies.
  • Great Britain began to export its own textiles to India. This led to India’s de-industrialization.
  • British lawmakers pushed India towards becoming more agrarian than an industrialized nation.
  • New colonial laws forced Indian farmers to devote fields to cotton crops, instead of food and this led to widespread famine and poverty in India.
  • The industrial revolution was in fact the worst period for the Indian economy.
  • The industrial revolution reversed India’s economic relationship with Great Britain, to make it predominantly a supplier of raw material for Great Britain and an importer of British textiles instead of a producer of textile goods.
  • Unfortunately, India was only able to capture a part of the third industrial revolution and not the full measure of it. Our production processes had not really become smart and there were still a lot of legacy issues that crippled us.
  • During the 1st stage of the industrial revolution (which was around the 1760’s or so), India missed the bus. At this stage the political system in India was in a stage of transition. Europe occupied a position of ascendancy. In the second phase of the industrial revolution, what happened was that we (India) were still under the colonial masters and we were not really able to capture the benefits of the second industrial revolution as well.
  • By the time the third phase of the industrial revolution had come, we had become an independent country, and we did capture some of the value-add, but it is only now that because of the advantage that is created by the young population; and that our industrial processes have become smarter; the fact that India is now an IT powerhouse that we can now hope and aspire to capture the full benefit of the industrial revolution.
  • It is important to note that India took decades before it started adopting modern industrial practices, like steam power and mechanized spinning and weaving in its textile manufacturing.

A Note of the Industrial Revolution in India:  

  • The industrial revolution came to India in 1854, when the first steam powered cotton mill in Asia, opened in Bombay.
  • The growth was slow and the expansion of these modernised cotton mills, didn’t pick up until the 1870’s, and 1880’s.
  • By 1870, there will 13 mills in Bombay.
  • Cotton exports grew during the American civil war, when supplies from the US were interrupted.
  • At the end of 1895, there were 70 mills in India; growing to 83 in 1915. A period of stagnation set in during the recession of the 1920’s.
  • In 1925, there were 81 mills in the city.
  • After World War II, under strong competition from Japan, the number of mills declined. In 1953, there remained only 53 mills in the city.
  • The third industrial revolution or the digital revolution refers to the advancement of technology from analog electronic and mechanical devices to the digital technology available today. The era started during the 1980’s, and is on-going.
  • Advancements during the third industrial revolution include the personal computer, the internet, and information and communications technology.
  • The first industrial revolution used water and steam to mechanize production.  The second industrial revolution used electric energy to create mass production.
  • The third industrial revolution used electronics and information technology to automate production.
  • The Fourth Industrial revolution announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is based more on Big Data, and Artificial Intelligence.
  • The industrial revolution took place over a period of roughly 250 years, starting in 1760 in England. The process of industrialization quickly spread across Europe and the world, and is still on-going today.
  • The technologies range from textile manufacturing innovations like the flying shuttle to the enormous steam engine driven ocean-going ships of the period.
  • Economists widely acknowledge Great Britain as the birthplace, and leading force of the industrial revolution. The industrial revolution started in Britain during the 18th Century. It soon brought enormous benefits and in the years to follow, established it as the largest empire of the world. The industrial revolution is estimated to have started in around 1760, in England.
  • Until then, industry in Britain took place in small foundries, or people’s homes. These cottage industries were hugely labour intensive, with merchants supplying raw materials and collecting finished products later.
  • The process was inefficient. Supply was erratic as the self-employed workers often had their own schedules. However, several key innovations changed all that. One was the “Spinning Jenny” invented by James Hargreaves in 1764. This was followed by Samuel Crompton’s Spinning Mule.
  • Edmund Cartwright invented the power loom in 1780 and the improvements in the textile industry spurred developments in the other fields such as the iron industry. Cheap and easy cast iron production led to easier processes to produce steel.
  • Soon iron and steel became the essential materials for the revolution that helped make everything from cooking appliances to ships effective. The late 1700’s saw the revolution going into hyper drive with the ground-breaking steam engine, steam locomotives and ships.
  • In Europe, the industrial revolution took place sometime after the United Kingdom. It was mainly inspired by the growth of technology, wealth and power of the British. Aspiring European nations quickly began to import steam engines with the help of British engineers and industrialists. New engines were used in France, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Sweden, and other western nations. The pace of the industrialization depended on the local resources, political will and socio-economic situation of each individual European country. The industrial revolution spread to all corners of the British Empire, and took root in the United States in the 1870’s, after the American Civil War between 1861-1865.
  • The socio-economic and technological growth that followed is often termed as the second industrial revolution.
  • The end of the civil war led to a significant change transforming America from primarily an agrarian society to an industrial one. With the end of slavery, machines replaced traditional ways of production. Better transportation in the form of railroads brought goods and labour and in turn, this helped inventors and entrepreneurs to find new markets for innovations and investments.

Some of the important innovations:

  1. Steam Engine
  2. Flying Shuttle
  3. Spinning Jenny
  4. Cotton Gin
  5. The Telegraph
  6. Portland Cement
  7. Modern Roads
  8. Bessemer Process
  9. Steam Locomotives
  10. Power Loom
  11. Camera
  12. Typewriter
  13. Dynamo
  • In Japan, the first half of the 19th Century, saw the decline of the Japanese Shogunate and the abolition of feudalism.
  • In 1870, this was followed by the establishment of an overall economic policy, and operation of certain industries. Model factories were created. By 1889, private enterprise was soon involved in the growing economy, especially in textiles. By the 1890’s, huge industrial combines were formed. These changes fuelled a growing nationalism.
  • By the 1900’s, the successive waves of the industrial revolution boosted growth of the global economy by as much as 14 times. Per capita income increased four-fold. There was rapid urbanization and increasing demand for labour.
  • Overcrowding in cities led to greater demand for infrastructure and healthcare. It also paved the road for revolutionary changes in socio-economic, geo and domestic political changes, scientific advancements and new ways of thinking of ushering in the modern age.

Read more Gist of Rajya Sabha TV to help you ace current affairs in the IAS exam.

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