Industrial Revolution 4.0, digitalization, Internet of Things, startups, social networks, e-banking...
Large percentage of population in Serbia needs a glossary of technical terms to realize what you are saying. Yet, the aforementioned stuff became our reality and every day life.
Where to start from, how to understand and adapt?
Is it too late for me perhaps?
Those are the questions people ask themseves, especially at certain age (40+).
We have already addressed the generation gap , young people are pretty familiar with it, but what are we older guys supposed to do?
In order to understand immense changes that occurred and are still underway, we have to start from the changes that unnoticeably entered our lives in the 21st century.
We will imagine a realistic situation for this purpose.
Winners of revolution 4.0
The year of 2018. Dr Mozgov is a brain surgeon. He lives in Belgrade, 38 years of age. He has just received an invitation to attend the neurosurgery conference in Paris. He has one month left until the conference. During that period, he has a lot of things to do.
To make his life easier, he compiles a check list. Let's see how Dr Mozgov eventually tackled each item on the check list:
- check the conference agenda and learn something about the keynote speakers: he logged in on the conference website, downloaded the agenda, found speakers' profiles on LinkedIn and familiarized himself with the topics on the agenda, he stored everything both on his phone and his tablet
- pay the conference fee: he paid it from his PayPal account, as the organizers do not accept card payments on the conference website
- buy plane tickets: he booked a return ticket through a low-cost airline Wizz Air, he paid online and downloaded the vouchers on his cell phone
- book the accommodation: he booked accommodation through AirBnB, found an apartment in the vicinity of the conference venue, he glanced at the Google Street View to make sure the neighbourhood in the 5th arrondissement is nice and safe
- book a cab to the airport: he logged into his CarGo account and booked a vehicle for the departure date
- book a cab in Paris from the airport to the apartment: he installed Uber mobile app, connected it to his payment card, he will find a car on his arrival in Paris, at the best price
- prepare foreign currency (EUR) for Paris: he exchanged dinars to EUR 300 equivalent in a virtual exchange office over his e-banking account, and deposited the whole sum to his online FX account
- buy tickets for some museums: he bought the tickets for Musee Orsay online, he will pick them up at the entrance without having to wait in queues.
- bring conference material: he transferred the presentations and documents to his Google Drive. He can load them either from his phone or from his laptop, just in case he also packed a USB memory stick as a backup
- bring something to read at your free time: Kindle e-reader packed
- buy a new laptop bag: he ordered Boban ransack over the geekshop, it arrives tomorrow.
- pay bills before you go: he paid them in advance, and put December 15th as the pay date, when he will be at the conference
- check out the weather forecast: he asked Google assistant who replied that it will be chilly, but dry and sunny. It will notify me every morning of the forecast for the upcoming period.
As we can see, dr Mozgov has successfully executed and ticked off (n) items from the list, without even leaving his home, thanks to his computer and the Internet!
And he could just as well do it on his smart phone from any place, sitting in a cafe for instance.
On top of that, he didn't use banknotes, didn't make a single phone call, didn't spend a dime on paying fees, charges or printing documents, and apart from his electronic devices and personal items he carries nothing to the conference.
And last but not the least important - it took him less than one hour to complete everything!
If our friend, dr Mozgov, could get some 20-30 years back in time, in a time machine, it would take him long hours of waiting at various desks, numerous phone calls and he could not be relaxed until the very last moment.
Not to mention the weight of his luggage and all the things he would have to carry, paperwork and documents, hoping he would not forget something important.
It may be deduced that the changes that occurred were tremendous. We are often not aware of it, especially those of us who are sufficiently computer literate.
The paradox of choice
Be careful what you wish for, lest it come true!old Chinese proverb
It is in human nature to explore, to move the boundaries of own capacities. It is the consequence of evolution and brain development, especially the abstract way of thinking and imagination.
Owing to that, a rapid development of science and technology ensued, particularly over the past 200 years.
Man is trying to optimize his work and achieve higher results with less efforts and energy. That is why we now have air traffic, a space program, information technologies, modern medicine, the list is endless.
The comfort resulting from such efforts is unprecedented in the history of mankind.
Although we are always nostalgic about the past, the fact is that it was never as comfortable, safe and abundant as it is now. I know that many of you frown as you read these lines, invoking a number of arguments refuting these claims, but the facts and statistics speak for themselves.
If you would like to find more about this, I suggest you read the book Enlightment Now by Steven Pinker. Using numerous statistics data and graphs, the author tries to reasonably and pragmatically prove that the current era is actually the best ever in human history.
I had certain difficulties to fully agree with dr Pinker about some things, as he is obviously advocating the cause of large capital, acting apologetic concerning the neo-liberal capitalism.
But the message I derived is that we should really live in the present moment and we should not allow anyone take away the joy of living. Negative thoughts, apathy and irrational fears can be mostly attributed to the influence of mass media and news we are bombarded with.
However, although we are living in the golden age according to Steven Pinker, it is not enough to stop wondering whether everything is really so nice.
In the example of dr Mozgov, we have seen how many breakthroughs digital technologies have brought. How much it is easier to us to make purchases, to organize travels, to save both time and money.
The real question is how comes that people have never been in such a shortage of time besides all these benefits and facilities. What has technology taken from us?
It has taken away our focus, spare time, imagination and creativity and equipped us with devices to decide for us instead. They decide what and how we consume, who we spend our time with and how we make choices.
Barry Shwartz, American psychologist, in his book and TED talk, explains the phenomenon of "paradox of choice".
Market economy and capitalism have put the consumers before a huge, but difficult choice. Store's shelves are full of versatile goods, you have this and that, literally everything you can imagine.
However, such an extensive choice actually makes us very vulnerable. We need hell of a lot of time to make even the easiest decisions. Just remember how difficult it is to choose a chocolate in a supermarket, for instance, or a beer, a mince pie, whatever.
A great choice and increased purchase power have brought us in an analysis-paralysis situation. To be more precise, before immense choice, we get locked up and it is more difficult to make a decision.
With the emergence of the Internet and online shops, things got pretty messed up. I have recently got stuck browsing Aliexpress to find a proper phone holder for my car, the price of which is mere EUR 1.5!!! A mere piece of plastic...
What makes me blocked is immeasurable choice and fear that I will miss a better offer, that I will see a prettier, cheaper and better phone holder in one of my friend's car and that it would make me pissed for not choosing that one in particular.
What is even worse, browsing a virtual shop window is made so simple and easy, even fun, that it is very hard to resist. It would be understandable if I wanted to buy a drone or a camera, but it is quite worrying that we spend so much time choosing so trivial stuff.
Dr Swartz says that when we have to make a choice in an enormous offer, the horizon of our expectations is raised, we keep thinking about that which we lose once we opt for something. We are worried about so-called opportune costs, or missed opportunities.
Such way of thinking is then transferred to personal life, decisions related to jobs, romantic relationships, friends. They keep telling us that the choice is huge and only ours. That is a pure consumerism at work,, which eventually makes us sad and depressed.
The solution might be to lower the threshold of expectations and our appetites and to stop thinking too much about infinite choice, but rather to decide as soon as possible, as our time is priceless.
Losers of the 4th industrial revolution
It is without doubt that technological changes have made our lives easier and more comfortable. We are no longer sentenced to waiting in queues, everything can be done at our homes, the only thing important is to have our bank accounts topped up.
However, it is well-known that every revolution eats its children, and that every revolution has its losers who are forced to adapt and accept new values.
What will happen to the losers of transition in this revolution 4.0? Is there any hope for them? Do they still have time?
The biggest loser of the 4th industrial revolution is beyond any doubt nature and the planet Earth. The environment is the greatest victim of our ongoing progress. But the consequences of human actions deserve a text of its own, which you can read by clicking the following link.
For now, we will focus on people. Serbia in particular.
A large number of people in Serbia belong more to the 20th century by their habits and behaviour, some of them even the 19th c. They have just managed somehow to adapt to the 3rd revolution, and they been abruptly pushed to the 4th one.
Even before you instinctively start judging and ridiculing them, ask yourself if it is fair and right.
What are we going to do with our grandparents who are still afraid of ATMs, let alone smart phones? How to include them in new trends, if it is possible after all? Are they sentenced to isolation and can we help hem bridge that huge gap?
Computer literacy in Serbia is still rather low, so that the above differences are still not felt that much and the government does not feel prompted to work towards preventing adverse effects of digitalization, since it is so much focused on positive effects alone.
But it changes rapidly and they will have to do something to include these digitally vulnerable categories in the reforms.
I am getting the impression that a computer illiterate citizen in Belgrade is in much more difficult situation in 2019 than the citizens in 1945, who happened to be in Belgrade during the liberation, on condition that he lived to see it and that he was not labelled a traitor (as testified in the novels written by Serbian writer Slobodan Selenic).
We should wonder how judgmental we are towards such people and how much we actually discriminate them.
I'd dare say that such type of discrimination is so present and strong, that it overrides the known types of discrimination towards same-sex relationships, racial, religious, etc. Digitalization is a new religion, successfully reconciling all social, religious, cultural and other diversities.
It is something that none of the known religions or myth managed to do. The system still functions only because we have not torn apart all fibres that we are physically and spiritually tethered with to the earth and nature.
The moment such ties are disconnected, analogue people will face the destiny of all other dissidents and rebels throughout the history.
In order to prevent that, we must reinforce such ties and to make efforts to preserve our true nature, and on the other hand to help all digitally vulnerable people to catch up with the progress and not to feel as useless and unwanted burden...