How Will the 4th Industrial Revolution Pan out?

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Saturday, March 4th, 2017

Jung Yeon-tae, Chairman of the 4th Industrial Revolution Policy Forum

The fourth industrial revolution is largely propped up by two pillars: the convergence between smokestack industries and ICTs and the birth of completely new industry sectors.

From an industrial point of view, preexisting industries will be upgraded by embracing ICTs while new types of industries will emerge.

Various kinds of sensor technologies will be developed; ICT systems that can control theses sensors will also be developed simultaneously.

The word ‘convergence’ has been frequently used since Al Gore, the 45th Vice President of the United States, coined the term “Information Superhighway’ back in 1992 when the Clinton Administration began. Most people thought that the Information Superhighway project was all about physically connecting states and cities via fiber optic cables. However, few knew that the ultimate goal of the Information Superhighway project was to upgrade existing industries through ICT convergence and to create new industry sectors.

The Information Superhighway project began with the ambitious goal of turning the US into a new economic superpower by building information superhighways for the convergence between smokestack industries and ICTs.

Meanwhile, in Germany, to prevent hemorrhaging millions of manufacturing jobs to China and India, Industrie 4.0 - Smart Manufacturing For The Future, a far-reaching national initiative centered on the convergence between manufacturing and ICTs, was launched by the German government.

In a similar vein, concepts like smart city, smart apartment complex and smart car have been developed. Factories became automated and equipped with various kinds of sensors, thereby greatly pushing up productivity as well as efficiency. As such, the 4th industrial revolution has originated from the US and Germany.

Another pillar is made up of drones, robots, the IoT, AI, 3D printing, autonomous cars and big data analytics - new industries that were almost unthinkable in the past. These new industries have been powered by sensor technologies. Thus, there is no doubt sensor technology is one of the key components of the 4th industrial revolution. Those who come out with more advanced sensor technologies in a faster manner will rule the roost.

To have a better understanding of sensor technology, we first need to understand the five senses (sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste) and the 6th sense, and then the 7th consciousness (Manas-vijnana) and the eighth consciousness (alaya-vijnana). Also, we need to take an imaginative approach towards the five human senses and other senses. In other words, humans are unable to understand the realms beyond the reach of the five senses.

If humans had more than the five senses, we would be able to dig deeper into the unknown world. Thus, when we see a phenomenon that goes beyond the five senses, we call it supernatural, paranormal or miraculous. We simply dismiss things that we don’t understand as miracles. However, there are animals and plants that have super sensors that overpower humans.

There is a limit to the five human senses, as well as to the sixth sense, which can be developed by heightening our five senses. Our sense of vision is clearly not without certain limitations. We have developed telescopes to make faraway objects appear much closer and microscopes and electron microscopes to see viruses and bacteria.

The human hearing range is commonly between 20 and 20,000Hz. Flying supersonic aircraft create very loud noise called a sonic boom, which is so loud that it can break glass windows. However, it is still imperceptible to humans. The Earth is so big that it’s silly to compare the size of the Earth with that of a supersonic aircraft. The speed of the Earth's orbit around the Sun is incomparably faster than that of supersonic aircraft. Still, humans cannot hear or perceive anything about it because the Earth produces ultrasonic waves that cannot be heard by the human ear.

However, there are animals with a super sense of hearing like whales. Whales thousands of kilometres apart communicate directly with each other. Compared to other animals, humans have a relatively underdeveloped sense of smell. Four-legged animals rely heavily on their sense of smell to find food. Thus, they have naturally developed an extraordinary sense of smell. However, we lost our sense of smell when we began to walk upright.

We may have a highly developed sense of taste compared to other animals. Unlike other animals, we have been cooking food and developing food processing technologies to create new tastes. As a result, we are living in a world of a wide variety of tastes and flavors, relishing our highly developed taste buds with cooked foods.

We use our sixth sense, the ability of the subconscious mind to analyze data in a fraction of a second, to add up signals sent by the five senses to the brain and make judgments. Therefore, sensor technology will be further developed in two ways: sensors that can improve the five human senses will be developed, and/or sensors that imitate the 7th consciousness (Manas-vijnana) and the eighth consciousness (alaya-vijnana), classifications developed in the tradition of the Yogacara school of Buddhism, and even the 9th and 10th senses that humans cannot acquire. Once sensor technologies have reached such advanced levels, we will be able to debunk unexplained miracles and unlock the mysteries of space and the divine realm.

We cannot see gases like CO2 that have neither color nor odor. However, special gas sensors detect the presence of gases by a color change. If new cutting-edge sensors that can extend our sensory perceptions of the world, we will gain knowledge in ways that go well beyond the five senses.

Big data analytics is a kind of super sensor that goes beyond the five senses because big data analytics enables us to predict the developments of epidemics and disease outbreaks and the future. Artificial intelligence (AI) can be referred to as the 6th sense in that AI replaces human consciousness and judgments. In that sense, Google DeepMind's AlphaGo program will someday have to takes on another AI Go master, not a human Go master. Advances in artificial intelligence, an evolutionary algorithm, could result in robot wars. AI arms race will continue to heat up as the purpose and value of robots are dictated by how smart your robot is.

To make a breakthrough in such areas, we need to create an environment where people with a strong academic background in electronic engineering, biology, zoology, aerospace engineering, philosophy, religion or humanities put their heads together to carry out research and turn their imagination into reality.

Lastly, the development of ICT systems that can control such high-performance sensors should go hand in hand with efforts to develop sensor technology. Sensor control technologies will be developed in consideration of human behaviors and habits to enhance convenience. Thus, sensor control systems will feature voice commands for hands-free control of devices. As a result, voice recognition technology is likely to be taken to new heights.

In that sense, developing such sensors cannot be done singlehandedly by the private sector. The government should roll up its sleeves and set up systems and institutions that support the provision of financial resources and promote and nurture talent.