The birth of a new decade often brings hype and hope in equal measure. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the current vogue for Industry 4.0 – an umbrella term for new technologies enabled by advances in computing, materials and automation. Think quantum computing, self-driving lorry fleets, smart drone deliveries and the end of the fossil fuel economy – and that’s just for starters.
But just how transformative will these changes really be?
One school of thought says the technological gains of today are evolutionary and incremental when compared with earlier, truly game-changing waves of innovation. Consider the impact of electrification, the internal combustion engine, flight, modern medicine, and long range-telecommunications – all of which were invented or popularised in the 20th century.
Perhaps the truth lies somewhere between the two extremes. Yes – some of the claims being made for Industry 4.0 will likely come out in the wash over the next decade or two, but look beneath the hype and it’s clear we could be on the threshold of momentous change.
Shamik Dhar, chief economist, BNY Mellon Investment Management.