Industry 4.0 is upon us.
Industry 4.0 is a manufacturing regime characterized by the heavy use of automation, data analytics, next-generation sensor tech, and machine learning apps embedded in “cyber-physical" industrial platforms. The result is a smart industrial system in which data science leads to tangible results on the shop floor — a system that functions with unprecedented levels of efficiency, flexibility, and suppleness.
Industry 4.0 promises to generate a massive new wave of human productivity. But every previous chapter in industry's ongoing evolution did that, too, from Industry 1.0 (the original steam-powered “Industrial Revolution" that we learned about in school), to Industry 2.0 (which saw the advent of the assembly line and mass electrification), to Industry 3.0 (which was powered by analog computing). The difference is that how we make things in this latest evolution should be dramatically more environmentally favorable.
This promises to be a coup for human ingenuity, severing the link between productivity and negative environmental impact. But what exactly would an Industry 4.0 economy look like? The following notes offer a glimpse.