But don’t worry. 

No, really. 

Digital transformation has been happening for a while, but it hasn’t made us redundant. 

Looking back, we can see four distinct technological revolutions. It all began almost exactly 300 years ago when the first automated weaving loom was developed in France. We’re now getting robots to prepare our hospital rooms. How did we get here and so fast? Is this cause for concern or room for creativity?

Mechanics over Manpower – the Industrial Revolution

In 1725, the weaving loom paved the way for incredible technological progress throughout the mid-1700s to mid-1800s. Hand production turned to mechanical processes, and instead of performing repetitive and menial tasks, physical labour was channelled into developing more efficient ways to complete them. Industry became about efficiency and imagination – how could we do this task better, more quickly and more consistently? 

Connectedness and Productivity – the Technological Revolution

By the late 1800s, the railroad was in full swing, the telegraph was gaining popularity as a quick way to communicate, and electricity was starting to be widely rolled out. Heavy-duty tasks like refining steel and petroleum were done mechanically, en mass – these materials had become crucial for the booming industry and all the machines being built. The assembly line was a popular tool. Production had become faster, more reliable and more uniform – and was scaleable. Work was simpler and less tiring. 

Information and Internet – the Digital Revolution

The snowball of industrial development was interrupted by two world wars, but by the late 1900s, the wars were over; the world was recovering. Electricity was normal and was used to simplify all kinds of administration and calculations. Cars replaced horses, so the streets were no longer clogged up with, well, sh*t. 

Computers were used in industry and production, but also in the home. Eventually, mobiles and smartphones made information instantly accessible, wherever you were. The telegraph had morphed into the Internet, linking people and information globally in a way that had never been seen before. Information sharing was quick, simple, and extraordinarily broad. With such efficient devices, work was far more streamlined and cohesive.

Automation and Imagination – “Industry 4.0”

Today we’re able to go even further to remove monotony, sweat and the inconsistency that comes with human error. We’re living in what’s been dubbed the ‘fourth industrial revolution.’ Information sharing is becoming automated in the ‘internet of things,’ where sensors and software communicate in the background for us. Basic decisions can now be made on our behalf, like robots that receive a signal that a hospital room needs preparing and then get on and do it for us. The decisions that we do make can be far more informed, as we now have quick and easy access to data that we haven’t had before. 

All the mechanical and technological progress we’ve made so far is channelled into the workplace – machines complete manufacturing for us, communication is instant, and information is being collected and transmitted faster and wider than ever before. 

Are we being replaced?

No! Jobs have been replaced by technology ever since the very first industrial revolution, but humans haven’t been replaced. Work will always need doing, but as technology develops, the nature of that work changes. That’s been the pattern for the last two centuries – with every revolution, the employment landscape has changed. Whole industries and sectors have developed over the last few centuries, and the skills and talents of people can be harnessed in a far more specialised way.

Technology and robotics remove many repetitive and physically draining tasks, allowing much more space for our creativity and imagination. Tech helps us get our ideas out there and to execute them quickly and consistently. 

Still not convinced?

Technology has undoubtedly created dramatic shifts in the way we work, play and connect. For many, automation and artificial intelligence raise serious moral, societal and economic concerns. Technostress, automation anxiety and the digital divide are all realities.

That’s why education, curiosity and being prepared is so important. We need to understand the tools to move past our fears of them. We need to grasp and plan for their threats and benefits. We need to have the hard-hitting conversations and improve digital access and literacy wherever we can.

At Target State, we don’t shy away from these challenges. Instead, we stay engaged with trends and emerging risks and opportunities to reduce the complexity that surrounds digital transformation. The result? We help you develop and execute strategies based on the latest, reliable information.

Contact us today if you’re ready to take the leap and navigate technological change in your organisation.

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