The Digital Age, 4th Industrial Revolution

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From Crisis to Opulence : The Future in the Digital Age

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Abstract

The CEO of one of the world’s largest companies, Siemens AG, says : “ The Fourth Industrial Revolution is not just about technology or business. It’s about society.” Joe Kaeser, President & CEO

Survival on this planet depends on us, the actions of the people who inhabit a finite earth. The actions of people create harmony or dis-harmony, balance or imbalance, wellness or unwellness in our physical environment. Our thoughts and decisions are the genesis of actions, that influence and create the environment we live in, good or bad. Building a society then, capable of mitigating the severe threats, potentially destructive to Earth, to ensure our future and our survival is a prime directive. Apart from other times and ages, at our disposal now, is Technology as a means of mitigating against these threats. Much depends on how it is used. How it is used depends on the intellect’s capability to discern value to Earth and the ability to create a powerful, discerning intellect depends on the value system that emerges the innate virtues in mankind. The power to judge whether actions are good or bad for this planet will determine that quality of the action taken. Mans intellectual capability then, with technology now become the tools for saving this planet. Ultimately then mankind is responsible for its own actions and utilizing options in technology to effect meaningful change has always been available. Mans own interpretations of usefulness will result in the good or bad society and civilization, in a new age. The promise of the digital world, is real and already influencing thought, innovation, and creativity.


Introduction

The phenomenon of Artificial Intelligence (AI) “The science of programming cognitive abilities into machines” is likened to the invention of electricity, the energy which powers this globe’s economy. The far reaching scope of Alternative Energy to power AI is only now beginning to emerge. The emergence of electricity in the 2nd Industrial Revolution, transformed our lives in ways previously unimaginable but it also created massive global problems as its reliance on fossil fuels increased.

AI, in this the 4th Industrial Revolution is also going to change our world tremendously. Massive energy output is needed though but the difference between then and now is the fact that alternative energy is cleaner and sustainable and now harnessable. Sustainable because alternative energy utilizes resources that are renewable and non-diminishing such as air, sun, wind and wave. Harnessing these energy sources will create a new environment and create new ways of thinking and logic in a world shaped by technology, a nirvana, if you will. The transition successfully, into this new existence whilst AI reaches this point of dominance in a value -based society, utilizing the capability of technology to effectively culture such will entail many changes. Such a society will eliminate waste and pollution, promulgate and culture healthy lifestyles and living, restoring balance and harmony to this world. The transition will determine Earth’s future but the challenge of overcoming the necessary changes in thinking, acting and sustaining is great.

Defining the Issues

The Prime Minister of India, in speaking to the issues facing us globally, outlined what he believes to be three major threats : Climate Change, Terrorism and Anti-Globalization. “Many societies and countries are becoming more and more focused on themselves!” he said. Recents events at the latest G7 meeting in Canada seems to suggest this statement by PM Modi to hold some truth. The imposition of retaliatory tariffs by Canada also appears to validate PM Modi. China vows to retaliate as tariffs are imposed, and Canada is imposing tariffs. Mexico is also imposing tariffs on 3 billion worth of US exports, whilst the EU is also doing the same. It seems PM Modi is right, and it demonstrates the power of a global superpower, but where is it going to lead us? The fracturing of the global economy is not good, and it may very well be the cause of the uncertainty expressed by global CEOs, but it brings with it the opportunity to forge ahead with new opportunities for growth and development.

The issue of Climate Change is also global, requiring a global response. The Paris Agreement is a global response, to a global threat capable of causing problems of catastrophic proportions. Indeed, small island states will be wiped out, completely gone forever through climate change. In a documentary published by Deutsche Welle, on November 8th, 2017 in the Social Media platform YouTube, the island of Kiribati is battling for its very existence . Justifiably concerned The United Nations has in place several initiatives and programs dealing with the effect of greenhouse gases and how to improve and in this regard there are huge amounts of information to be found on the United Nations websites.

Climate change by its very definition is environmental in nature. The environment is under very severe threat and understanding its genesis is most relevant. Climate Change is about the increased temperatures being faced. Its about the melting of the icecaps which causes rise in sea levels, warming of major currents causing the rise of ocean surface temperatures gives rise to more destructive weather phenomena such as hurricanes. It’s about the high emissions of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. But that is only part of the understanding of the issue of climate change.

Fundamentally, then the answer to what causes the higher temperatures is needed. Higher temperatures are as a result of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the inability of the natural elements to reduce it. This creates the greenhouse effect and hence climate change. Industrial emissions from large and heavy industries, emission systems from cars and other such vehicles, large animal farms, garbage disposal all contribute significantly. Carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel and large industrial processes make up about 65% of the Global Greenhouse gas emissions. All of these emissions have roots in consumerism, and the industrial processes involved.

All of these processes are powered by electricity generated through coals and other fossil fuel. Approximately 80% of the world’s energy comes from fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) producing large amounts of pollution. The production of goods utilize mechanized and subtractive manufacturing resulting in huge amounts of emissions, effluent discharge and waste as a by-product. The indiscriminate and inefficient disposal of waste now creates further problems for the environment.

Christopher Stiener , in his book titled “$20 Per Gallon,” published in July 2009, pg. 163 states :

The breadth of products that come directly from petroleum is massive. Everything from milk jugs to laundry detergent to masking tape to perfume to mascaras to hand lotion to sunscreen to the insulation in a sleeping bag to the cushions in your couch, to the case of your computer to the eraser on your pencil to the ink in your pen. The list goes on forever.”

Manufacturing these products all use energy derived mainly from fossil fuels, The demand and markets are enormous for products in the West. The energy needed to produce these goods are fueled by energy that are high emitters of carbon dioxide and other atmospheric pollutants. All these products require plastics for packaging and production, generating the greenhouse gases that cause global warming.

Climate Change is triggered by greenhouse gas emissions that come from energy produced by fossil fuels, that pollute the land, the water courses and the oceans.

Pollution : a global threat!

Pollution is environmental and can be broadly placed in the context of pollution of the atmosphere, pollution of the oceans and pollution of the Land. In particular, the focus will be on pollution of the ocean.

The production of vast amounts of plastics ultimately finds its way into the ocean. The harmful effects on marine life (fish) digesting these pollutants are reaching catastrophic proportions, as mankind’s dependence on the sea for sustenance is vital for survival.

Marine Pollution : Crisis Point

Sir David Attenborough, world renowned scientist and naturalist say :”our seas is facing its greatest threat in human history as it struggles to survive against warming temperatures and unprecedented quantities of plastic waste.”

SavetheSea.org estimates :

More than 3.5 billion people depend on the ocean for their primary source of food. In 20 years, this number could double to 7 billion.

The World Bank says :

Oceans are also threatened by marine plastic pollution and each year, an estimated 8 million tons of plastic enter the oceans, with microplastics becoming part of the food chain. Scientists estimate that without urgent action, there could be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.  While complex, the issue of ocean plastic waste is a solvable challenge. Five countries are responsible for more than 50 percent of total plastic waste in the oceans (China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines, and Thailand). We also know that an estimated 80 percent of ocean plastic pollution originates from inadequate land-based solid waste management.”

Cleaning the world’s oceans then, is a priority to decrease this threat. But so too is the fact that the dependence of plastic has to be minimized. It takes a culture change in lifestyles to reduce demand, availability of alternatives and global action, as the Paris Agreement seeks to do. This change is already occurring as people become more aware of the plastic threat. Many organizations and social interest groups are raising awareness and executing strategies to effect plastic removal from the oceans. But this is not enough as lack of resources and awareness especially in the developing world are factors to be considered in the use of plastics.

In the meantime, the world moves relentlessly to a new existence, and the gap between then and now needs to be addressed. In January 2018, China banned the imports of non-industrial plastic waste, thus, in effect, saying to other countries : deal with your own waste. The additional pressure on small island states to deal with plastic waste is problematic since these countries lack the resources to recycle.

In this gap, we find emerging technologies that can disrupt those negative occurrences and cultures that threaten mankind’s survival. But in all these problems there are opportunities for solving these problems to create a better world.


4th Industrial Age Solutions

Technology providing answers to these problems.

3D Printing and Recyclying

The reality is that plastic can be recycled. Capturing the plastic trash for recycling is easily accomplished as have been demonstrated. Recycling plastic is a very powerful solution, as recycled material can be turned into domestic products. But that ecosystem can be further strengthened with 3D Printing, producing a cycle for the resultant plastic product. Industrialized, this environmental sector can be a wealth generator.

Recycled plastic can form the feedstock for use in 3D Printing for almost any application, in health, household, production. Recycling will form the Centre of an ecosystem involving society, business and government in creating new standards for living sustainably.

Alternative Energy

Households or factories operating fully on solar, wind or wave will reduce the demand for fossil fuel energy. The reduction of industrial emissions from large industrial processes can be effected with the use of these renewable energy options impacting positively on the environment. Clean energy is the cornerstone of mankind’s survival since our environment sustains life itself.

The cost of solar energy is decreasing, whilst wind and wave are abundant in small island states, and small island states who depend heavily on tourism for their economic survival, can benefit greatly.

Alternative energy will help to alleviate problems by decreasing the amount of gas emissions into the atmosphere thereby contributing to the reduction of the greenhouse effect. Reducing the carbon footprint is a major development goal of the United Nations and the “Greening the Blue” initiative.

Already the US, China and India are three leading countries in renewable energy as solar energy adoption rates are increasing exponentially. It is expected that these rates will further increase in the next few years to significantly impact global greenhouse gas emissions. The awareness of global population is also an enabler, as global online platforms disseminate information with very detailed data being provided. Social Media allows information to be delivered instantaneously causing rapid action to occur in the cause of mankind and civilization. Digital aged technology is contributing all-round to global recovery and the creation of a new way of living that purely benefits our society.

Technology is an enabler in this time of man made industrial pollution. However, the application of Digital Age Technologies can and will effectively reverse these negative effects. Clean energy, sustainable in its essence, provides the basis for such reversal and together with greater awareness, technology is no longer a short term fix. But it requires change. The new generation of Millennials, have gravitated towards these new approaches significantly, and will continue to evolve and emerge their desire for a better world. They will provide the impetus for change.

Technology has evolved far beyond, into the realm of of this generation and the longer term, deep horizon strategic approach for the betterment of the environment of planet Earth’s sustainability, enhancing life itself into a better place, is necessary…now!

Conclusion

Artificial intelligence has taken the world by storm in its application towards creating a better lifestyle. The introduction of artificial intelligence to drive robotics in shaping this world will assume major proportions in the battle against pollution of the oceans. The online publication of TechRepublic outlines four major technologies that can fight against the plastic pollution of the oceans. Amongst them are floating barriers, sea robots, smart nets and sea tagging. Other technologies in the near future are scuba droids, robo-tuna and robotics-jelly fish. The oceans need rescuing and the time for action is now.

The World Economic Forum concludes :

Our fate is inextricably linked to the fate of the oceans. Technological innovation on land has helped us immeasurably to clean up polluting industries, promote sustainable economic growth, and intelligently watch over changes in terrestrial ecosystems.

We now need ocean tech to do the same under the sea.

As the marine industrial revolution advances, we will need to lean heavily on innovation, ingenuity and disruptive tech to successfully take more from the ocean while simultaneously damaging them less.

Saving the oceans is an imperative to our survival as mankind moves through the gap between the present predicaments to an opulent world of comfort, happiness and prosperity. It is necessary to conclude that the world is not divided by oceans but rather it is connected by oceans, and a collective approach is needed.

Indeed, the Golden Age is one of Opulence and opulence is the absence of malevolence and the dominance of benevolence, abundant purity in lifestyle, and the environment. The Opulence of a life of bliss, is stress free living, pristine natural environment, a balanced, healthful life, and respectful, harmonious existence. Reaching Opulence requires the filling of the divide, a crossing using technology to overcome the obstacles and challenges faced with the facilities of human courage and determination and technological inventiveness, innovativeness and intuitiveness. In these times of the Millennial, The Opulence of a Golden Age is within reach, as this generation has indoctrinated itself with the sensibility of technology, and the notion of a far advanced society.


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