Discussions have begun on how the fifth industrial revolution will impact jobs
BY Rajendra Prasad Koirala
It is said that we are currently in the fifth industrial revolution. The ‘internet of things’, connectivity, sensors, smart cities, and digital twins were the main focus of the fourth industrial revolution. These technologies have already been implemented and are currently being used in various industries. The fifth industrial revolution, also known as Industry 5.0, will focus on the ‘internet of bodies’ and ‘bionic augmentation’. The goal of this revolution is not just to drive economic growth, but also to use technology for the betterment of society and humanity. Technology is constantly evolving and has the potential to greatly impact our lives. However, it is important to ensure that we are not controlled by technology or the people who create it.
There are already business models that claim to be more environmentally friendly, but there have not been significant legal changes to encourage companies to adopt these models. This is why it is important for individuals and organisations to lead the change and be early adopters of business models that are focused on the future. To support this new economic strategy, we need to build supply networks, develop sovereign competence, and create businesses and jobs that align with these goals. This will require changes to existing laws and regulations to encourage companies to shift their focus from short-term profit to long-term sustainability.
ESG investing, which focuses on environmental, social, and governance factors, is often seen as a way to promote morally responsible corporate growth and long-term, sustainable investor returns. This approach is not new, and many small companies have been using it for years. However, it seems that the issues of social and environmental impact, including modern slavery, are not yet deeply ingrained in the culture of large corporations. Some of the companies appear to be lagging behind in this area. This raises the question of whether we want to continue investing in companies that are slow to adopt ESG practices.
The term "circular economy" is becoming increasingly popular and is often associated with sustainable development. It is a vision of an economy where waste and pollution are eliminated, products and materials are reused instead of discarded, and the environment is regenerated. It is driven by digital innovation and is based on the use of renewable energy and materials. The idea behind the circular economy is to fundamentally change the way the economy operates to make it regenerative, by creating new work practices and cultures, rather than just reducing the ecological and environmental impact of industry. It is true that there is still a lack of information or proof about the feasibility of a circular economy, but it's important to keep in mind that this is a long-term vision and it's likely to take time to fully implement it. However, it is clear that we cannot continue on our current course and we must work towards a circular economy.
The idea of mining resources from other celestial bodies, such as the moon and asteroids, is an interesting concept that has gained attention in recent years. Companies and entrepreneurs are exploring the possibility of extracting resources from these bodies to meet the growing demand for resources on Earth. The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has already successfully landed a drilling sampler on an asteroid, taken a sample, and returned it to Earth to analyse its composition. NASA's Artemis project, which plans to land on the moon this decade, is also bringing renewed interest in space missions. However, it's important to note that the feasibility of extracting resources from other celestial bodies is still uncertain.
Currently, there are no formalised international treaties or commercial agreements in place regarding the extraction of resources from celestial bodies. Additionally, it is not yet clear if it is technically and economically feasible to extract resources from other celestial bodies.
Furthermore, even if it were possible to extract resources from other celestial bodies, it is important to consider whether it would be responsible to do so. Earth's resources are already limited and are becoming increasingly politically charged. The "reduce, reuse, recycle" approach has been used for a long time but it has not been able to completely solve the problem. Take the example of plastic.
Plastic's greatest drawback is that it is so effective at what it does. It doesn't break down. As plastics degrade into ever-tinier fragments, it penetrates the food chain, kills wildlife, and even winds up in humans, causing havoc in marine settings. According to experts, each of us consumes about six grams (or the equivalent of a credit card's weight) of microplastics every week. Plastic pollution has a significant impact on the environment, including agricultural soils. Plastic debris, including fertiliser pellets, can interfere with the digestion of soil microbes, such as nematodes, and increase the amount of carbon released from the soil. This contributes to the nonpoint source of carbon emissions, which is a major concern during the climate emergency.
The business models that were permitted to flourish under our legal system and which place less value on environmental preservation than they do on fiduciary duty and solvent trade must be addressed if we are to address the root of the problem that gave rise to this plastic monster.
The creator has not made payments. Making money in an unsustainable manner at the expense of the environment should have a monetary price. In terms of a lifetime analysis of the economy, the "polluter pays" notion has never been actually taken seriously. This might be about to alter.
As the world becomes increasingly technical, it is important for companies to adapt and innovate in order to stay competitive. However, many companies are not well-equipped to do so, as they lack the appropriate expertise and representation on their boards. A recent report by the Australian Institute of Company Directors found that less than 3% of business directors have a background in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields, despite the growing importance of technology in the economy. This lack of representation could pose a significant challenge for the future of the global stock markets, as those responsible for business strategy at the highest level may not be able to fully understand or connect with the digital economy.
To address this issue, it is important to ensure that the diversity of the board represents the world as it is now, not as it was 20 years ago. This includes not only increasing representation of women but also increasing representation of people with STEM expertise.
Scientific futurist Catherine Ball predicts that Industry 5.0 will see an increase in "profit with purpose" company models and a growing expectation for industry best practice and third-party accreditation programs. Associations, industry groups, and standardisation organisations are developing aspirational standards programs to encourage businesses to think beyond just the bottom line. This shift is important to create a more sustainable and responsible economy.
However, it can be challenging to regulate and authorise rules and regulations in the fast-paced environment of Industry 5.0. The example of Uber, which faced legal and regulatory battles but was able to operate freely before a resolution was reached, illustrates this point. It's crucial that governments and regulators keep up with the rapid pace of technological and economic change, in order to ensure that businesses are operating in a responsible and ethical manner.
The Future of Work
The future of employment and business is a topic of interest for futurists. The office in 2025 may have smaller, more intimate spaces with natural ventilation and fresh air, less hot-desking, and fewer open-plan areas due to the potential demise of the open-plan workplace brought on by COVID-19 and Industry 5.0. Architects and designers should also consider designing buildings to combat obesity by improving access to green spaces, walkways, and cycle tracks, as well as promoting good mental health through the use of windows that open, providing better airflow.
Industry 5.0 may promote adaptable business procedures that improve the well-being of women and working parents. Globally, women often have substantially lower pension pots than men, which is pushing older women into poverty. To address this issue, solutions such as universal basic income or other forms of financial assistance could be implemented, allowing women to take professional pauses for child-rearing without suffering disadvantages in retirement. This could have a significant impact on the well-being and financial security of women. Additionally, implementing policies such as key performance indicators (KPIs) that are not affected by parental, family, or carer's leave, paying superannuation during unpaid leave, and standardising other types of leave, such as menstrual leave and domestic and family violence leave, could also help address the challenges faced by working women and working parents.
The Australian government permitted citizens to withdraw $10,000 in two instalments from their superannuation during the COVID-19 outbreak. This allowed numerous ladies who were attempting to flee violence to leave the area and away from harm. The result is that those women, who are already at a disadvantage in terms of superannuation, now have even less in their future savings pool. What if those mothers received grants to protect their lives and the lives of their children instead?
In our post-pandemic environment, expectations regarding work-life balance are being tested, and major changes are about to occur to our typical work week. In the past, overtime had become the norm in many businesses and societies, and there was rivalry among coworkers to perform the most unpaid work. A word, karoshi, was coined in Japan to describe those young people who practically worked themselves to death. However, it appears that things have changed and that many corporate cultures now view the entire idea of unpaid overtime as poisonous. This shift in thinking was inevitable, but the pandemic sped up discussions about what work-life balance actually ought to be rather than just what it may be. In other nations, like Sweden, employees get paid for five days of labour per week but only put in four. On the fifth day, they relax their bodies and neurons and gather ideas for the following week. Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister of New Zealand, is another supporter of the four-day work week. What if we could all work a four-day week and then spend one day at a university or TAFE learning about new technologies? This would benefit the person, the business, the nation, and the ailing education system, in addition to adding value to all three.
In some Scandinavian businesses, desks are known to automatically raise up after 5 o'clock, to encourage employees to leave work on time. In other nations, employees are expected to work five days per week in the office, and the other days remotely from any location of their choice. This has led to a trend of people working in offices on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays in London being referred to as "TWaTs."
The idea of trusting employees and measuring success through key performance indicators (KPIs) rather than time spent in the office has been around for some time. The pandemic has prompted some managers to trust their employees to perform while working remotely. However, it remains uncertain if this trend will continue unless there is a strong business case for it.
(Koirala is a PhD. Scholar, The CEO of Gyanda Academy) [email protected]