“Truly the Matrix, minus the human batteries”

Beatriz Sanz Baños    15 February, 2018

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is about much more than just applying today’s technology to industries. It’s about integrating intelligent cyber-physical systems such as AI and machine learning along with cybersecurity, blockchain, the Internet of Things, robotics, quantum computing, advanced materials… and much more. In return, it promises to revolutionize the world as we know it. We asked Scott Amyx, the author of Strive: How Doing the Things Most Uncomfortable Leads to Success and a global thought leader in industry about how this will affect the future of the IoT. This is what we found out from this interesting chat.  

The “subtle” role of the IoT in Industry 4.0

“Perhaps to the surprise of some readers, disruptive technologies rarely work in isolation,” the expert told us, talking about the relationship between the IoT and the new Industrial Revolution. “It’s the convergence of these technologies that drives up the innovation.” And both industry and the IoT are flip sides of the same innovation coin.

The IoT, in particular, plays a critical role in several ways, explained Amyx. “The first is the ability to quantify inanimate and animate objects to build a real-time data matrix of the world. That means that we will generate incredible volume, variety, and velocity of data from the environment, natural resources, buildings, cars, cities, and homes .” The interviewee called them “the 3Vs.” But delving deeper into that theme, we also have to talk about certain applications.

“That data, in turn, feeds neural networks to understand patterns and create probabilistic predictions of possible future scenarios,” explained Amyx. “This informs businesses, governments, NGO’s, and people so they can make real-time, fact-based decisions that drive up optimization, productivity, and efficiency while lowering costs and mitigating potential risks and issues.”

“We’ve moved beyond networks and cables to real time”

In addition to the symbiotic relationship between the IoT, AI, and data science is the shift to distributed and decentralized computing networks. “Let me give two examples,” Amyx continued. “Network TV stations such as NBC, ABC, and CBS represented the one-to-many paradigm that provided a centralized means of distributing content to the masses. Today, we’ve moved beyond networks and cables to real-time streaming and user-generated content in a many-to-many content creation and distribution model.”

Similarly, in the world of computing and data, we are seeing a shift from centralized to decentralized. Not only are data being generated on decentralized IoT devices, but they are also being stored and processed locally (known as “wild fog”). Specialized AI chips are enabling decentralized machines and gadgets to run AI algorithms locally without ever needing to make API calls, as well as Lambda functions in Amazon Web Services, which allow for computing without servers and without back-and-forth traffic to process, store, or disseminate.

“We are beginning to access distributed computational power, memory, storage, bandwidth, and features of edge devices to perform jobs. This has huge implications for telecom business models, cloud computing giants, privacy, data ownership, and security, with rippling effects even to how we govern our society or aggregate citizen preferences to cryptocurrency,” he continued. “IoT, AI, and blockchain all work in unison to create a world that will become hyper-connected, where every action and inaction will be quantified down to the iota. Truly the Matrix, minus the human batteries.”

An age of revolution

In terms of economic and social impact, the Fourth Industrial Revolution may be bigger and more disruptive than the first three combined. But this is about much more than just applying today’s technology to industries. It’s about integrating intelligent cyber-physical systems such as AI and machine learning to neural networks and deep learning, IoT, or even advanced materials such as graphene and new forms of energy and battery storage to leapfrog competitors and create business models and processes that were not possible before.

“Taking the example of renewable energy,” Amyx explains, “it is using exponential technologies to lower the CapEx and OpEx, quantify every facet of the value chain, automate processes, and substantially increase the output of renewable energy to usable electricity on a massive scale. In the process of fundamentally creating an entirely new ecosystem, there will be multi-billion-dollar startup opportunities, from next-gen CSP companies to new forms of liquified energy.”

Amyx refers to liquid hydrogen and ammonia as fuels that store renewable energy and make it easier to export it around the globe. “We are talking about advanced commercial fuel cells and industry batteries with a larger capacity than Tesla’s Powerpacks (greater than 100 to 200 kWh while costing $2.13 to $2.51 per Wh). We’re also talking about energy harvesting and wireless power transfer technologies to help our cities and homes be completely cord-free and the aboveground space infrastructure-free.”

In Amyx’s words, when you apply this type of transformation to each sector or industry, what you get is nothing short of multi-billion to multi-trillion-dollar opportunities. “Many of today’s Fortune 500 companies (and midcaps and SMB’s) are resistant to change and will become obsolete, or be acquired, or go private just to go bankrupt and be sold in pieces or die a slow death because their management and employees can’t imagine a world that’s different from the framework that they operate in today. Replacing them will be the startups of the future that will harness the power of AI, robotics, and other exponential technologies to fundamentally change both the game and the way the game is played.”

Our place in the future

Amyx thinks it’s important to understand that the fourth and subsequent Industrial Revolutions will be both good and bad. And, in his words, it mostly depends on which segments of the population that we focus on. “As we have seen across industries, technology is about driving down costs. Over time, in everything from genome sequencing to hard drives, the marginal cost drops down to a tiny fraction of what it used to be. This is a major benefit to society,” he clarifies.

“Moreover, these disruptions will also create unimaginable new industries and jobs that we can’t begin to fathom today. Who would have thought a decade ago that Snapchat, an AR photo filter, or chat app would be worth billions of dollars and employ engineers to create AR filters for selfies? But there are downsides.”

Amyx discussed this in The Human Race: How Humans Can Survive in the Robotic Age, his second book, in which he explores the imminent net job loss from artificial intelligence, robotics, and the Fourth Industrial Revolution and its impact on income inequality across the globe. “AI-driven cyber-physical automation is expected to displace 50% to 80% of the human workforce by 2030. As the pace of convergence of exponential technologies reaches a near vertical slope, the trend of human displacement is unstoppable,” he stated in his book.

But with the revolution come opportunities, too. We are facing a new era of advancement where connectivity is within the sight of development. As we move towards automation, we must be prepared to adapt to innovation. This, Amyx thinks, entails pursuing job training and labor force development in human-to-human services that leverage our ability to empathize with the human condition. After all, even in the age of technology, when we are the witnesses of change, empathy business models and services will become the bedrock of post-Fourth Industrial Revolution.

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