A TIMELINE OF INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTIONS IN RELATION TO SOUTH AFRICA

This is an excerpt from my book ‘Understanding the 4th Industrial Revolution & Innovation Easily.’ It is available on Amazon, in South African bookstores, and on my website.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution – also known as Industry 4.0 or 4IR – is the first Industrial Revolution that South Africa is experiencing as a free and democratic country.

It does not mean, however, that other economical revolutions did not happen in South Africa, and the rest of Africa, in the past; but I will get to this later.

Please note:-

Because the collective areas of land that now form South Africa were colonised in stages, starting in the Cape by the Dutch and later taken over by the British, I will call it, ‘Project Colonise South Africa.’ Industrial Revolution dates are estimates – i.e. the beginning, duration and end of any given industrial revolution is marked by when its sequel is named and recognised – and they serve to identify eras of significant revolutionary innovations in the world. Note that, although different researchers have different dates, they do not vary significantly.

A comparative timeline of the Industrial Revolutions and colonised/apartheid South Africa (extended industrial revolution definition part 1)

* The ‘c.’ before the year means approximately.

First Industrial Revolution (Steam power)

  • The First Industrial Revolution began c.1765 – 113 years after the Dutch colonisers arrived in the Cape in 1652. Project Colonise South Africa started when ships, owned by the Dutch East India Company[i], under the command of Jan van Riebeeck[ii]reached Table Bay in the Cape on the 6th of April 1652.
  • In 1795, 30 years into the First Industrial Revolution, Dutch control of the Cape colony ended when the British Empire occupied the area for the first time. The Dutch were again awarded governance of the Cape for a short period between 1803 and 1806 under the Peace of Amiens. In 1806 the British returned to take occupation of the Cape, after losing their colonies in the Americas during the Napoleonic Wars, and retained control until South Africa was granted independence in 1961.

The Second Industrial Revolution (Electrical power)

  • The duration of the Second Industrial Revolution was from c.1870 to c.1968.
  • Apartheid against native (black) South Africans was formally introduced in 1948 by the National Party when the country became self-governing; although it remained within the confines of the British Commonwealth until 1961.
  • Although apartheid was ‘formally’ introduced, and became policy, in 1948, it does not mean that the colonials did not practice apartheid; each institution is equally guilty of crimes against humanity; it just signifies a change of ownership.
  • Later, still within the timeline of the Second Industrial Revolution, Apartheid South Africa became a sovereign state; in 1961 Britain gave them sovereignty and South Africa became a republic.

Third Industrial Revolution (Digital)

  • The Third Industrial Revolution, also known as the Digital Revolution, started 8 years into sovereign Apartheid South Africa in c.1969.

Democratic South Africa and the Fourth Industrial Revolution

It is unclear as to exactly when in the 2000’s we can pinpoint the start of the Fourth Industrial Revolution but ‘we are in it’, as I’d jokingly say.

From what I can tell, the first articles about the Fourth Industrial Revolution began to appear on Google in about 2016; but I speak under correction on this.

What can be said for certain is that many people have been tracking the mammoth innovations in the 2000s and realise that an Industrial Revolution is definitely coming – i.e. a Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Nevertheless, as you continue to read I will expand on what a revolution is, within my context, and it should become clearer as to why we have graduated to a new Industrial Revolution.

The 4th Industrial Revolution is indeed happening in times of a Democratic South Africa – making it the first of the four Industrial Revolutions to happen post-colonial, and apartheid, South Africa.

[i] Dutch East India Company https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dutch_East_India_Company  (29 April 2021)

[ii] Jan van Riebeeck https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jan_van_Riebeeck (29 April 2021)

A SIMPLE EXPLANATION OF THE FOURTH INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION

This is an excerpt from my book ‘Understanding the 4th Industrial Revolution & Innovation Easily.’ It is available on Amazon, in South African bookstores, and on my website.

Fourth Industrial Revolution - Graphic by Christoph Roser at www.AllAboutLean.com
Fourth Industrial Revolution – Graphic by Christoph Roser at www.AllAboutLean.com

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (abbreviated 4IR, and also called the Digital Revolution and Industry 4.0) is nothing but innovation moving forward, in the manners detailed throughout this book, as it was with all past categories of Industrial Revolutions:

  • First Industrial Revolution (breakthrough technologies included mechanisation, water power, steam power)
  • Second Industrial Revolution (breakthrough technologies included mass production, assembly lines)
  • Third Industrial Revolution (breakthrough technologies included computers and automation).
  • Innovation is the stacking of two or more objects or properties to produce more agile tools or products:
  • Like combining video and the internet to establish YouTube.
  • Utilising wood and geometry to create a wooden chair.
  • Using wood, steel and geometry to make a wooden steel chair.
  • Or mixing electronics with biology to create a heart/cardiac pacemaker to save lives.

Let’s briefly look at a standard definition of the 4IR (on Wikipedia): The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres, collectively referred to as cyber-physical systems. It is marked by emerging technology breakthroughs in several fields, including robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, quantum computing, biotechnology, the Internet of Things, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), decentralized consensus, fifth-generation wireless technologies (5G), additive manufacturing/3D printing and fully autonomous vehicles.

Simply, it means there have been breakthroughs in various novel fields such as biotechnology, 3D printing and nanotechnology. These breakthroughs are what compelled the recognition of a new Industrial Revolution. The innovations which characterise the 4IR are distinguishable from, and arguably superior to, innovations made in the Third Industrial Revolution, and are thus deserving of a separate identity.

Novel innovation is mixing or stacking up old and/or new innovations together to obtain more variety and agility. The 4IR, as an innovation construct, entails mixing up such ideas and discoveries.

The recent breakthroughs are identified as new innovations. This means that further innovations are possible. The pool of innovation grows constantly with new ideas and breakthrough discoveries.

All components/spheres of innovation in the world are being fused, be it physical, digital or biological; hence the movement is defined as a ‘fusion’ and ‘blurring’ of lines.

Let me give you an absurd example of how innovation happens or is made possible

Nanotechnology is a breakthrough. 3D printing is a breakthrough. These two technologies are, or at least seem, very different. Original innovation is about bringing together, and/or inter-stacking, existing innovations and components to bring into being new or improved innovations.

Imagine the possibility of mixing 3D printing with nanotechnology. (A nano is one billionth of a metre, i.e. the measurement metre zoomed into a billion times – it is microscopically tiny). We may be able to produce, and reproduce, something that is able to enter the human body to kill off cancer cells. N.B. This may currently seem impossible and absurd but, although it may not be possible within this (Fourth) Industrial Revolution, it may become viable in another.

The story above is simply to illustrate that an Industrial Revolution is made up of stacking existing innovations to produce newer, more agile innovations. It follows the basic model of creating new-innovation – i.e. stacking innovations. Innovation cannot be created from nothing; it stems from existing components.

A few examples of modern (4IR) Innovation:

Their newness/novelty is rooted in the stacking up of prior innovations:

(a).     Smart refrigerators

Source – Wikipedia: The LG Internet Digital DIOS smart refrigerator. It provides information such as inside temperature, the freshness of stored foods, nutrition information and recipes. Other features include a webcam that is used as a scanner and tracks what is inside the refrigerator. In addition, the electricity consumption is half the level of conventional refrigerators.

Smart refrigerators stack-up existing refrigeration engineering, new power-saving technology, camera technology, and other innovations.

(b).      Virtual assistants

Source – Wikipedia: Amazon Alexa virtual assistant. It is capable of voice interaction, music playback, making to-do lists, setting alarms, streaming podcasts, playing audiobooks, and providing weather, traffic, sports, and other real-time information, such as news. Alexa can also control several smart devices using itself as a home automation system.

Virtual assistants stack up voice recognition, Wi-Fi, and other innovations.

(c).       Cryptocurrencies

Source – Wikipedia: Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency; a form of electronic cash. It is a decentralized digital currency without a central bank or single administrator that can be sent from user to user on the peer-to-peer bitcoin network without the need for intermediaries. Transactions are verified by network nodes through cryptography and recorded in a public distributed ledger called a blockchain.

Cryptocurrency fuses money with blockchain technology, crowdsourcing, and other innovations.

(d).     Genetic testing

Source – Wikipedia: 23andMe offers DNA ancestry testing and other health diagnoses.

With just your saliva, predictions can be made about your vulnerability to inherited diseases. If it can be predicted, it can be treated.

Genetic testing fuses microarray chips, data, and other innovations.

In closing

The examples above are a combination, and/or inter-combination, of existing innovations; some new and some old. The whole point is to achieve more up-to-date agility, use, effectiveness and efficiency.

The reason is that human beings have an inherent desire to push innovation further and further. If you don’t, someone else out there does. It is a competitive environment.

The rest is for you to brainstorm what new-innovations are possible, and then maybe create them.

A day will come where more breakthroughs emerge and a Fifth Industrial Revolution is named.

THE HUMAN GREED PYRAMID: Those who control the world and why innovations have to mirror evolutionary human behaviour to be successful

The Human Greed Pyramid by Tiisetso Maloma
The Human Greed Pyramid by Tiisetso Maloma

This is a revised post from my latest two books (6th and 7th): ‘Innovate the Next: Success Frameworks to Innovating Products in Any Revolution’ and ‘Understanding the 4th Industrial Revolution & Innovation Easily.’ They are available on Amazon, in South African bookstores, and on my website.

What if there was a framework to explain the innovation, success, and effectiveness of almost everything? Be it in music, technology, comedy, medicine, entrepreneurship or other creative fields.

This is what I’ve indulged in for a long while now. Read more