Roger Berkley - The Information Age and the Fusion Age


What comes after the Information Age?

Roger Berkley - Sunday, 6 September 2020.

royalty free fusion

My attempt at creating a royalty-free depiction of Fusion :)

The Information Age is also referred to as the Digital Age.

In 2017 I thought that the Fourth Industrial Revolution 4IR will mostly resemble a First Services Revolution.

My idea was based on knowing that manufacturing was - and still is - much more automated than service industries.

During the Information Age the global workforce gradually shifted from manufacturing to a new majority which is currently found in service and knowledge-based industries.

Learning that the majority of us work in service industries made me think that most of the outcomes from 4IR will emerge from the service and knowledge-based industries.

It just didn't make too much sense to me that we were referring to this time-period as an 'Industrial Revolution'. I feel that the term connotes manufacturing more than anything else.

In 2020 I'm fairly more comfortable in my thinking about this concept, especially now that I find it more reasonable to distinguish two different 'evolutionary' cycles.

One cycle starts with the First Industrial Revolution 1IR and carries on to The Second Industrial Revolution 2IR and into the manufacturing-related parts of The Third Industrial Revolution 3IR -also called the Digital Revolution- and then into Industry 4.0.

And a second cycle which starts with the service-oriented and knowledge-based parts of 3IR and continues with what may be a service-oriented and knowledge-work revolution or The First Services Revolution 1SR.

To me this isn't a nomenclature, but a matter of the different nature through which the two cycles progress.

It's not difficult to notice that the different natures of the two cycles carry different velocities of change.

The same bundle that was valid for 1IR and 2IR does not seem to be useful for 3IR and after.

The body of knowledge of Operations Management was first accumulated in manufacturing contexts.

The concepts, methodologies, and tools of Lean and Six Sigma and even Process Improvement have been around since the early beginnings of the Industrial Age.

When you read an early Operations Management book you will see an almost exclusive focus on mining, manufacturing, industrial supply chains, and related topics.

There was a time when topics like "Process Industries" and "Process Manufacturing" seemed to only recognize that "processes" are only found in a subset of manufacturing which requires "formula-like manufacturing-recipes".

It took a long time for more of us to realize that almost everything in manufacturing and a large-part of everything in services and businesses can be represented as processes, hence, can be improved and automated.

There have been entirely new avenues for the applicability of Operations Management during the Information Age, avenues with a very different nature than manufacturing.

Improving and automating machinery is not like achieving the same for services and business processes.

The body of knowledge of Business Process Management helps translate much of the knowledge from Operations Management into the more prevalent industries of the Information Age (i.e. services).

It's difficult for me to accept 3IR as an 'Industrial Revolution', I think of it as a 'Hybrid' one, as in it touched upon two major and very different sides of the global economy.

The first major side of 3IR was manufacturing and everything directly related to the Machine Age.

The second major side of 3IR was the process-oriented improvement and computerization of services and knowledge-work.

I think that 4IR also carries these two distinct cycles. Thinking this way makes it easier for me to relate more closely to each of the two, and makes it easier to perceive and understand them in light of the specifics of each one.

This conceptual divergence enables a mode of thought which can link each cycle to its own nature of progression.

Ironically, this divergence may coincide with a fusion in terms of the next-age.

Will the Fusion Age come after the Information Age?

I don't really know, but if it were to be a Fusion Age, then it would be a fusion of machines with intelligence, and a fusion of us with intelligence, and eventually a three-way fusion of intelligence, machines, and us.

The intelligence part of the fusion needs to be understood and 'mapped-out' by us and the ones that will come after, if we lose track of how the intelligence part of the fusion works, then, we will be just attached to a powerful moving thing which we don't really understand.

While the Pharaohs have not sustainably mapped-out the pyramids, machine designers and manufacturing engineers intricately lay-out blueprints for their creations, let's take note and map-out the automations in our service and knowledge-based industries.

Industry 4.0 and the First Sevices Revolution