Digital Revolution, Industry Disruption & Future of Jobs
Gora Chakraborty

[In this article, a brief overview has been drawn on the subject – ‘Industry Disruption/Destruction through digital invasion’. The opinion expressed in the article is that of the author.

The author is a nuclear technologist of repute. He was in the R&D side of BARC, Mumbai, since 1967. He had been using computers of CDC3600, BESEM6 & DECK10 versions from the beginning for his engineering design calculations of Nuclear Power Plant (NPP). Later on, he used PCs of Pentium IV generation, for real-time simulation of NPPs, which became very handy for him. From 2000 onwards, he used Desktops. The author kept his association with other industries for procurement of part components and systems of NPPs. So, he is well aware of digital invasion in the world industrial sector. As the article is written solely on the facts while the author was on the job, no citation has been used.]

Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution occurred at the end of Second World-War (1939-1945). During the period of two consecutive World-Wars (WWI and WWII), the necessity of mass production of war tools, vehicles for transportation (not only in plain lands and water-lands but also in hilly region and icy waterfronts of the Arctic region) were heightened by the war-hungry leaders of the different countries who gave priority to the development of different technologies for war usage. Scientists and technocrats who could deliver these technologically advanced goods for war needs were rewarded handsomely.

Numerous technologies were developed during that period, which ultimately culminated in the destruction of the Japanese cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima by Nuclear-Bomb. Also, the present day Nuclear Power Plant technology that would provide electricity for generations was invented during that time.

When the war ended, the inventions and the technology developed with the purpose of destruction were utilized to develop industry and meet human life’s basic needs.

The industries which flourished in the initial phases were meant for agriculture, transportation, energy generation like electricity, metal production like iron, aluminium, copper etc. This process in history is termed as ‘Industrial Revolution’. The outcome of this revolution has given us trains, buses, cars, airplanes, soaps, medicines and medical implements etc. in an affordable price.

As against earlier days, when artisans made a lot of our household implements like utensils, agricultural implements etc., standard tools were available out of a market shelf.

Lot of household jobs like husking of paddy to produce rice, crushing of wheat to produce flower, crushing of pulses to make dal, use of single-stage oil-mill driven by bullock or human being for production of oil from oil seeds like mustard etc. which was being done manually were taken over by factories where it was done through electric machines.

During the period of 1947 to 1970, the factories used coal for thermal needs and a lot of fabrication was through electrical devices, which took over a lot of manual labour and most of the controls in factories, refineries and chemical industry adopted analog control. However, human intervention and supervision was still primarily needed.

But post 1970, a new technology involving’ Digital computing’ machines started emerging. The so-called computers appeared which could do very complicated mathematical calculations in a fraction of second. The calculating machines were gigantic and robust. The machines needed air-conditioned areas and the core part had to be cooled at temperatures near to the freezing point (0 degrees Celsius) temperature and below.

Digital Revolution

The advent of IC cheap technology gradually reduced computing machines’ size drastically in the decade preceding 1980. By the end of that decade, the computers were available by the side of a working table, followed by desk-top computers by the end of twentieth-century and the present-day Laptops by the middle of the first decade of the present century. Side by side, along the path of the development of laptops, the other results were stunning. Almost all analog instruments like telephone, photographic camera, sound recording and amplifiers, analog controls in factories, homes, offices etc. got replaced by digital mode.

The most stunning thing during this period is the introduction of the internet with computers and satellite technology. Communication with the distant parts of the world is so simple nowadays in the form of emails and digital telephony. The turning point of the revolution was the change from analogue to digitally recorded Music. During the 1980s the digital format of optical compact discs gradually replaced analogue formats, such as vinyl records and cassette tapes, as the popular medium of choice. This revolution could not be protested or fought, as it gave the people ease of affordability, availability and comfort.

Digital penetration and anticipated solution in healthcare, energy, and the environment have started at present with many innovations established during the first two decades of the present century.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) as we talk nowadays, will rule the roost in industry, society and the service sector in near future. Driverless motor vehicles are already being tested. The surveillance in the industrial process system with corrective action is partly already in motion. Standard design of industrial machines and tools are already available with different software packages. AI packages will now gradually replace or reduce the need for human efforts. Robots with AI have already started entering in domestic life in voice recognition followed by the order execution. It has also penetrated in the field of house and property security which can be done by the combination of AI and digital system. This will definitely reduce the amount of human security system if not entirely.

Digital Disruption and Future of Jobs

The present-day system of setting up an industry for gamut of output can be handled digitally with the help of software packages that will be available in the internet cloud system. In fact, planning, design, tendering, procurement, construction, erection and fabrication, inspection, and commissioning: all these steps, one day will be possible with minimal human intervention. The process of operation and review can be handled digitally. After production, the product can be stored and marketed with the help of e-marketing.

In the 1950s just followed by the second World War, had shown the way technological progress improved the lives of many, but only at the expense of a smaller few. During the Industrial Revolution, creative destruction occurred when machinery and improvements to the manufacturing process such as assembly lines pushed out craft and artisan production. While the economy as a whole benefited from such improvements, those craftsmen who were displaced saw their jobs destroyed, never to return. It can be noted here that the number of persons involved in losing the jobs was small and the process was gradual. As such the affected persons could be absorbed in the society with not much hindrance.

During the period of 1980s to 2000s, the black & white film-based photography was completely replaced by digital cameras. Digital cameras replaced the film producers. From the point of view of the users, this change was so simple. But the industry backing these users like the Eastman Kodak, which once employed many tens of thousands of workers, filed for bankruptcy and no longer exists. This was because a chemical process system was completely replaced by digital system. The majority of people could get jobs in some other industry for their livelihood after some retraining. Others were absorbed in the family or society.

With the above discussion, some guidelines can be drawn for the future of job situation. As mentioned earlier, it resulted from a digital simulation that replicated a chemical process system. Similarly, reading books for gathering knowledge and information has dwindled drastically as it is easily available in the internet. In fact, the publishing industry has suffered maximum, because of internet, social networks like Facebook, WhatsApp etc. For entertainment and knowledge enhancement, different television channels are also available. So, in short, the need for newspapers, books and libraries has reduced to a minimum. Ultimately publishing house who survives will have to be satisfied with publishing only school and college textbooks. This also shortly will go in the hands of digital invasion.

At present, there is no guarantee of job sustenance. Unless a process system like chemical, mechanical or agricultural produce is invaded by digital technology, the jobs are assured. The need for chemical, mechanical and agricultural produces can never be replaced by digital means. When one falls ill, he will need medicines, which are a chemical product. When a person is hungry, he will need food that is an agricultural product, when for transportation one needs a vehicle, it is a factory product. Hence the products more or less will remain the same. Only the process through which it is produced can be changed partially through digital innovations. So, job loss in that particular industry can be there only for a few, but not wholly. But event like Kodak company closure is not foreseen in near future. In general, those who are doing jobs, have to be careful and vigil always against digital invasion. To combat this, one has to be prepared for job loss. He should always be invested in increasing the self-capabilities by reading and self-educating himself in several programs.

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