6. Beyond Industry 4.0
Every time we identify a new wave of structural change we get the impression that it is going to be the last, and this in spite of the fact that we have seen several waves coming and fading away under the pressure of a new one.
This will be the case for Industry 4.0, even though it seems to us today as a most challenging endeavour, and it is not clear if it will even succeed to display the presently so successful Industry 3.0. Indeed, searching on Google for Industry 5.0 does not bring back any result (but this post...).
And yet, I think there can be some values in looking beyond Industry 4.0 because that might give us some perspective and because the any classification (most at least) is basically a figment of our imagination. There is usually a period when we find and overwhelming presence of some characteristics (such as manufacturing through use of tools that augment works power, or assisted manufacturing through computers, or through robots ....) but there are periods where several characteristics are present, in different percentage at the same time.
As in the past we saw seeds of robotic assisted manufacturing that today have transformed production in many sectors (Industry 3.0) we are seeing today seeds of automatisation of supply chains, robots talking one another across different manufacturing plants and 3D printers coming up, what would be characterising Industry 4.0.
In research labs I am also seeing seeds of what might in the future bring to further paradigm shifts to Industry x.0 and these are in the area of programmable materials and then on to self replication and self evolution. It is actually not a new paradigm, all life on Earth is based on this paradigm...
We already have today several kinds of "smart materials" that can change their physical characteristics and we are staring to see ideas for designing materials whose characteristics can be "programmed". An example is provided by a research carried out at EMPA and ETH Zurich resulting in a material whose induced vibrations can be dampened according to a program. Vibrations are usually an undesired phenomenon (unless your goal is to play a guitar or a piano...) because it wastes energy, causes material fatigue and generally decreases performances.
They claim this will eventually transform mechanical engineering as we know it today. They are also saying this is a step forward "programmable materials".
Indeed, imagine a world where the objects you buy are a bunch of atoms that will self organise to deliver the kind of characteristics you are needing right there and then...
Imagine a world where what you buy is a DNA strand that will be used to create an object. It is science fiction becoming reality in some labs. I have already posted news on using DNA strings to create nano structures and other posts showing the progress in developing bigger and more complex objects out of self assembling nano structures and larger structures...
Areas like drugs production are likely to be profoundly affected by these evolution and to me they will likely become the first example of Industry shifting beyond 4.0.