Introduction to Digital Transformation in Era 4.0

Introduction to Digital Transformation in Era 4.0

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6270-2.ch001
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The robotic era currently attracts the attention of experts and professionals in the digital fields. Policymakers, leaders, scholars, and public authorities and experts have to make decisions and formulate what will be the next digital transformation. In the first chapter, the author proposes an overview of the basic technologies and digital concepts, defining Industry 4.0 and its potential as source of disruptive changes. The chapter is structured as follows. First there are the main concepts behind Industry 4.0 technologies and the characteristics of the digital technologies. Then there are conceptualized some of the unique technology elements, functionalities, and implementations, outlining their disruptive potential to outperform the existing paradigm. Finally, there are identified some general complex system applications and implementation models, focusing on their impact to transform dominant mental models and institutional bases.
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During the last few years, economy digitalization became the dominant topic of public discourse. It is interesting to follow how policy makers, professionals and scholars took their role in the public debate for digital transformation. The term Industrie 4.0 was first coined in the political program of the German government in 2011, focused to encourage investments in the next-level manufacturing industry technologies (Kagermann, Helbig, Hellinger, & Wahlster, 2013). In parallel, other competing terms and policy concepts emerged such as Industrial Internet, Advanced Manufacturing, Smart Industry, Smart Manufacturing and Smart Factory (Hermann, Pentek, & Otto, 2016). In the beginning of 2016, the president of the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab, for the first time in Davos publicly used the term Fourth Industrial Revolution to describe the new coming irreversible and global economic shift. In December 2016, the US President Executive Office published the report Artificial Intelligence, Automation and Economy (EOP, 2016). The EU commission launched European platform of national initiatives with the goal to facilitate and to encourage digital transformation, by best practices’ sharing, collaboration, joint investments, exploring common approaches to regulatory problems, and reinforcing the re-skilling of the workforce (EU, 2018). By 2018, 15 countries among the EU members-states already has adopted different Industry 4.0 or Smart Manufacturing policies, following USA, China and Japan.

In the same time, many leaders and scholars warned that the expected transformations can have a costly social price. The Microsoft’ founder, Bill Gates stated in media that robots really are about to take your job (Reed, 2014, in press). Soon after him, Elon Musk and Steven Hawking took the word to oppose to the fast developments in AI (Williams, 2017, in press). In 2015, an Open letter on the Digital economy was issued in MIT (Brynjolfsson, McAfee, & Jurvetson, 2015). More than 1000 scholars, leaders and ICT professionals around the world has currently signed it, insisting for better models of “inclusive growth” and for “set of basic public policy changes” limiting the economic and social struggles, expecting to result from wider implementation of new technologies. Meanwhile, the public discussions in the framework of Era 4.0 intensified, covering daily a wide range of issues like robot-tax, cybersecurity and cyberattacks impact and digitalization race, just to name a few... All this come to show that new emerging digital phenomena bring many new ethical, economic, social and moral questions that need to be resolved. Furthermore, it is important to highlight that all these public debates, policy initiatives and publications are part of larger socio-economic transformational processes.

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