Automated manufacturing is advancing at an accelerating rate. We are now experiencing the fourth industrial revolution. The first industrial revolution began in Europe after the invention of the steam engine, the second was after the introduction of electricity and mass production, and the third came with computers and the higher levels of automation they enabled.
Factors enabling the current revolution include functionality enabled by Big Data and advances in artificial intelligence (AI). As the capability of robots increases at nearly exponential rates, the use of robots in manufacturing follows at a similar pace.
So far, there have been four industrial revolutions, but only three agricultural revolutions. We have not yet seen the fourth agricultural revolution, but I believe it is coming. The fourth agricultural revolution will be triggered by, and be a part of, the Green New Deal. It has the potential to cause many changes in the farming and distribution of food and the foods that we eat, such as eliminating beef as a food source and making a move toward a vegetarian diet. To eliminate the need to transport crops from remote areas—which is primarily done using fossil fuels—each urban area will grow food inside growing factories.
Unfortunately, there is not much time left to implement the Green New Deal. We have only 12 years to avoid the eradication of humanity. Carbon emissions will continue to increase, temperatures will continue to rise along with the oceans, and—in less than two decades—mankind will be annihilated. Despite our best efforts, we will ultimately fail to make all the necessary changes in time.
At the same time this is happening, the intelligence and capabilities of robots will continue to improve. Robots are now able to learn and to teach other robots. It is estimated by some experts that within 12 years the intelligence of a robot could exceed that of a human being. As humanity is being snuffed out, the age of the intelligent robot will be beginning. The timing could not be better aligned.
Intelligent robots will not only inhabit the country but begin to run it. There will be radical changes in the economy. It isn’t clear what forms of entertainment, if any, robots might choose. But grocery stores—along with most of the items sold in department stores today—will have no value.
However, robots will still need forms of transportation to get around. They might continue to use fossil fuels for this purpose in the near term. But, ultimately, robots will be wiser than we are and they will be able to convert to totally renewable energy.
Racism, sexism, and partisanship will cease to exist. It will be a time of peaceful coexistence, at least in the U.S. There will, of course, be robots from many other industrialized countries as well as those in the U.S. It is inevitable that there will be differences with technical standards and conflicts with robots from other countries—not all robots will be created equal. International conflict, at some level, will continue.
It is my belief that intelligent robots will be able to build environmental chambers suitable for human life. After doing this, they will save a limited number of humans in controlled environments and keep them alive during the post-apocalyptic era. In time, robots will successfully convert the world to use only renewable energy, and the fifth industrial revolution—a carbon-free environment—will begin.
Temperatures will fall, polar ice caps will freeze, and the oceans will recede. The remnants of humankind, those who were saved, will be free to repopulate the earth. And robots will have saved the human race.
Bill Pollock is president and CEO of Optimation Technology Inc., a certified member of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA). For more information about Optimation, visit its profile on the Industrial Automation Exchange.