Data is the engine of the fourth industrial revolution

“Data is the new oil and we are in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution that is driven by the internet of things. The old fossil fuelled industrial revolutions are in their dying days and we are seeing the birth of a new era that will reshape everything that we know.”
– Kate Carruthers

Last week at the 2018 Stanford University Women in Data Science Conference in UTS Sydney I spoke on a panel along with Theresa Anderson,  Ethel KarskensNicole Dyson , Aurelie Jacquet,  Joanne Cooper, and Angela Chin. 

As first speaker I got to set the scene for the remaining speakers, here is a summary of my remarks.

My remarks

One thought to start with. I am currently the Chief Data & Analytics Officer at UNSW Sydney, and this job did not exist when I left school, and this job did not exist when I graduated from university. So, do not worry about educating kids for the jobs of the future when we probably cannot even imagine what those jobs will be. We’re at an exciting point now where people can’t be trained for the jobs they’ll have in the future because they don’t exist yet. Of all the things that I have studied, history, philosophy and anthropology have been among the most useful. And they have actually been a good grounding for an unknown future.

Data is the new oil and we are in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution that is driven by the internet of things. The old fossil fuelled industrial revolutions are in their dying days and we are seeing the birth of a new era that will reshape everything that we know. We’ve had industrial revolutions before, this is just the next one.

Data scientists are the currently the new high priests, but not for long, as algorithms take over from them. Data engineers are the new coal miners, preparing the data ready for use in new applications which are only now emerging.

This is the next stage of the digital revolution. It includes VR/AR and the internet of things. Everything will change. Things that were impossible will become possible.

Things that will change

Among the things that will change are:

  • Education is on the brink of changes, and it will make the way that we were educated so divergent from the modern world. Technologies such as VR and AR will drive change in the place and nature of education and the role of educators are shifting from chalk and talk to technology and facilitation of discovery.
  • Science and Engineering will bring us new technologies such as quantum computing and CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technology that will revolutionise everyday life.
  • Medicine is at the start of a new world of genomic medicine powered by data, AI and machine learning.
  • Home life with intelligent devices like Google Home and Alexa are reshaping how we manage our homes.
  • Autonomous vehicles are becoming a reality faster than I had imagined a few years back.
  • Jobs will change – some jobs will go, for example truck drivers, and new jobs will emerge as things like autonomous vehicles become the norm.

All of this is powered by data and enabled by the internet of things.

The people who are educated in data will be well placed in this new economy. Data science and cybersecurity grads will be well placed, and we are already seeing this in the graduate outcomes.

Challenges

We still face big challenges with things such as privacy and identity management. There is still no one ring to rule all in identity. The threats to privacy and data security are increasing. With biometric data being stored by companies in the cloud, our identities with our unchangeable features such as voice and finger prints, are now more at risk than ever.

Also, we face threats such as the increasing corporatisation and creation of proprietary goods from our data. As folks say if you’re not paying then you are the product.

And this means that old fashioned things like ethics will become increasingly important in both education and in business.

I’m particularly (and increasingly) interested in digital ethics. I think that we will need to develop customary practices that embed ethics into software development. Ideas like privacy by design and security by design will need to become commonplace.

There are huge opportunities offered by this new industrial revolution. There will be winner and losers. And the higher education sector has an important role in both inventing this future and in preparing young people to be a part of it. It is certainly an interesting time to be alive.

Thank you.

Image: By DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

One thought on “Data is the engine of the fourth industrial revolution

  1. IoT projects are gathering momentum across Australia and New Zealand. More connectivity options and improvements in battery technology are seeing a new wave of opportunities across the region.

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