Moving towards IR 5.0
The world is changing at a frightening speed. It did not change for 18 centuries after 1 AD, with India and China owning half the world's GDP almost...
The world is changing at a frightening speed. It did not change for 18 centuries after 1 AD, with India and China owning half the world's GDP almost throughout this period, till 1760.
The first and the second industrial revolutions changed everything in two centuries thereafter with China and India's share going down from 50 to 5 per cent, and the West gaining where these technologies were discovered.
The 1950s started the third industrial revolution, followed by fourth industrial revolution, both communication and digital revolutions in a globalised world connected on wire or wireless, where it was difficult saving technologies only in the countries where they were discovered.
Further and strangely, the US and other advanced countries chose to help China and the other countries. The US also got convinced that it was advantageous to help China grow fast, to counter Russia, their cold war rival. The growth pattern moved towards the East, particularly China with US's active and sometimes unethical help. China grew to the US size in GDP in record time. And seven US Presidents did not understand this.
The changeover started with the '100-year marathon' designed by Mao, who was the first great strategist during the last century. The Plan initially failed courtesy China's own methods of implementation with the indisciplined Red-guards and the new deal etc., leading to famines. Mao realized the weakness of his plan and quickly decided to partner with the country which knew how to get rich – the US, and not bothering about political differences.
The differences between the two countries were so severe that it took Mao about 10 years of planning even to meet Nixon, an act carried out with great political finesse - and dealt with in my book, "Containing the China Onslaught". He could do nothing with the US agreement, owing to its opposition both in US and China, and it took many years before his successor Deng, who was almost killed after the US agreement, to start implementing it from 1980, two years after he walked into President's house from jail.
I have dealt with all the next stages of this phenomenal growth in my book on China, and how Deng implemented all changes visualized by Mao. Later, so intense was the hatred towards China due to their exploitation of America in terms of losses of jobs, and much later due to Corona related issues that Trump lost the elections in 2020. Trump would never have lost the election if he had continued the Wuhan enquiry with typical political fanfare (like Mao blaming Deng for China agreement in mid-70's and almost getting him killed). The enquiry slowed down because Trump realized that the carefully and brilliantly designed supply chain could not be broken. He had earlier said he would.
I will now try to identify the shape and size of The Fifth Industrial Revolution: which is now approaching us. It appears that the fourth industrial revolution would also subsume "The Singularity is Near" predicted by Ray Kurzweil in his book in 2005, and consequently the world will move towards achieving the software of human intelligence, and reverse engineering the human brain. This complicated process will also be driven mostly by international corporates as in the IR 3.0 and not governments as in IR 1.0 and 2.0, and will take many forms like going forward towards artificial intelligence, perfecting the next revolution in mobile/digital communication, and the super-fast and extremely versatile, most complex 5G, and maybe 6G technology.
IR 5.0 would then have to move towards space, the next inevitable frontier for human beings in their search for minerals required for the new digital world, and for finding new challenges for the extremely versatile human mind.
The impact of this change is so strong that the three richest men in the world and many others are moving strongly in this direction, and the next IR will move towards remote travel. Jeff Bezos of Amazon and Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic have already taken the huge plunge of taking personal risk of travelling to the space in their quest for new frontiers.
Elon Musk is perhaps the next great strategist. His job is very tough as like Bezos and Branson, he is a private individual planning to travel farther – to the Mars – and has announced 2024 mission for this adventure. Perhaps Elon Musk is further planning to change the fuel of the world by moving to solar power and saving the world from coal etc, usage and saving the world from environmental effects of traditional fuels.
Value of new ideas: Jeff Bezos, the richest man does not want to hold/spend his money any longer. He took up the most dangerous mission of himself travelling to space last month with his brother. Branson did this a few days earlier. So exciting was this idea that their enormous riches did not hold them back on earth. But experiencing an idea themselves was more exciting.
These are now going to be interesting times with contours of the future still being determined. No one can predict the future, but we can guess some, by reading the following excerpts from the book 'Elon Musk' by Ashlee Vance, and watching individuals grow to a size bigger than nations. SpaceX has just completed launch of four nonprofessional astronauts to orbit.
(Pradip Baijal is former Chairman, TRAI, and has authored many books on Indian reforms)