Industry 4.0: where is the digital express train heading to?

Article written by Tibor Rékasi was published in Figyelő on July 7th. In connection with Industry 4.0 he also mentioned artificial intelligence, the best way to automate even highly complex tasks.

Industry 4.0: where is the digital express train heading to? Industry 4.0“Industry 4.1 isn’t a new concept anymore even in Hungary, but besides its revolutionary significance it is worth considering it as a platform where the latest and most significant achievements of digital technology (IoT, big data, 3D printing) come and join together. Such a huge engagement is unprecedented, so no wonder that philosophers, IT specialists, technical gurus and business executives are now thinking about how the paradigm shift related to Industry 4.0 would change our lives and the lives of the future generations.

It’s hard to question that industrial development can only follow the aspects of competitiveness and sustainable operation if the latest available state-of-the-art technologies are applied during the manufacturing processes. This, however, does not necessarily mean that the existing human resources will be replaced by programmed robots, even if most of the concerns and fears are expressed in this respect. The labor force market will undoubtedly adapt to the changes resulted by digitization, but it will rather make possible the support of human work with digital devices. It can already be seen in the first real Industry 4.0 pilot factories built in Germany that advanced devices make more efficient and supplement the work of human employees instead of replacing them. As a result, the whole production becomes more efficient on a higher quality level and at a lower energy input, whereas the employees can afford – instead of “root work” – to deal with more creative tasks that require the human factor.

Digitization of industry can be an important take-off point also in Hungary. There is vivid and progressive thinking about the digitization of industrial production even on governmental level; simultaneously, the European Commission has also set the course to reach the same on community level. The first step leading towards this objective is standardization, as billions of devices connected in the digital space will have to communicate with each other safely and smoothly, regardless their manufacturer, technical architecture or their country of origin.

We must, however, recognize that we are still taking the first steps on the road of digitization. At the end of this road – or at a very important milestone, to say the least – appearance of the artificial super-intelligence is awaiting, which isn’t nearly as utopian already as it might have been before. As Swedish philosopher Nick Bostrom writes in his book Superintelligence now available in Hungarian: About 10 percent of artificial intelligence researchers believe the first machine with human-level intelligence will arrive in the next 10 years. Artificial intelligence is the best way to automate even the most complex tasks or even to transfer decision-making to the given machine in case of certain questions; this way individual mass production often referred to nowadays can be implemented even in the most specialized areas. The central question of this process is the development of machine learning. The essence of this is that a given computer system is able to individually develop with the help of the available data, i.e. instead of only following pre-programmed commands it creates models, on the basis of which it makes decisions and completes tasks.

Today it may still be difficult to imagine the impact superintelligence could have on a smart factory. On the other hand, we’ve seen progressive solutions, such as the implementation of automated refill in industrial plants, where the storage devices detect when the supply has to be ordered, while at the same time also taking into account the current manufacturing instructions, stock levels, delivery times, tasks in progress and available resources. This means that the industrial revolution we’ve been part of does not bring shockingly huge and sudden changes: it’s more like a digital express train charging unstoppably ahead on an uncharted but very exciting road, crossing borders, and we only comprehend its true meaning along the journey. The only question is where we are going to get on it.”

Tibor Rékasi, Chief Executive Officer, T-Systems

(Figyelő, Thursday, July 7th 2016, Page 45)