Over 50% of the labour done by individuals today may already be automated, even with current technology capabilities. The next ten years will likely see a significant portion of society looking for new careers.
Steam power was employed in the first industrial revolution to automate industry. The third brought computers to automate production while the second utilized electricity to mass-create goods. Disruptive technologies like the internet of things, virtual reality, robots, and artificial intelligence are transforming how we connect, work, and live as the fourth industrial revolution takes place right now. Intelligent, highly automated systems have the potential to revolutionize society and perhaps call into question the fundamental purpose of humanity.
What Does This Signify In Terms Of Climate Change?
The solution is intricate. With unprecedented volumes of information and data, these breakthroughs have the potential to drastically lower greenhouse gas emissions and slow down climate change. Mass automation, however, might be detrimental if not handled carefully, leading to higher consumption and emissions.
I want to look at two industries—agriculture and cars—where human effort has already been largely supplanted by equipment to examine what mass automation could entail for our environmental effect.
All cars will be there
At the start of the 20th century, vehicles were luxury items only accessible to the wealthy. However, it was before Henry Ford refined the assembly line idea and quickly grew to control about half of the American automotive market.
Before Ford, automobiles were handcrafted goods produced by teams of expert artisans. The crew may go on to the next automobile after one was finished. Ford changed this procedure such that each automobile moved from one manufacturing step to the next in the order of assembly, with many stations working on different assembly procedures.
The production of cars is now mainly automated, with robots taking the role of human teams. Industry 4.0 technology like robots makes it possible for enterprises to manage energy more effectively. Improved data also translates to better supply chain management. As a result, waste and emissions have been reduced across the whole lifespan of items like vehicles, from the basic metals and minerals to the energy required to carry goods to market.
Agriculture significantly affects the environment
Similar to Ford’s automobiles, mechanization advances like tractors, combine harvesters, and other pieces of equipment have made it possible to produce more food with less labor. Despite this, agriculture is responsible for a significant portion of environmental degradation and growing greenhouse gas emissions due to the fast-increasing global population and food demand. We must continue to increase productivity and lower the emissions produced by the food we produce.
But with the introduction of widespread automation and smart technology, agriculture will profoundly alter, much like with automobiles. Currently, robots are displacing humans in a variety of agricultural duties, including irrigation, pest management, and harvesting. In the future, even tractors may be driverless. Fully automated vertical farms are being constructed to increase production effectiveness and floor area. All of these new developments and upcoming technologies, such as off-grid renewable energy systems, promise to increase the efficiency of food production while lowering emissions.
The Rebounding Effect
These changes could imply that these technological advancements will lower emissions and benefit the environment. After all, shouldn’t robots be able to produce food and make automobiles more effectively than humans?
The problem is that, despite a considerable gain in energy and resource efficiency, the environmental effect has not been completely mitigated. In actuality, the environmental effect is typically becoming worse. Some observers even contend that technological advancements have led to a rise in consumption, a phenomenon known as the “rebound effect.”
When it comes to cars, for instance, efficiency gains made by robots have allowed more people to purchase a new car without breaking the bank, increasing the number of vehicles on the road and resulting in an increase in overall road emissions. Even if many of these vehicles were swapped out for electric vehicles with zero emissions, there would still be emissions related to their manufacture, disposal, and electrical supply.
The ability to produce more food more effectively has also been made possible by automated procedures and large industrial farms. However, the increased consumption of high-impact foods like red meat due to cheaper food and rising average affluence is anticipated to have considerable negative effects on biodiversity and climate change.
In light of this, smart technologies and growing automation indeed hold the potential to transform society in profound ways and free people from routine tasks. This technology revolution has the potential to significantly help the environment if appropriately controlled. That is huge if, though. Automation won’t inevitably lead to a sustainable future; we still need to control our consumption in the face of the most recent technological advance.