How realistic our expectations of the digitalised world are
This March, my fellow students and I conducted a thorough research, as a central project for one of our courses at Frankfurt School, on the core characteristics of the phenomenon everyone refers to as the 4th Industrial Revolution (or Industry 4.0) and the ambiguous consequences it would cause for enterprises. To my mind, though, there is a broader perspective to the matter which has to be contemplated.
It would be startling if there were a day any time soon when automation, and the changes it is bringing into the world as we know it, would not make the headlines. Self-driving cars, smartphones with built-in AI-driven assistants, fully customised online shopping, cloud sharing and many other things that were once merely a fantasy of sci-fi novelists, are now invading our reality. The question is whether we are ready for it or not. How much of what past generations dreamt of can we actually implement? And what do we need in order to make it work? One can spend days, or even weeks, scrolling through hyped articles, books or other sorts of publications in the search for a satisfying answer; and to be honest, I will not give you one either. Through this article, I will simply try to convey my own message. I believe that we, as human beings, can literally do anything. If we just opened our eyes, acknowledged our weaknesses and flaws and put enough effort into eliminating them, we could go beyond the scope of “possible”. Now, what exactly is preventing us from stepping into Industry 4.0 where all the business processes are automated and humans barely need to interfere? In my view, it is our inability or, more precisely, our unwillingness to recognise the flaws in what we are creating.
In order to break through, we need to acknowledge our weaknesses: flaws in the codes we write
Think about it for a moment, what is stopping “fully self-driving cars” from actually driving autonomously? What causes malfunctions in our day-to-day interactions with our smartphones? The answer is so obvious, that it is disquieting to think there are still people resistant to address the issue. It is all about imperfections in the codes that stand behind our beloved machines’ operations.
In the reality of Industry 4.0, where the digital industrial technologies converge with the physical world, one minor, imperceptible flaw in an otherwise impeccably written code is not just one developer’s concern, but something that can cost real lives. We cannot allow our cars to drive us home autonomously as long as there is even slightest chance that a bug in the software might cause an accident. Proof of which we have observed enough lately, with the recent Tesla fatal crash being in the centre of disputes. Neither can we live in “smart” houses, while there is a mere possibility of a glitch in the system that could lead to either a single-time server malfunction or its ultimate collapse. The consequences might be drastic.
The shortest path to sustainable digitalisation lies in embracing software that helps us write better software
This brings us to the point where, in order to execute the 4th Industrial Revolution without suffering any severe consequences, we need to deploy a sustainable path for automation. The key for success here lies in embracing the perks of the technological advancements. What if we could assign the, mainly time and labour-consuming, debugging tasks to software-driven tools? Maybe very soon we would realise that machines are unapologetically better at building software than humans are, or at least, that we might well use their help.
Currently, there are plenty of businesses emerging and growing within the software testing and software analysis field, yet there is only one young entrepreneurial company (recently awarded by German Accelerator), whose intelligent software analytics platform is powered with an advanced machine learning technology and AI (Acellere GmbH, mygamma.io).
Having said this, I want to outline the importance of addressing this issue immediately and with proper diligence. I believe that once our willingness to grow takes over this state of ignorant denial and we start employing the kind of technology that can actually build flawless software, we will finally be able to welcome any kind of sophisticated technology into our lives, up to actually bringing AI-enabled autonomy we have all been so fascinated by lately to life.