Industry 4.0 Social Impact


What is the potential for increase in social tensions due to the advent of Industry 4.0?
How can we minimize negative social impact and de-stress the adoption by the population segment that might see it as a threat to their livelihoods?

Business Strategy
Social Entrepreneurship
Change Leadership
Labor Relations
Social Sciences
Conflict Transformation
Disruptive Innovation
Industry 4.0
Population Dynamics
Jerry Nonkovic
30 months ago

7 answers


Good Day,
i tried to anser that question in one of my blog posts.
It is true that there will be certain jobs being impacted. But these jobs will be mostly jobs we concider low value and with little to no requirements towards skills.
Essentially jobs which have already been under pressure by the automation movements of the last 2 decades. I believe that Industry 4.0 will actually create more jobs because neither the hardware in the form of computers, robots, aiv/agv and so on nore the software like OS, network setup, cyber security, applications, machine learning/ai etc will create/build or maintain themself. Also do all the data have to be transformed into information which have to be used by somebody. Not everything will be machine to machine communciation. Most of the information will be used by humans.
So when it comes to high value jobs, it is quite necessary, that Idustry 4.0 will create and require more jobs than what it might cost.
It also requires that education system changes to actually accomodate for the need of better educated and more skilled employees. This also means, that the education system should not be allowed to create "drop outs". Everybody should considered valuable to make Industry 4.0 a success not jsut for companies but also for society.
Beside all of that, the technology will impact society. IoT devices are becomming already available and the use of mobile devices is by now considered normal. Connected Homes are not a dream anymore and self driving cars are not something out of Sci-Fi anymore.
It will not solve all problems and it will definitely introduce new problems. But that is normal for every change in society.
If we look back 60 years ago, miners were a common sight in many regions around Europa like in Germanies Rhine area. But today they are nearly all gone.
Also do we have miss today jobs from the like the Dark ages where people had the job of collectingurin for cleaners or leather making. And fure hunters or trappers are also not really roaming through North America anymore. So change always is difficult, but this time we have actually the chance to be proactive towards change unlike we had often in the past were we could only react.
Best Regards.
Stefan Zippel

Stefan Zippel
30 months ago
Hi Stefan. I read your blog post and fully agree with your point of view. Yet, from the Luddite riots to the present-time discontentment of the U.S. population segment that feels left behind, there have always been social tensions following technological advancements. I would be curious to know if you are experiencing push-back in your work and how you overcome it. - Jerry 30 months ago
there have always been social tensions following technological advancements = agreed and well said - Dr. David E. 16 months ago

the answer to question if and how you can ease the fear on the social macro level regarding IoT is the same as for asnwering for example the fear if there will be a nuclear war between the USA and North Korea or what will for example a change in the tax law bring.
The only way is to be honest about what does it mean, what does it nring and what will it cost.
And this is for IoT the biggest issue. Most don't know what it means and therefore can't answer properly leaving many jsut guessing.
And if people guess, they tend to see the worst possible scenario.
And we, and i mean with this society, has been in general bad about dealing with this in the past. Also because most of these changes have been introduced and pushed out without that society took notice until it was to late. So we as society always had to deal with the fall out.
What I see different this time is, that Industry 4.0 is up to now more an idea or methodology. Not an actual technology like the internal compustion engine or the PLC/ DCS controller or robot. Industry 4.0 describes a desireable status but nothing else. And we as society have actually the chance to shape this. Which gives us the opportunity to make sure we are not leaving people behind.
But this is not communicated accros society.
Most of the discussions about Industry 4.0 is between experts and they than try to sell this idea to managers. But thats is the extend.
Just go out and ask random people on the street "What is Industry 4.0". I am sure you will get no propper answer like i gave you for example. Most will not even know what you talk about.
And that is were your tension comes from. Because if they then hear that their company is doing a new project, they will have only the past experiences, which in general were about cutting jobs, to fall abck too.
But if they and their managers would all understand what is Industry 4.0, there should be no tension.
So it is actually the responsebility of us experts to spread the word not jsut in our community but accross society.
With the goal to make asmany as possible understand what is Industry 4.0, the same way as all understand what is 1+1.

Stefan Zippel
30 months ago
Great points, Stefan. - Jerry 30 months ago
DITTO, thanks - Dr. David E. 16 months ago

In opposite to Industry 3.0, Industry 4.0 has the philosophy that machines to adapt to the human employees, not the other way around. This opens up new possibilities, as home-office and job-enlargement. From this benefit educated, creative and flexible employees. Others are in risk to get automatized, received reduced salary, as their job skills are not required anymore, or lose the social environment of the office, as their tasks would be executed from home.

Industry 4.0 and Artificial Intelligence mostly gets presented as a positive vision of the future, leading to job enlargement and functions with a higher grade of human dignity. Technology as no soul, by its design it is not good or bad. Human can use it to create a better world or at least work-space, but this is no automatic development. Technology has to be planned and implemented with knowledge, ethics and integrity! 

Pulitzer-price winner and author Tom Friedman defined: “We used to work with our hands for many centuries; then we worked with our heads, and now we’re going to have to work with our hearts, because there’s one thing machines cannot, do not, and never will have, and that’s a heart. I think we’re going from hands to heads to hearts.”

Job profiles which empathy are not only a protection against getting substituted by a machine, it also required for planning positions. Technology is designed to support, but can be used for the sinister. If humans are required in the process, it is imperative to treat them as such!

Patrick Henz
30 months ago
Evolutionary here. The business cycle progresses. Not new! - Dr. David E. 16 months ago
Winners and Losers = Would you rather have the Rights of Kings - Dr. David E. 16 months ago

This is actually not a problem of Industry 4.0 but of the management. Because Indsutry 4.0 provides for me opportunites for everybody. Because what Industry 4.0 is defintiely not is "Automation" as we knew if the last 20 years. If somebody is laying of jobs by buying robots or new maschines. Sorry this has absolutely nothing to do with Industry 4.0.
If i start an Industry 4.0 journey, buying new robots or any kind of other maschine which would actually change the landscape of my shop floor would be furthest from my mind.
A true Industry 4.0 journey will start with the assasement of your current situation.
I wrote about this too.
Also is there a guest blog about what Digital transformation is not.
Everybody sensible would actualyl involve the key palyers of his company to get the tribal knowledge how things are actually happening and not how they should be.
After that, you look for opportunities on how to improve your process. And actually changing your production process is not the answer. The answer will be to collect data, provide information to the persona lto improve their efficiency and improve their decission making. Not spending several $100.000 on e new maschine on a guess.
This means that you also keep your employees because you need them to help you finding the gaps and opportunities to improve essentially themself. But not to the point of making them obsolete but making them efficient and value adding.
So everybody who tries to explain that Industry 4.0 is introducing new maschienry to reduce the umber of employees does a terrible mistake.
Because Industry 4.0 needs data Input to create value and humans are one crucial part of that Input the same way as maschiens are.
So priority should be to win your employees over showing them the chances this brings als ofor them in for example being able to learn new skills and maybe change career. Because everybody brings value to the table.

Stefan Zippel
30 months ago
Well said - Dr. David E. 16 months ago

Thanks for your feedback, Stefan.
Yes, technological advancements always provide more opportunities. Proliferation of actionable data often results in an increase and/or redistribution of workload for the benefit of better decision making, thus creating overall efficiencies in the value chain. So, roles need to change and new skills need to be learned. True, managing such transitions on a local level in a sensible way is key to their success.
The issue we've been experiencing throughout history is that not everyone sees the big picture and is willing to adapt. You and I can agree all day long, but obviously we are of the mind that sees opportunities in the changing world, while someone else might feel threatened.
So, my question is related to whether we can ease the fears and tensions on the societal, macro level.
Once I worked for a business for a long time, helped grow it and felt personally very invested in its success. The owner sold a business and I had to move on. At the moment, I was devastated.
Few weeks before sharing his decision with me, the owner gave me a copy of "Who Moved My Cheese" book. It was hard to appreciate the humor and irony at the time, but in retrospect this was the best thing for me, too.
I wish I knew then what I know now. Spending the rest of my career implementing change, I wonder if there is a better way to help people through it beyond what management at the local level can (and should) do.

Jerry Nonkovic
30 months ago
Who Moved My Cheese = old school and nothing new - Dr. David E. 16 months ago

Very thoughtful input, Patrick. Thank you. Perhaps AI will finally enable humanity to shift focus from the avoidance of existential threats to a more secure existence in which people are able to collaborate peacefully and treat each other with less fear or mistrust.

Much will depend on reaching the consensus on the ethics of AI development.

Early voices of reason are calling for this work to start, as well as warning about the potential for AI to actually become existential threat itself, Future of Life Institute being one of the examples (

Jerry Nonkovic
30 months ago


High-level executives typically formulate solutions to address company problems. Other employees down the chain of command are then put in charge of implementing the proposed solutions—often without an opportunity to provide feedback, guidance, or revisions.

In healthcare today, this approach to problem-solving reflects a "disconnect between the 'Front Office' (C-suite), which decides what to do and what to change, and the 'Front Line' (doctors and nurses) who are supposed to carry out the plans."

It happens in all other industries, too.
Your thoughts are appreciated?

Dr. David E. M
15 months ago

Have some input?