The Evolution Between Humans and Robots: 4th IR vs 5th IR

The Evolution Between Humans and Robots: 4th IR vs 5th IR – By ACTIVATE! Change Drivers

Many people were forced by the COVID-19 pandemic to adapt to new norms. While the pandemic lead to an improvement in some skills, it also took away the human connection.

The 4th Industrial Revolution (IR) talks about the tech era we are in, while the 5th IR refers to the human consciousness that we see ourselves returning to through technology.

Undoubtedly, technology has played a positive role in our lives. Each revolution sets the tone and theme for the next. While we can term the 4th IR as Digitization and the 5th IR as Personalization. It is evident that you can’t only do business or serve through machines alone. We need human beings for both industries to integrate.

My journey with technology

For the past seven years, I initiated a digital learning program in the province of Mpumalanga, where I was training young people on computer and tech skills.

It was my observation during this process that while they were all learning, some were out of touch with their counterparts next to them, even when they needed help. Maybe it was the idea that while other skills were being developed others were being lost. Today a lot of young people cannot effectively communicate and lack emotional intelligence, it is the most important part of co-existing with others.

Robots and Young people

It takes us back to the point that AI, Robotics, VR, and IoT, do not have senses. Rather young people have adopted some of those attributes. That is why we will see a need for personalization and human consciousness in the 5th IR. Technology cannot take over human civilization, human beings are not machines and we live our lives based on trust and building relationships.

The 5th IR will revolutionize the future of work or rather we can say it will take us back to the future. Where employers will measure their employees based on their soft skills rather than how tech-savvy they are, where humans will augment technology to human senses.

IT web reported global tech layoffs that are taking place from the likes of Telkom, Facebook, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, IBM, SAP, Dell, Indeed and Ericsson.

While according to consulting firm Deloitte, the global tech sector announced 97 171 job cuts in 2022, up 649% compared to the previous year.

This is to see that tech companies do more with less. We are going to a phase where a developer will not only be expected to develop a product but be able to also understand human development and the hierarchy of needs. Maybe the question we need to ask ourselves is; is the 5th IR on our doorsteps? And are our young people ready for it? While most people are still trying to adapt to the 4th IR they might need to be adjusting to the latter.


Young people need to understand the importance of both Hard and Soft skills. Learn to personalize the digital era.

One can suffice to say technology is here to stay and we need not forget that human beings created technology, it means human beings will always be superior. Lately, people talk about chat GPT which is basically an AI machine that collects data from the cloud. The question is can Chat GPT collect aural data which are our African stories that have been passed down from one generation to another through narration? Can machines create a special work of Art like Michelangelo did? The 5th IR realizes and sees the importance of a human being.

Elon Musk, the CEO at Tesla has admitted that “excessive automation” at his company was a mistake, tweeting that “Humans are underrated.”


About the Author:

Themba Netshifira is a member of the ACTIVATE! Change Drivers writers hub, he is a social community developer passionate about Education and the Arts. He graduated from the University of KwaZulu Natal, majoring in Music Education and Electro acoustics.

He has worked as a content developer for an educational application  (2eanble), developing Arts and culture content for high schools.

He has also worked with Glencore on their CSI project developing communities through education and the Arts.

He is the Founder of Media On Africa a digital platform where he shares edutainment, and a self-published Author of the book “Things they will never teach you at School”.

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