Column: Industry 4.0

Things are doing it for themselves

Why industry 4.0? And what does a cow have to do with a 3D printer? And what does Schwamendingen have to do with the Rosetta comet sensor?

Christoph Hugenschmidt

Industry 4.0? Why not industry 12.3? Or 2.466 v3? After all, I’ve been told about one “industrial revolution” or another time and again over the past few decades. There was the launch of computer-controlled machines (CNC), the Internet that had revolutionised everything anyway up until the New Economy stock market crash, or globalisation with the fantastic phrase “extended workbench” that sounded so much nicer than “moving jobs to low-wage countries.” But fine: Industry 4.0 it is.

Now don’t go thinking Industry 4.0 means that cars drive themselves. This is related, but it’s known as IoT (Internet of Things) and the computer industry is almost more excited about it than about Industry 4.0. The latter means that the cars of the future will not only speed around without drivers in future, but will also first build themselves – and will do so on demand. You would like a more stylish car bonnet? Fiercer looking headlights or a softer rear? No problem – the required softer rear in crimson will be printed immediately. Your rear will “know” to which (future) car it belongs, will call a drone (which will of course control itself), and have this fly it to the assembly location close to you, where one of the last 23 employees in the automobile industry will attach it to your vehicle.

And it’s not just your car that will be manufactured in this way, but also your furniture, your crockery and your automatic rifle. The latter only if you can identify yourself as being authorised to procure an automatic rifle via iris scan or mobile ID, though (or if the software is malfunctioning). The only thing that it won’t be possible to manufacture using Industry 4.0 methods is milk. But let’s be honest: the cow that voluntarily walks over to the milking robot twice a day along with hundreds of others of its kind isn’t really all that different to a 3D printer.

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“The cow that voluntarily walks over to the milking robot twice a day along with hundreds of others of its kind isn’t really all that different to a 3D printer.”

Now you will say that Industry 4.0 is impossible; a fantasy. Even the autonomously driving car won’t work and if it did it would be much too dangerous. Such a car couldn’t possibly overcome the pitfalls of daily traffic jams without the wise foresight of its driver and her passenger (“Left, leeeeeft I said; yeah, now it’s too late. Hey, didn’t you see that woman with the Zimmer frame?”). Well, you’re wrong.The people who not only gave a probe the pretty name Rosetta, but also managed to send it into space on a rocket, have it gain speed by swinging by first the moon and then some planets and, after a journey of around 6.4 billion kilometres, finally landed it precisely to the millimetre on a tiny heap of dust will also manage to steer a few cars through Schwamendingen electronically. And if they can do Schwamendingen, they can also manage New York.

Christoph Hugenschmidt

Christoph Hugenschmidt founded the online newspaper ten years ago and works there as a journalist and publisher. The 57 year old does not (yet) have a driving licence and thinks self-driving cars with crimson rears are an excellent idea.

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