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What Do Chatbots Know About Industrial Revolutions

The Fourth Industrial Revolution Is Also Referred To As The Cognitive Era

Cobus Greyling
4 min readOct 3, 2019



The fourth industrial revolution can only be truly understood and ramifications projected, at least to some degree, through the lens of the previous three industrial revolutions. And what it means for Conversational AI and by implication chatbots.

But first, what in the world is an Industrial Revolution in the first place…

And again, we need to go back in time a bit…without a clear understanding of the previous three industrial revolutions, the fourth cannot be interpreted.

Each of the four industrial revolutions had a catalyst, a key technology activating and enabling the revolution. The technology was key, but the technology itself eventually became an underlying layer, transparent and a mere enabler.

Never implemented for its own sake, but used as a catalyst to further the revolution.

Marshall McLuhan

The First Industrial Revolution

The First Industrial Revolution had as its catalyst steam.

Industries relied on wind and water power as well as horse and man-power.
The advent of steam engines augmented productivity and technology; and eventually allowed for smaller and better engines. From the high-pressure engine, transport-applications became possible, and steam engines were used in boats, railways, farms and road.

Steam engines shows us that changes in industrialization caused changes in many other areas. Steel production soared with the use of steam.

Steam was the catalyst; bridges, trade, transport, manufacturing etc. were the result.

The Second Industrial Revolution

One of the most influential and far-reaching innovations of the Second Industrial Revolution was the internal combustion engine.

Companies do not run around stating, we have internal combustion engines baked in. It is a mere enabler, the focus was not in the engine, but on the knock-on effects. And this enabler created a whole industry and industries around it as concentric circles. We don’t marvel at the internal combustion engine or electricity per say. We use it as tools to create tools, and shape our environments. In our current society it reached a state of ubiquity.

Electricity is an underlying enabling layer which has become transparent, on which we build.

How long you had to work for an hour of light

The Third Industrial Revolution

This was a digital revolution migrated us from mechanical to electronic, from tubes to circuits, from electrical to digital.

It marked the beginning of the information age.

Often the same message, but via new mediums. Business techniques were transformed, retail. automated teller machines, industrial robots, CGI, video games.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution

The sequence of technological revolutions were not over and the emergence of a new universal technology revolution was evident.

Decentralized consensus, Artificial Intelligence, Quantum Computing, Robotics and more.

The fourth industrial revolution is also referred to as the cognitive era.

The transition is pending, from development of underlying theoretical concepts to everyday life impact over a multitude of industries, verticals and products and services.

Conversational AI (Natural Language Understanding & Processing) forms a subset of AI. In future conversational AI will find it’s way into more devices, more services, mediums and environments. Natural Language Conversational Interfaces will become common place.

AI is not a means in and of itself. It cannot be considered alone and in isolation. Intrinsically, belonging to itself by its very nature.

Like steam, internal combustion, electricity, digital…AI will become an invisible, matter-of-course, underlying enabling layer for technologies, services and mediums we as yet have to think up.

Where AI is leading us and what the near future holds is near impossible to predict. One point of consensus is that AI will be one of the most disruptive technologies impacting all industries, sectors, and our everyday existence.

We are only the end of the very beginning.

Google is at the forefront of AI investment and development. Over the past two decades the company has invested billions of dollars in AI R&D and the acquisition of startups in the industry. Most notably they acquired Deepmind, which Google bought for 500 million U.S. dollars in 2014. Using AI patents and published papers on AI topics as an indicator for innovation and “AI readiness” of companies Microsoft, IBM and Samsung consistently show up in the Top-5 of such rankings. ~ Source: Statista

Source: Statista



Cobus Greyling

I explore and write about all things at the intersection of AI & language; LLMs/NLP/NLU, Chat/Voicebots, CCAI.