Talking about a revolution: The fourth industrial revolution is characterised by the confluence of advancements in technologies and is catalysed by artificial intelligence. (Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach)


In 2005, I appeared in the inaugural edition of the Mail & Guardian’s 100 Young South Africans. As a reward for this achievement, I was featured in the newspaper and taken to lunch at Nando’s. Among the other people who were chosen that year were Mamokgethi Phakeng, now vice-chancellor of the University of Cape Town, and David Masondo, now the deputy minister of finance.


When the M&G 100 Young South Africans evolved into the M&G 200 Young South Africans, it went on to include my former doctoral student, Msizi Khoza, chief of staff of Absa, and Fulufhelo Nelwamondo, executive director of modelling and digital science at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

READ MORE: Youth need skills for the fourth industrial revolution

The young people who are honoured in this edition live in the middle of the so-called fourth industrial revolution (4IR). 

Because of the extraordinary technological advances and changes taking place, the skills and prowess young people require in this era are extensive.

But what is the fourth industrial revolution? To understand it we need to understand the other industrial revolutions that came before it.

The first industrial revolution occurred in England in the 18th century. Given its population size, the first industrial revolution should have happened in India or China, which were much larger countries than England.

It happened in England because the scientific revolution — which was led by Sir Isaac Newton, who gave us the principles of motion and gravitation — occurred in London. Newton was only 23 years old when he was most intellectually productive. It is essential for the youth to realise that they are at their most productive stage. Read more...