The error most of us makes with Industry 4.0

If you really want to do Industry 4.0, hire a Philosopher.

Little nightly thoughts
by Business Exploration

Dear Fellow Innovator,

You reached Flavio's blog on CRAZYDATA.

I always had big fights with my father when we work together...

(Dad.. I love you, you know it...)

what makes me mad is his ability to make me do the same thing again and again.

He is damn good at it: he is a man of the past century, forged as Operations Director of the concrete industry's european leader. He has been leading teams to perfect and repeat operations millions of times.

My approach has always been different: I tend to learn how to do it and then make some machine replicate it. To me, learning means: "set me free". Free to do new things.

My dad approach was perfectly suited for his times. A time where the only way to learn was to memorize the learning into the carbon atoms of a human brain or the DNA of a living being.

But it is not the approach we could use today, after silicon memories have been invented.

Nevertheless, we continue to use IT as my dad used a hammer.

and if this could have been acceptable till 5 years ago, we cannot let this approach undermine our attempt to move into the Industry 4.0.
In the BSM (before silicon memory) era we - the humans - learned, the machines were doers. We even measured how much we learned. Entire industries like the Aerospace, where based on the idea of "Learning Curves" economies.

Today we cannot accept this anymore.

The advent of Artificial Intelligence left us with no excuse to stop thinking to our IS information systems as a Smart Machine and start thinking at them as a Learning Machine. A smart machine is a tool. Something that helps our learning to be deployed into an operation.

An Artificial Intelligence is a Learning Tool.

Something that allows us to teach to it, so that we shall never repeat that operation again.
The great thing is that learning is cumulative. It shall increase with experiences. AI let you accumulate every single experience, model it and replicate its consequences into the next operation.

Despite our fears about AI, AI it's a Liberty Machine. it sets us free to do other things. This means that if you continue to use AI, IoT and Data Science as tools to solve your problems you are living in the 18th century. We are used to measure how much we learn. In reality:

the Industry 4.0 KPI should be: "How much we teach."

This brings a few but necessary changes into our organizations.

From "mechanics" to "philosophy"

To embrace the real Industry 4.0 Revolution, we shall understand the difference between Science and Philosophy.

Science: "knows how to build tools"

Philosophy: "knows how to learn"

It is not a case that any advance in our Human History has followed a renaissence of humanistic studies:

as when the Greek philosopehr Protagoras has reshaped our interface with the reality setting "Man" as "measure of all things" back in V Century BC, sparkling the Hellenistic civilization through the world;

to when Roman philosopher Seneca was teaching to all Roman Emperors for the few centuries when Roma was "Caput Mundi";

till when Italian Poets Petrarca and Boccaccio rediscovered Humanitas within ancient Greek philosophic books giving birth to the Italian Renaissance and all the progresses that passing through Illuminism and the XVIII Centuries Revolutions arrived to our days.

You need an humanistic culture in your organization

  • You need Arts

You need to be immaginative. Do you wonder why Adriano Olivetti and Steve Jobs put Design at core of their business? Do you think it was for "Marketing"?



It was to oblige their team to think Humanistic: putting the "Man" at the Center

(by the way: Adriano Olivetti's father was a graduated of a Liberal Art High School and his mather was speaking 4 languages; Steve Jobs has attended one of the best Liberal Arts Colleges in California)

  • You need an Anthropologist

You need to understand human brain and its team-operating mode: "Ο άνθρωπος είναι πολιτικόν ζώον" - "The man is a social being" who cannot be measured in insulation from its peers.

  • You need a Philosopher

You need to learn to think beyond the evidence:

  1. to make sharp questions.
    French people call them "trenschant", in Italy we say "dirimente". Those questions that cut and separate the problem in its components.
  2. to ask "why" and not only "how",
  3. to think "what if" and jump beyond the physics of reality's constrains.

You need a new staff function: the Learning Function

Someone thinks that to embrace the Industry 4.0 he shall build a new "Data Science Function" or "Artificial Intelligence Function".

But they are still thinking in the old XIX century way.

AI, IoT and DS are Industry 4.0 tools, not goals. The real Industry 4.0 Function is a staff function filled with people capable to teach, not to learn. "Teaching" is the paradigm under which the Industry 4.0 tools shall be used. We must enable our organization to move:

from: "Learning and repeating"

to: "Teaching and making to repeating"

Do not be scared if AI takes out old jobs. You shall fire the Human-Machines: they learn to repeat. As a human-being you shall learn, to never repeat it again.

Your team shall be able to teach to the AI tools how to do things.

And as a collateral note: stop paying your people few dimes. increase their salaries to reflect their new status of human-being: it will force you to stop to consider your team as machines instead as you should: co-creators.

How to make the Real Industry 4.0 Revolution happen?

  1. You may need a coach:

someone with a humanistic culture, capable to understand the philosophy behind the science. Someone that can help you and your team to make "sharp questions", jump obstacles formulating crazy "what if?" hypothesis and challenge your status quo with a reverberating: "Why?!?"

  1. You may need to bring more persons into your Board:
  • a Philosopher
  • a Teacher
  • an Artist
  • a Journalist
  • an Anthropologist ( .. or ... if you have nothing better at hand.. at least a Priest... )

  1. You may need a new generation of Tools:
  • tools that use your existing (IT) tools in your behalf
  • tools that can learn new rules of the game each time they find a new experience
  • tools that can understand text in your behalf, retrieve information and decide for you
  • tools that can re-train your team to stop being human-machines and start being:


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