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Last updated: 07 Sep, 2021  

Industry.9.Thmb.jpg Strategy of the greats - Moving towards IR 5.0

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Pradip Baijal
The world is changing at a frightening speed. The world did not change for 18 centuries after 1 AD with India and China owning half the world's GDP almost throughout this period, till 1760. The first and second industrial revolutions changed everything in two centuries thereafter with China and India's share going down from 50 to 5 per cent during the first and second industrial revolutions, and the West gaining where these technologies were discovered. 1950 started the third industrial revolution, followed by fourth industrial revolution, both communication and digital revolutions in a globalised world connected on wire or wireless, where it was difficult saving technologies only in the countries where they were discovered. Further and strangely, the US and other advanced countries chose to help China and the other countries. The US also got convinced that it was advantageous to help China grow fast, to counter Russia, their cold war rival. The growth pattern moved towards the East, particularly China with the US' active and sometimes unethical help. China grew to the US' size in GDP in record time.

The changeover started with the '100 year marathon' designed by Mao, who was the first great strategist during the last century. The Plan failed courtesy China's own methods of implementation with the indiscipline Red-guards and the new deal etc., leading to famines. Mao realized the weakness of his plan and quickly decided to partner with the country which knew how to get rich - the US, and not bothering about political differences. The differences between the two countries were so severe that it took Mao about 10 years of planning even to meet Nixon, an act carried out with great political finesse - and dealt with in my book, "Containing the China Onslaught". He could do nothing with the US agreement, owing to its opposition both in the US and China, and it took many years before his successor Deng, who was almost killed after the US agreement, to start implementing it from 1980, two years after he walked into President's house from jail. I have dealt with all the next stages of this phenomenal growth in my book on

China, and how Deng implemented all changes visualized by Mao. The initial resistance to this change both in China and the US, soon vanished in the possible profits to American corporate and the Chinese nation in the carefully designed supply chain. Later, on US/China differences cropping up, Trump wanted to destroy the supply chain, and announced so in 2016, but could not implement changes in the supply chain brilliantly designed by China with active American help, both Government and corporate. Later, so intense was the hatred towards China due to their exploitation of America in terms of losses of jobs, and much later due to Corona related issues that Trump lost the elections in 2020. Trump would never have lost the election if he completed the enquiry into the alleged source of corona virus from the Wuhan laboratory.

Deng was the second great strategist who implemented the American agreement from 1980 to 1987 as President, and later when his successors could not implement after the end of Deng's 10 year term, he took over as Defence Minister, an act of great and humble statesman ship, and helped implement the agreement in one capacity or another till he died in 1997. He had huge influence on Chinese politics as long as he lived.

An integral part of the US-Chinese agreement was movement towards democracy. But the great strategist Deng convinced the Americans through their seven Presidents, from Nixon to Obama, that this move will destroy the Chinese state, like it did in Russia where the state disintegrated after Gorbachev imposed democracy. Deng later called Gorbachev an idiot for destroying the mighty Russian empire.

I will now try to identify the shape and size of The Fifth Industrial Revolution (IR): which is now approaching us. It appears that the fourth industrial revolution would also subsume "The Singularity is Near" predicted by Ray Kurzweil in his book in 2005, and consequently the world will move towards achieving the software of human intelligence, and reverse engineering the human brain. This complicated process will also be driven mostly by international corporates like in the IR 3.0 and 4.0 and not governments as in IR 1.0 and 2.0, and will take many forms like going forward towards Artificial Intelligence, perfecting the next revolution in mobile/digital communication, and the super-fast and extremely versatile, most complex 5G technology. The dependence of this technology on private corporates will make the process very complex, the world not having experience in enforcing regulations across different countries and between huge and litigant corporates. Eminent technologists/authors/think tanks have predicted that the implementation of 5G technology will determine who moves faster in the world - the US or China.

IR 5.0 would then have to move towards space, the next inevitable frontier for human beings in their search for minerals required for the new digital world, and for finding new challenges for the extremely versatile human mind.

Before I move further, let me also deal with the speed of change. It took 1800 years of this AD to discover the technologies of the first and second industrial revolutions and then gaining from them in 200 years. The third and fourth revolutions have only taken a little more than fifty years to commercialise these technologies which then also changed the growth patterns, and surprisingly many of the underdeveloped third world countries moving faster. We now move to the fifth industrial revolution with the speed of change having multiplied many times.

It appears that the fifth industrial revolution will move faster forward towards the untravelled space, looking for the resources of the unknown, and again private sector dominated. The impact of this change is so strong that the three richest men in the world and many others are moving strongly in this direction, and the next IR will move towards remote travel. Jeff Bezos of Amazon and Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic have already taken the huge plunge of taking personal risk of travelling to the space in their quest for new frontiers.

Elon Musk is perhaps the next great strategist. His job is very tough as like Bezos and Branson, he is a private individual planning to travel farther - to the Mars, and has announced 2024 mission for this adventure. Perhaps Elon Musk is further planning to change the fuel of the world by moving to solar power and saving the world from coal etc, usage and saving the world from environmental effects of traditional fuels.

Value of new ideas: Jeff Bezos, the richest man does not want to hold/spend his money any longer. He took up the most dangerous mission of himself travelling to space last month with his brother. Branson did this a few days earlier. So exciting was this idea that their enormous riches did not hold them back on earth. But experiencing an idea themselves was more exciting.

Another richest man, Elon Musk is now moving towards Mars himself, at a much higher speed, and through capital raised by his company in the market and travelling in his SpaceX. Typical of such ventures, private litigation has already started with rules of the game still being finalised.

These are now going to be interesting times with contours of the future still being determined. No one can predict the future, but we can guess some, by reading the following excerpts from the book "Elon Musk" by Ashlee Vance, and watching individuals grow to a size bigger than nations.

1. Introduction: "Musk is a man behind PayPal, Tesla Motors, Spacex, and Solar City, each of which has sent shock waves throughout business and industry. In his lively investigative account, veteran technology journalist Ashlee Vance offers an unprecedented look into the life and times of Silicon Valley's most audacious businessman. Since arriving into the US in 1992, Musk's roller coastal life has brought him grave disappointments alongside massive successes."

2. Page 4- "Any study of Elon Musk must begin at the HQs of SpaceX at Hawthorne, California-a suburb of LA and a few miles from LA international airport. Its there that visitors still find two great posters of Mars hanging side by side on the wall leading to Musk's cubicle. The poster to the left depicts Mars as it is today-a cold barren red orb. The poster on the right shows a Mars with a humongous green landmass surrounded by oceans. The planet has been heated up and transformed to suit humans. Musk fully intends to try and make this happen. Turning humans space colonisers is his stated life's purpose. 'I would like to die thinking that humanity has a bright future' he said. 'If we can solve sustainable energy and be well on our way to become a multi-planetary species with self-sustaining civilisation on another planet-to cope with the worst case scenario happening and extinguishing human consciousness - then', and here he paused for a moment, 'I think that would be really good'."

3. Page 5 - If some of the things that Musk says and does sounds absurd, because on one level they very much are."

4. Page 5 - " Musk's ready willingness to tackle impossible things has turned him into a deity in Silicon valley, where fellow CEO's like Page speak of him in reverential awe, and budding entrepreneurs like to be like Elon, just as they had been striving to mimic Steve Jobs. Silicon valley, though operates with a warped version of reality, and outside the confines of its shared fantasy. He's is the guy with with the electric cars, solar panels and rocket peddling false hope. Forget Steve Jobs. Musk is a sci-fi version of Barnum who has got extraordinarily rich by preying on people's fear and self-hatred. Buy a Tesla. Forget about the mess you have made of the planet for a while."

5. Page 6 - "Yet in the early part of 2012, the cynics like me had to take notice of what Musk was actually accomplishing. His once beleaguered companies were succeeding at unprecedented things. SpaceX flew a supply capsule to the international space station, and brought it safely back to earth. Tesla motors delivered the model-S, a beautiful all electric sedan that took the automotive industry's breath away and slapped Detroit sober. These two feats elevated Musk to the rarest heights amongst business titans. Only Steve Jobs could claim similar achievements in two such different industries, sometimes putting out a new Apple product and a blockbuster Pixar movie in the same year. And yet Musk was not done."

6. Page 7 - "It was only after going through the front doors of SpaceX that the grandeur of what this man had done became apparent. Musk had built an honest to God rocket factory in the middle of LA. And this factory was not making one rocket at a time. No. It was making many rockets - from scratch. The factory was a giant, shared work area. Tesla has built one of its recharging stations where LA drivers can top up with electricity for free."

7. Page 15 - "With SpaceX, Musk is battling the giants of the US military-industrial complex, including Lockheed Martin and Boeing. He is also battling the nation's most notably Russia and China - SpaceX has made a name for itself as a low cost supplier in the industry. But that, in

and of itself, is not really good enough to win. The space business requires dealing with a mess of politics, backscratching and protectionism that undermines the fundamentals of capitalism."

8. Page 15 - "SpaceX has been testing reusable rockets that can carry payloads and land back on earth, with precision. If the company can perfect this technology, it will deal a devastating blow to all its competitors while establishing the US as the world leader for taking cargo and humans to space. Its a threat that Musk figures has earned him a lot of enemies. 'The list of people who would not mind if I was gone is growing'. Musk said. 'My family fears that the Russians will assassinate me."

9. Page 15 - "With Tesla motors, Musk has tried to revamp the way cars are manufactured and sold, while building out a worldwide fuel distribution network at the same time. Instead of hybrids, which in Musk's lingo are suboptimal compromises, Tesla strikes to make all electric cars that people lust after and that push the limits of technology."

10. Page 18 - "Tesla's recharging stations now run alongside many of the major highways in the US, Europe and Asia and add miles of oomph back to a car in about 20 minutes. These supercharging solar powered stations are solar-powered and Tesla owners pay nothing to refuel."

11. Page 17 - " He is the possessed genius on the grandest quest anyone has conceived. He's less a CEO chasing riches than a general marshalling troops to ensure victory. Where Mark Zuckerberg wants to help you share baby photos, Musk wants to, well, save the human race from self-imposed or accidental annihilation. The life that Musk has created to mange all his endeavours is preposterous. Asked how he survives this schedule, Musk said, 'I had a tough childhood, so maybe that was helpful'."

12. Page 22 - "Because of Musk, Americans could wake up in 10 years with the most modern highways in the world, a transit system run by thousands of solar charging stations and traversed by electric cars. By that time SpaceX may well be sending up rockets everyday, taking people to dozens of habitats and making preparations for longer trek to mars. These advances are simultaneously difficult to fathom and seemingly inevitable if Musk can simply buy enough time to make them work. As his former wife, Justine puts it, 'He does what he wants, and he is relentless about it. It is Elon's world, and the rest of us live in it'."

13. Page 31 - "Elon exhibited all the traits of a curious energetic tot. He picked things up easily, and maybe like many mothers did, pegged her son as brilliant and precocious. 'He seemed to understand things quicker than other kids,' she said. The perplexing thing was that Elon seemed to drift off into a trance at times people spoke to him, but nothing got through him when he had a certain distant look in his eyes. This happened so often that Elon's parents and doctors thought he might be deaf. Doctors ran a series of tests on him, and elected to remove his adrenalin glands, which can improve hearing in children, 'Well, it did'nt change,' said his mother Maye. 'Elon's condition had far more to do with the wiring of his brain than how his auditory system functioned. He goes into his brain and than you just see he is another world,' Maye said. 'He still does that. Now I just leave him because I know he is designing a new rocket or something'."

14. Page 32 - For Musk, these pensive moments were wonderful. At five or six, he had found a way to block out the world and dedicate all his concentration to a single task.

15. Page 33 - "Over time Musk has ended up thinking that his brain has the equivalent of a graphic chip. It allows him to see things out in the world, replicate them in his mind, and imagine how they might change or behave when interacting with other objects. 'For images and numbers, I can process their interrelationships and algorithm relationships', Musk said. Acceleration, momentum, kinetic energy-how those sort of things will get affected by objects comes through very vividly. The most striking part of Elon's character was his compulsion

to read."

(Pradip Baijal is former Chairman, TRAI, and has authored many books on Indian reforms)
 
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