The Fourth Industrial Revolution is a giant feedback loop

And it’s changing how companies connect to the world

by Mo Katibeh, Chief Marketing Officer, AT&T Business

I recently watched a really fascinating documentary on three ground breaking scientists, and how their work revolutionized our understanding of how nature can produce incredibly complex patterns from very simple elements.

One of the key scientists that was highlighted was Benoit Mandelbrot.

Mandelbrot took a job at IBM in the late 1950s, and his work over the next few decades led him to build a new mathematical principle, which while incredibly simple, was the basis of one of the most beautiful, and complex constructs ever created – the Mandelbrot set. And what made this math so powerful, was that when it is plotted as an image it creates an unusual shape. A shape where no matter how far you zoom in, it continues with infinite complexity and morphs into patterns that look like seashells, tree branches—all kinds of things.

INCREDIBLY – the math is just Z = Z2 + C.

The equation loops back into itself because Z is both the output and part of the input. Today, they call this equation the Mandelbrot set, and it demonstrates that feedback loops are “fundamental ordering principles in nature.”

Beyond the math – this got me thinking about the concept of feedback loops, and the Fourth Industrial Revolution – a term coined by Klaus Schwab, executive chairman of the World Economic Forum.

Every industrial revolution was sparked by new feedback loops between buyers and sellers—new ways for buyers and sellers to connect. In the first industrial revolution, it was the railroads. In the second industrial revolution, it was the phone. In the third industrial revolution, it was the internet. Now, connectivity is changing once again.

Schwab explains how connectivity is changing in the Fourth Industrial Revolution: “It's the fusion of technologies and their interaction across the physical, digital and biological domains that make the Fourth Industrial Revolution fundamentally different from previous revolutions.”

Lyft and Uber are early examples of the fusion Schwab is talking about. From the time a customer requests a ride, they are connected to their driver, watching them approach on the map. And when the customer reaches their destination, it automatically charges their card. It’s a connection across the passenger, their phone, the app, the credit card, the driver’s car, and their destination—that’s seamless.

On-demand delivery models, like Lyft and Uber have raised the bar for nearly every business. Feedback loops in action!

The CEO of AT&T Business, Thaddeus Arroyo, sums it up like this: “Customers don’t measure us anymore based on our respective industries. They’re going to measure us based on the best-in-class experience they've experienced whether consumer or businesses, regardless of industry. Even B2B customers are thinking: Is this as seamless as Lyft or Uber?”

Due to the nature of feedback loops, the pressure is building on companies to discover seamless connections to the world. In the old days, it was OK to take nine months to write an application. Now, that must be done in days or weeks. The silver lining is you don’t have to write everything from scratch. There are more resources than ever—opensource projects, IoT devices, APIs—that companies can remix to solve innovation challenges.

The companies who discover seamless ways to connect to the world are the companies with the best odds of moving ahead on the big feedback loop called the #FourthIndustrialRevolution.

There are many resources that can help companies achieve this end. AT&T provides a connected ecosystem of near-real-time intelligence from virtually every corner of your business. We call this Edge-to-Edge Intelligence℠, and it’s helping customers in every industry transform ahead of the curve.

For a light-hearted look at Edge-to-Edge Intelligence, check out our new AT&T Business commercials:   

  • Manufacturing – Quality control sensors stop refrigerator doors from falling off   
  • Retail – A traveler who changes into a tuxedo realizes he forgot to pack shoes   
  • Healthcare – Doctors collaborate and determine the right procedures