According to some, a load of bull. Slate recently wrote a scathing article on how the term is marketing fluff that has been in use since the 1940s.
But most are more optimistic about the reality of 4th IR. The term warrants its own wiki and World Economic Forum pages. Definitions disagree – with wiki defining the 4th IR as ‘breakthroughs in a number of fields, including robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, biotechnology, Internet of Things, 3D printing and autonomous vehicles.’ The WEC defines the it more narrowly – as ‘the advent of cyber-physical systems involving entirely new capabilities.’
The truth is that the 4th IR is simply too new to define in exact terms. It hasn’t really happened yet. Humanity is still experiencing the end of the 3rd Industrial revolution, and the 4th is just now seeing daylight.
The politics of the term are messy, to say the least. For example, some critics lament the push for the 4th IR when billions of people have not yet experienced the rewards of the 3rd (or even 2nd) ir.
Needless to say, words have power. Perhaps this is why many are hesitant to define the 4th Industrial Revolution right now. Giving the term a hard definition can set limits on the scope of the technology. As the 4th Industrial Revolution develops and grows, 4/ir will continue to redefine the term along with the movement that it represents.