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Are we ready for the fourth Industrial Revolution?

  • Published at 11:29 pm July 9th, 2018
  • Last updated at 11:30 pm July 9th, 2018
Where is technology taking us? Bigstock

It might just have the potential to reshape human societies based on moral values

We have experienced three successive industrial revolutions since the 18th century. 

The epoch-making inventions during these revolutions like the steam engine, electricity, computer technology, the internet, and ICT have significantly changed the fundamental characteristics of human civilization over the previous centuries. It has been widely discussed that we are now in the initial state of the fourth Industrial Revolution.

The fourth Industrial Revolution has drawn much attention of scientists, academicians, and policy-makers around the world. This revolution, according to experts, is the further developments in psychical, digital, and biological technologies that will fundamentally change our lives, production processes, businesses, markets and thus, the global economy within the next 10-15 years. 

Like its predecessors, this revolution will, undoubtedly, bring enormous economic potential because of technology-driven production systems. But at the same time, there are significant challenges that we need to address before it is too late. 

The most unique feature of this era is that technology will play a much larger role in production systems and our socio-economic reality. The human-machine relationship will take a completely new shape in the near future. 

Increasingly, machines will take control of the industries with less and less intervention by human beings. Therefore, there will be a radical change in the global labour market. According to the World Economic Forum, there will be a net loss of over five million jobs around the world by 2020. 

As a result, the future of employment has been becoming increasingly uncertain, particularly in the developing world.

In the near future, the East to West trade flow may stop as most of the new technology-driven industries will be installed in the developed world. In other words, although there will be further economic progress in the developed world, the future of huge labour forces in the developing countries are supposed to become vulnerable. 

Therefore, striking a balance between technology-driven industrialization and equitable economic growth will become a huge challenge for us. So we need to combine the existing manufacturing systems and the latest technological innovations to facilitate equitable economic growth for all.

From a historical perspective, we can see that the previous three industrial revolutions had far-reaching socio-political impacts. Therefore, we should not forget to consider the hidden potentials of the fourth Industrial Revolution. 

Technological innovations have reached a point where they have significant impact on pre-existing political, economic, and social systems. In the near future, people will have a bigger platform to acquire knowledge, establish greater connectivity, and enlighten themselves in a more diversified way. 

Today’s technological developments can contribute to addressing the pressing issues of the contemporary world like unemployment, women’s empowerment, education, health care, sanitation, climate change, disaster management, and conflict resolution. 

Moreover, we can use technological tools to promote cross-cultural understanding, empathy, tolerance, and other human values in order to combat social prejudices, hatred, violence, and extremism. So we can see the fourth Industrial Revolution has the potential to reshape human societies based on moral values.

The youth are an agent of a dynamic civil society. We need to make sure that our youth are able to face future challenges accordingly. 

Education and training sectors have largely remained static and under-invested for decades. We need to further incentivize the education sector to make the students capable of surviving in this rapidly changing job market. 

Particularly, a developing country like Bangladesh should address the issue of educational inequality in order to ensure an inclusive future for everyone. Moreover, we need to initiate rapid reforms in our decades-old socio-economic institutions from the root level. 

Without reforming outdated cultural norms and institutional inertia, we will not be able to maximize the benefits of new technologies.

The fourth Industrial Revolution has had impacts in diversified areas ranging from employment to personal privacy. Government and private sectors need to work together taking a holistic approach, so that the technological innovations can contribute to the greater good of the entire society. At the same time, we need to make sure that the emerging technologies do not harm us and our planet. 

Today, we live in a world where millions of people are still deprived of basic human needs like food, sanitation, health care, and education. In the upcoming years, we will see the emergence of new industries and business models. We don’t want these industries to create more inequalities among our social classes.

In this increasingly globalized world, states can hardly survive by themselves. Therefore, global cooperation is a fundamental pre-requisite to deal with the upcoming challenges and uncertainties. 

Therefore, global economic initiatives that have been facilitating inclusive economic growth should be strengthened. We may need a more integrated economic system that will allow us to meet the basic needs to every human being in the planet. 

Thus, regional and sub-regional economic initiatives can help us to promote inclusive growth in the developing world. Stake-holders from all levels should take effective measures to adapt to the upcoming technological changes and their challenges. 

Taufiq-E-Faruque is a freelance contributor.