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Dhaka Tribune

Is there a fifth industrial revolution on the horizon?

This approach places human needs and ethics at the forefront, ensuring technological advancements are not only efficient but also beneficial and ethically sound for society

Update : 16 Jan 2024, 09:50 AM

In the wake of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR), characterized by a fusion of technologies blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres, the world now stands on the brink of another transformative era: The fifth industrial revolution (5IR). This new epoch transcends a new horizon in technological advancement, advocating for a human-centric approach to every sector. 

The 4IR brought about significant advancements in AI, robotics, the internet of things (IoT), and more. However, it also introduced challenges such as privacy issues, job displacement, and ethical dilemmas. The 5IR aims to address these challenges by prioritizing human values and ethical considerations in technology development.

The core of 5IR is human-centric research and development. This approach places human needs and ethics at the forefront, ensuring technological advancements are not only efficient but also beneficial and ethically sound for society. It requires a multidisciplinary effort, incorporating sociology, psychology, ethics, and philosophy alongside traditional STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields.

Recent news about the virtual gang rape of a 16-year-old teenager’s avatar in the Metaverse opened the eyes of many. Also, it was mentioned that there are no policies to address such issues. In 2017, a British teenager named Molly Russell tragically committed suicide. Her family blamed Instagram for her suicide for recommending self-harming content. The above two incidents are two examples of how software can create a mess by omitting values, ethics, and trustworthiness.

There are a lot of challenges and opportunities to introduce ethics, values, and morals into machines. The variations in human behaviours are limitless, and so are the opportunities. But a standard of human qualities must be incorporated within machines or softwares, as our lives now revolve around technologies. 

The journey towards 5IR involves balancing technological advancement with ethical considerations, ensuring equitable technology access, and mitigating job displacement risks. And the opportunities for sustainable, equitable, and humane technological progress are immense.

The transition to 5IR necessitates active involvement from innovators, experts, and the public. Policymakers must shape laws and regulations to protect individual rights in digital realms like the Metaverse. Think tanks and academic institutions are critical in fostering interdisciplinary research for 5IR. Public engagement is vital in shaping 5IR to be inclusive and beneficial. Understanding the implications of emerging technologies and participating in dialogues ensures that 5IR aligns with societal interests and values.

The Fifth Industrial Revolution represents a shift towards technology serving humanity's best interests. We need no further reminders of the need for a responsible and ethical approach to technological development. Stakeholders from all sectors must participate in shaping a future where technology enhances human capabilities and quality of life.

Warda Ruheen Bristi is a Research Associate at the Bangladesh Institute of Governance and Management (BIGM).

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