The Fourth Industrial Revolution and the Loss of Human Touch

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The number of educational institutions has increased tremendously all over the world. This is because of industrial revolutions since 1780 when the first industrial revolution began. The fourth industrial revolution, also called Industry 4.0 (4IR), began in 2011, and popularised by Chanceller Angela Merkel in 2015.

The 4IR is marked by several things in several fields, including robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), nanotechnology, quantum computing, biotechnology, the Internet of Things, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), decentralized consensus, fifth-generation wireless technologies (5G), additive manufacturing/3D printing and fully autonomous vehicles. It is characterised by customised and flexible mass production technologies where machines operate independently, or in cooperation with humans in creating a customer-oriented production field.

The 4IR can be summed up as an integrated, adapted, optimised, and service-oriented. The aim of 4IR is to produce graduates for a world dominated by cyber-physical systems. This  gives rise to a factory-like model to mass produce “human capital” for the industry. Education became a factory to create employment; to create new things, and a better economy. Machines substituted manual labour, families moved from the rural to the urban areas and agricultural life gave way to a life of industry.

The people living outside the industrialised world are the losers under 4IR. The educational institutions, because of expansion, lost the quality of intimacy among the members of the community. The costs of education rose followed by the demand for continued expansion. The educational institutions began to change themselves into more business-like institutions. Consequently, there began evaluations of schools and colleges in terms of their output for the money invested and not in terms of the humane qualities of the educated. The people living in non-Western world are losing the human touch which they are known for. Educational institutions are about articulating ideas and recognising one’s responsibilities to those ideals. They should help develop capacities for integrity and courage, for diligence and self-sacrifice, for responsibility and service to others, and a sense of higher purpose. They used to place human beings, fellow feelings, love and the like at the centre of their calculating vision. Their unit of measure was bodies and minds but now it has become dollars and cents.

Even in dollars and cents, the non-Western people are not making much. However, the beneficiaries of 4IR are the Western, Industrialised world.  In the West, the population is young and growing fast. The population in the Northern part of the world has been stabilized and is ageing. Advanced technologies such as computer science, cybernetics, robotics, artificial intelligence, and space technology are thriving in an industrial sector.  The gap between the West and the non-West is incredibly wide. This explains the poor condition of people living in the Northern part of the world.

It is time to understand the political, economic, social and cultural impact of the 4IR. It calls for a proactive response from the concerned people of the North as it challenges fundamental assumptions of what it means to be human and the conditions of the relationship between the human and the natural world. Humans still have many advantages over their automated counterparts because of the formers possessing such qualities as  wisdom, spirituality, empathy, self-awareness, and curiosity. People must be “human” enough to assert their humanity over a piece of technology that tends to dehumanise the human race. Technology need not be rejected as such but those responsible for education must harness and harmonise the opposite forces of matter and mind, body and soul, and technology and values. The world needs to focus on technology and science as well as humanity, creativity, and ethics. They must have the bold vision of moderation and choose the middle path which is the way to wisdom.

Lutfi Moten is a Political Science student from International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM).

The views expressed in this article are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect Ajar Demokrasi editorial stance

Lutfi Moten

Lutfi Moten

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