Technological advancement and the Fourth Industrial Revolution
Throughout history, the world has witnessed numerous industrial revolutions and major transformations. They were not just confined to the industrial level, but rather extended to include all other levels. Then, the development of industry and the related sciences and technology was reflected in all aspects of life and created new patterns of culture, politics, economics, and social relations.
The First Industrial Revolution took place in the 18th century, when mankind discovered how to use steam to generate energy and operate machines. The Second Industrial Revolution was coupled with the discovery of electricity in the beginning of the 20th century – which could be called the electrical revolution. The Third Industrial Revolution is the communication, technology and information revolution that began in the 1970s. I have already explored these three stages in detail in my 2018 book Events that Changed History, where I examined the historical events that caused radical changes in the world, including these industrial revolutions. Today, the world is witnessing the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), to which this article is devoted. It is sometimes known as the digital revolution, and its primary characteristics are: 3-D printing, the Internet of Things, Big Data Analysis, robots, cloud computing, competition between human beings and machines, and many other declared and non-declared manifestations.
If the previous industrial revolutions brought about radical transformations at different levels in societies around the globe, the transformations that the 4IR has triggered, and is expected to trigger, exceed the potentials of human perception or imagination because they take place at an unprecedented tempo with a content that gets closer to fiction. It can truly be called the revolution of transforming fiction into reality. Up until recently, who could have predicted that robots would compete against, occasionally replace, and prevail over human beings in some jobs? Who could have imagined seeing a driverless car in the street, buildings being built via 3-D printing techniques, surgeries carried out by robotic doctors, or digital currencies in circulation although they only exist virtually, as well as many other things?
Although we still view some of the achievements or outcomes of the 4IR as if they were miracles or science fiction, the future is full of surprises, and the upcoming developments may exceed what we have witnessed during the course of this revolution. So, what we see now is minimal compared to what is yet to come or what is being researched in the laboratories and research centres of the developed world. This is mainly because of the fact that knowledge is increasing and accumulating in an unprecedented manner that history has never experienced before – even studies indicate that knowledge doubles on a yearly basis. Klaus Schwab, the founder and executive president of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, rightly predicted in his book The Fourth Industrial Revolution that this revolution does not at all resemble any other experience that humanity has undergone. Because this revolution is so rapid and profound that it is incomparable to any of the previous stages of industrial development.
In this article, I do not intend to present or describe the aspects of the technological advancement triggered by the 4IR as this is the task of experts on the subject matter. Instead, in this context, I want to draw attention to some of the issues that need be attentively addressed at the Arab level.
First, many people in the Arab world view the 4IR and the resulting inventions and achievements from a mere technological perspective, and they are deeply preoccupied with this perspective, despite the fact that this revolution carries with it other highly important aspects and dimensions that cannot be neglected or ignored. This revolution does not only pose technological and scientific challenges to the Arab world and many other countries across the world, but it also constitutes social, cultural, and legal challenges among others.
Source : Gulf News