[symple_box] International columnist, political analyst and senior journalist Ahmed Mohiuddin Siddiqui’s articles are published across Asia, Africa and Europe. He writes for The Moroccan Times, The Tunis Times, India Tomorrow, Kohram News, The Etemaad Urdu Daily and for news papers published from Muscat, Sultanate of Oman. You can follow him on Twitter at: @journopolana[/symple_box]
The theme of this year’s annual meeting at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland is: The Fourth Industrial Revolution. The wizards of politics, economics and commerce have gathered in the bone-chilling Alps mountains to put their heads together to hammer out solutions in tackling the onslaught of technology in what is termed as the Fourth Revolution. The Fourth Revolution is actually a step forward from the third revolution which was the digitalization of the world. Now, this digitalization has progressed to innovation.
Our planet is a place where only the fittest survive. Technology comes at a price. The world is moving towards recession with crude oil cheaper than water, falling stock markets, the burst of the bubble called ‘robust Chinese economy’. People are losing jobs in thousands in developing countries because of the slide in crude oil prices and increasing invasion of technology in work places and personal lives every day. Advanced heavy machines and robots have taken the roles of the workmen in the banking, healthcare and hospitality sector. Many banks have started employing robots as receptionists. There are robots carrying out the duties of nurses and surgeons. You longer have to take keys from the hotel receptionist to go to your room. There is key less entry with guidance from the robot receptionist. Jobs are not guaranteed anymore including those of the prostitutes. Prostitutes have competition from robots and sex toys. There are robot prostitutes in many places with no tantrums and the fear of legal hassles.
People have no time for relationships. Even dating is online and divorces are through WhatsApp. A house wife does not have to depend at the mercy of a busy husband to go shopping. Drones deliver everything at the doorstep! The tired and hungry husband has the option of ordering food from a restaurant using his mobile phone, if ‘madam’ is not in a mood to serve home- made dinner. Education is transformed with online teaching and video conferences. Even tailors and barbers are using technology. Computer-customized tailoring and computer assisted haircut are the new fads. Vagina tightening and reconstruction clinics are giving choices to the hymen-losing girls and the middle-aged women to ‘put the act together’ again! Women have only to loosen their purse strings to get the vaginas tightened. The anti-ageing treatment Botox makes the not-so-young ladies look as ‘sweet sixteen’ at least for some more years. All these things are possible with digitalization. One can imagine the impact of technology with innovations in the fourth industrial revolution.
The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanize production massively. The Second used electric power to create mass production to unprecedented levels. The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production and impact our public and private lives. Now, a Fourth Industrial Revolution is building up on the Third, the digital revolution that has been happening since the middle of the last century. This has been characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres of life.
The arrival of a Fourth and distinct revolution: speed, scope, and systems impact will be felt. The velocity and volume of current breakthroughs has no historical precedent. One must say, when compared with previous industrial revolutions, the Fourth is evolving at an exponential rather than a linear pace. Moreover, it is disrupting almost every major and minor industry in every country. The breadth and depth of these changes signal the transformation of entire systems of production, management, marketing, distribution and governance.
The immense possibilities of billions of people connected by mobile devices, with unprecedented processing power, storage capacity, and access to knowledge, are beyond description. Further, these possibilities will be multiplied and compounded by emerging technology breakthroughs in fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, Internet, autonomous and chauffeur-less vehicles, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage, and quantum physics and quantum computing. Not just the mobile phones, cities are becoming ‘smart’ too. But human beings are not becoming smart with increasing inequalities. Eminent economists Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee have stressed that the revolution could lead to greater inequality, particularly in its potential to disrupt labour markets. Only one per cent of the planet’s population possesses almost the entire wealth of the world.
It is estimated that more than 30 percent of the global population now uses social media platforms to connect, and learn, and share information. These interactions would provide ample opportunity for dialogue, cross-cultural understanding and cohesion to avoid misunderstandings and wars. The physical, digital, and biological worlds continue to synthesize new technologies and platforms. This will increasingly empower citizens to engage with governments, voice their legitimate demands and opinions. Governments will acquire new technological powers to increase their control over populations, based on surveillance systems and the ability to control digital infrastructure like in China and the Middle East. On the brighter side, governments will face mounting pressure to revisit their current approach to public engagement and policymaking. The new sources of competition and the redistribution and decentralization of power will be possible through technology.
The progress or development and the march of the fourth industrial revolution will be meaningless if 50 per cent of the planet’s population – ‘women’ are left behind. The corporate world and the political bosses in different countries should pledge to overcome gender inequalities. Gender should not precede merit. The world is pregnant with gender inequalities and violence against women. This needs not only an urgent delivery but deliverance from the patriarchal stronghold. It is hoped that the World Economic Forum 2016 summit will focus on gender issues to provide equal opportunities for all.
Will the Fourth Industrial Revolution upset the apple cart of our lives?