A new era of technological advancement revolutionizing not only businesses, but individual lives, is right around the corner. But unlike previous historical shifts in technology that were designed only for businesses and directly impacted the labor market, this innovation deals in harnessing the real potential in human minds to utilize in complex problem solving. This is the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, transcending the existing physical, digital and biological boundaries. The scale of change it promises in every sector is least conventional; in fact it’s posed to elevate humans’ role as more dedicated to ideological inquires in every sphere of thought, and replacing Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a means to assume physical labor position.
A more detailed analysis of the implications of the Fourth Industrial Revolution across different sectors, mainly Health Sciences, Business, Transportation and Education, was undertaken by Professor Taeho Ryu of the University of Virginia. His findings, which he shared during a recent special seminar at KDI School, point to the emerging trends of moving from delivering knowledge to sharing knowledge in the said sectors. He further opined about the fractures in the current value and ethical systems underlying these aforementioned sectors; putting these into question and demanding new leadership roles equipped with appropriate competency to lead the generations towards a less fractious future.
A closer look into the roots of the concept of artificial intelligence finds Thomas Hobbes as its originator, who argued about such an idea of a machine being capable of thinking and guiding itself. We can see the initial manifestation of this idea in the creation of the Watson chess board in 1989, which was designed in such a way that it could learn and model its actions accordingly, though in a more basic sense. Currently, these ideas have been molded into new innovations in the shape of Virtual Reality (VR) or Augmented Reality (AR), Internet of things (IoT) and AI, and their applications in the fields of human experiences are challenging the very conceptions of interaction with others and the world itself. For example, the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) offered by leading universities around the world has diminished the financial and geographical hurdles in learning that had previously kept many students at bay from access to knowledge. Another major application is found in health services that offer cutting edge precision technology to perform sophisticated operations on one hand, and providing round the clock medical diagnosis and medication through access of AI interfaces. Furthermore, research has indicated that AI guided prescriptions are more accurate and predictive than those referred by doctors themselves. These applications are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the impact the technologically driven Fourth Industrial Revolution will manifest across industry and life.
But this is not the complete picture, as this technological revolution is offering challenges to policy makers around the world due to their implications in growing inequality, monopoly fears from a single operator, data privacy issues, consumer protection and in ethical and rights based concerns. This situation depicts the strains on current leadership, shaking their own conceptions of the demands it requires.
Professor Ryu offers a cautious approach towards navigating the fourth industrial revolution. He admits that the pace of advancement will not slow down — instead the contrary will happen. Therefore, he proposes building human leadership capacity though focusing on the social and cognitive skills of the individual mind, making it more competent to critically analyze, solve complex problems and be creative. At the same time, the idea of life-long learning, work and leisure should be inculcated so that the exponential pace of knowledge creation can be managed in a more meaningful way.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution symbolizes the extraordinary situations of current times and thus calls for extraordinary measures that are more coherent and directed. This way, the full potential of these innovations can be capitalized upon to exist in a more harmonious way without jeopardizing the existing fabric of society and its relationship with self.