So far, three industrial revolutions in human history have changed the course of the world. Through continuous progress from life in the dark cave cells, humankind now has brought the whole world under its fingertip.
One such example could be asking current school or college students what KODAK is or whether they have heard of it. Almost every answer would be "NO". Once there were no alternative to KODAK films for taking pictures. But now?
KODAK has lost as it could not adjust to the change or the demand of the age. Due to similar reasons, many other companies also accepted the same fate. However, the topic of today's piece is to focus on how the Fourth Industrial Revolution could be and how much prepared our country is, or whether it is at all, to face the challenges of the revolution.
First, let's look back on all the three industrial revolutions. The invention of steam engine in 1784 gave mankind speed. Around 100 years after that, the electric bulb in 1870 illuminated the human civilisation. Almost 100 more years later, the invention of internet in 1969 brought the whole world into the palms of humans. It was said earlier that internet would accelerate the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and it has become a reality now. Only 50 years after internet was invented, we are hymning to the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
About Fourth Industrial Revolution, Klaus Schwab, founder and chief executive of World Economic Forum, wrote in an article, "Whether we want or not, our lifestyle, working and thinking until now has started to change. Now we are going through a technological transformation. For this digital revolution, which began on the second and third revolution, everything is changing in mathematical rate, which has never happened before."
Most importantly, this change is impacting every sector of every country, thereby changing the process of production, management and even the state operation. Klaus Schwab tries to explain what digital revolution is. He believes changes in information technology around the world through smartphones, the Internet of Things and the application of artificial intelligence in the management of machinery, robotics, biotechnology and quantum computing have begun the process of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The image of this power of the digital revolution has also been evident in a recent World Bank report titled "Digital Dividends". It says over 20,700 crore e-mails are globally sent through the internet and 420 crore different things are searched on Google daily. Only an era ago, these changes in technology were unimaginable. This digital revolution is basically technological revolution which wants to take human life 100 years forward in a single step. All sectors of industry-economy will be changed and enhanced by the use of technology excellence.
Let me now shed some light on advanced technology or Internet of Things. The system that connects all the furnishings in your home to the internet and smartphones is called Internet of Things. For instance, you need not worry about paying your electricity bill because your smartphone will pay it automatically, or your refrigerator will tell you what kitchen products you do not have at home! Or, your smartphone screen will tell you what nutrients are lacking in your body!
Or, robots will start doing all the work of remote security, hazardous work of factory, workers of building or security guards or household chores. All the machines in the automation factory will be connected to a system that will control and supervise the entire production process. This will save labour costs as well as reduce human error.
In the 21st century, everything is sellable. Who does not know that Uber, the world's largest ride-hailing company, does not have a taxi of its own? Facebook, the world's largest social media, has no content of their own; Alibaba, one of the largest shops globally, has no warehouse, and Airbnb, the world's biggest accommodation provider, has no real estate of its own. Ryan, 5, the world's youngest YouTuber, makes millions of dollars every month by just reviewing what it is like to play with his toys. YouTube also does not have its own content. The Fourth Industrial Revolution will literally turn the world into a global village. Communication will be unimaginably developed and international trade will be as easy as buying in street stores.
What will be the effects of the Fourth Industrial Revolution? With the digital revolution, we are going to witness, in the next 10 years, such changes which had not been possible in the previous 50 years.
However, there are two views on the possible impacts of the revolution on development of the quality of life around the world. One view says the income and the standard of living of all people will increase. Digital technology will also bring huge changes to the world product delivery system. The cost of sending goods from one country to another will reduce greatly, which will have a positive impact on international trade.
But another group of economists and experts thinks the digital revolution will take the world's inequality and poverty situation to a more difficult level. With the increased use of digital technology, much of the work done by humans will be accomplished with robots and machinery. And it will create problems in generating new employment for humans. Moreover, the demand for less skilled workers and the market will reduce, which will cause more problems for developing countries. The digital revolution will bring major changes to the governance and policymaking. The technology revolution, on one hand, will bring government services to the doorstep of the common people, while the availability of destructive weapons, on the other hand, will also increase the risk of state sponsored terrorism. Experts fear that the Fourth Industrial Revolution will begin the Third World War if the issue of security risk is not addressed.
For geographical or economic reasons, changes due to industrial revolutions reach late in Bangladesh. For that, the push of the Fourth Industrial Revolution will take some time to come to Bangladesh. But one thing is for sure that the
Fourth Industrial Revolution will end the course of Bangladesh as a labour-based country. In the 1980's, many people learned typing in a hope to get a job easily. Those people lost their jobs in the 1990's because of the emergence of computers. Why a person, knowing only typing, would get a job instead of a person who could run a computer and write on it? Recently, in the garment industry, the use of laser cutting machines has started so that a lot of clothes can be cut in a few batches in a short time. Gradually, the technology will replace workers in the industry. In a technology based Bangladesh, as a result, 47 percent of the people will lose jobs.
So what will job-based Bangladesh do then? Now is the time to adapt to the latest technology and increase technological knowledge. Because, only expertise in the technology will protect people against losing to the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Md Sharif Hasan is a faculty at the Department of International Relations, University of Rajshahi