While technology is  beneficial and improves our lives, one must not turn a blind eye to its unwanted effects.

THE fourth industrial revolution is an emerging term used to represent today’s  technology breakthrough, as detailed by Professor Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, in his book, The Fourth Industrial Revolution.

In terms of terminology, there are criticisms as to  whether this phenomenon is really another industrial revolution. Critics prefer to refer to it as a current extension of advancements in information and communications technology (ICT).

Along this line, the digitisation manufacturing of today is also referred to as Industry 4.0  by McKinsey & Company as the fourth major upheaval in modern manufacturing.

Regardless of the terms used, change has occurred. The Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, biotechnology and other technological advances have become part of a deep and wide-ranging transformation of human civilisation.

 While technology is  beneficial and improves our lives, one must not turn a blind eye to its unwanted effects. These include the unequal enjoyment of growth, the societal gap between the rich and poor, change of social behaviour, pollution, food security and the unethical use of technology.

Are we correctly handling our chase towards technological advancement? Our part of the world is affected the most, as most of the world’s 1.8 billion youths are in developing countries. Today’s youth must be educated on the use of technology and its hidden costs for a sustainable future. Without early awareness, they will continue to be disconnected from the real world. The digital world creates a new challenging struggle for them to evaluate ethical concerns and understand the value of real social connectivity.

In education, we have been looking at things in a fragmented way where science, economics and arts take separate paths. In reality, science, politics, economics and even the military form a close cycle, serving each other. Analysis of this requires analytical thinking, understanding and the heart for peace, love and humanity.

Today’s problems are not so unique that only technology can provide solutions. There are historical parallels, precedents and ethical principles that can provide guidance.

It is timely now, more than ever before, to bring our cultural ethos, values and knowledge to look at science and technological advancements in a different and a more comprehensive worldview.  

While the adoption of technology without an appreciation of humanity is disastrous, adoption without God-consciousness is arrogant. The more the quest for science and technology progresses, the more evident are God’s presence and greatness. For example, developments in quantum physics, which greatly benefit the industrial revolution, have revealed nature’s mysteries at the low energy levels of atoms and subatomic particles. They have shed light on the universe, time, space and the existence of life.

This new paradigm should bring one to realise that science and God-consciousness are on a common ground. The Islamic teachings on this are clear: scientific discoveries are indications  of God’s  existence. The guide to face changes is contained in the Islamic principles outlined by the Maqasid al-Syariah (purposes of the syariah) that sustainably preserves the qualities of human life.

Sustainable growth is necessary. It is, therefore, time to reassess the readiness of our universities to face this rapid change. Malaysian universities must play a role in promoting our understanding of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The transformation of society and technological advancements must not be embraced blindly and completely, but rather, with caution and strategy. Teachings and research must be incorporated with appreciation of humanity, sustainable development, ethical technology and values that promote a coexistence between human and God.

NORFADHILAH MOHAMAD ALI

Senior lecturer, Faculty of Syariah and Law, Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia.

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