Industry 4.0 will revolutionize the way we work and the academic/intellectual sector will be no exception. Conceptually, the academic sector plays the role of a brain feeding information, innovation and intellectualism into Industry 4.0 characterized by its applications of robotics, Artificial Intelligence (AI), algorithms and machine learning. These applications are generally regarded as the products and outputs of Industry 4.0 and often define Industry 4.0.
The intellectual/academic sector also trains and produces human resource for the sector, producing coders, researchers, professors, scientists and engineers for the sector. The institutions involved in producing such talents are the Institute of Higher Learning (IHLs), research institutions and other specialized agencies, departments and organs. Very often, there are strong collaborations between these institutions and the private sector.
In understanding the role of academicians and researchers in Industry 4.0, one can turn to important industry publications for clues (e.g. University World News) and leading economic discussion platforms like World Economic Forum (WEF). Socially, it was reported in UWN that Juan Romo, rector at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, emphasized ethical education in the humanities for wealth management at a time when data is equated with wealth.
Allocation and distribution of wealth generated by Industry 4.0 for ethical and equitable purposes are also covered under the purview of humanities education. In other words, education and research can both be re-tooled to manage wealth generation to help others in society. Such reconfiguration of education takes place on top of enhancement of technical capabilities such as AI, coding trainings, etc. Essentially, what is being argued here is that both technical and humanities educations have to proceed in tandem.
Traditionally, the study of ethics was under the purview of the discipline of philosophy which uses logical thinking, reasoning and rationale to work out how to re-distribute wealth generated by the New Economy and Industry 4.0. Philosophers would have to work this out with other colleagues from the technical fields and sectors to bring about more equitable distribution. Historians are another branch of intellectuals who can be tapped on for studying trends, carrying out comparative studies of societies, occupations, social classes and social/gender/ethnic/religious groups displaced by industrial changes and modifications in technologies.
Given the increasing convergence of social issues and challenges with the technical capabilities of AI and other Industry 4.0 applications, a multidisciplinary approach may be needed and indeed helpful for the process. This is because the social impact of Industry 4.0 cuts across all professions and challenges are often multi-faceted in nature, requiring individuals with different kinds of educational training to tackle them collectively. The idea is to prevent the siloing of knowledge or the strict separation of different branches of knowledge in accordance with specialized training and specialized majors.
Such training takes place on top of traditional economic incentives for skills training to train the individuals to use digital tools for strengthening the economy, increasing productivity and incentivizing and motivating economic growth. To improve the abilities of human individuals to tap into the software and applications (apps), the basic foundational knowledge of the average worker, student and employee can be constantly upgraded.
Do communities need to come up with new consensus and social contracts to keep their constituents stable and politically cohesive to minimize disruptions caused by technological changes?
Educational institutions and training in this sense can help empower human individual socially with knowledge and skills to fit into the workplace that is now characterized by digitization and Industry 4.0 technologies. At the core of this training is how to manage an avalanche of data coming our way and utilize them meaningfully to help society. When individuals are taught how to interpret, analyze and interpret data, they can fit better into the new digital workplace.
In other words, the older educational format of rote learning, memory work are now less relevant for training individuals for the new workplace. Memorization of facts, non-active learning, absorption of knowledge per se, and repetition of facts and figures are now less relevant as goals and objectives in education. Together with ethical use of knowledge and wealth generated by it, basic skills in interpreting data and analyzing information can help enhance the individual’s ability to cope with increased and easier access to data. The accent therefore is not only on how to use data but to share the benefits of data-generated profits with others in society equitably.
For researchers, new technological innovation and inventions are now possible with advanced research and development (R&D). Cutting edge research now possibly include the multidisciplinary convergence of engineering, quantum physics, biotechnology, bio engineering and other branches of knowledge. We now have the capacity to converge these formerly disparate branches of knowledge to innovate new technologies that can make our lives more convenient, simpler and productive.
When scientific knowledge produces such new technologies, and when such prototypes are successfully commercialized, they become wealth generators as well. Then, at that point of time, that is the appropriate moment when humanities studies come in to study the distribution of wealth generation to maintain social mobility amongst the different classes in society. Equity in distribution of resources is of utmost importance to maintain social stability and stave off social revolutions.
When historians study displacement of social groups in society, they will also be looking at the political impact of Industry 4.0 comparatively with earlier generations of industrial revolutions. Political impacts can be meso, micro and macro in nature. In the micro sense, at the community level, it may be useful to examine how socio-political relations can change. Do communities need to come up with new consensus and social contracts to keep their constituents stable and politically cohesive to minimize disruptions caused by technological changes?
At the meso level, nationally, how can the government and other constituents in society like the private sector, intellectuals and/or non-government sectors work with the state to harmonize social relations so that there will not be massive political uprisings, rebellions and violent upendings to correct the state of affairs brought about by technologies and unequal wealth distributions? At the macro level, it may also be important to understand how state to state relations can change and be modified by technologies.
Rivalries between states in terms of technological development and geopolitical frictions and tensions caused by such rivalries can be further studied as part of this research. Even competing economic models can also be a source of political tensions and contestations. These subjects are discussed as part of macro economic gatherings like the World Economic Forums where there is a gathering of elite economists, technologists and policy makers who are worried about the disruptions brought about by technologies but are at the same time, excited about the immense opportunities they bring to humankind.