Dr. Norfadhilah Mohamad Ali
Dr. Norfadhilah Mohamad AliSenior Lecturer Faculty of Syariah and Law

The 4th industrial revolution is an emerging term used to represent today’s technology breakthrough. Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum in his book “The Fourth Industrial Revolution” explained the change of the way of living in this new era. In terms of terminology, there are criticisms as to whether this phenomenon is really another industrial revolution, preferring it as rather a current extension of advancements in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). Along this line, the digitization manufacturing era today is also referred to as Industry 4.0 by McKinsey & Company as the fourth major upheaval in modern manufacturing.

Regardless the terms used, change has occurred. The internet of things, artificial intelligence, biotechnology and other technological advances have become part of a deep wide-ranging transformation of human civilisation. While technology is beneficial to improve the life of humans, one must not turn a blind eye to its unwanted effects. This includes the unequal enjoyment of growth, societal gap between the rich and poor, change of social behaviour, pollution, food security and the unethical use of technology.

Hence, in our chase towards technological advancement, are we facing it right?

The challenge is here. It is our part of the world that is affected the most, as most of the world’s 1.8 billion youth population are from developing countries. The youth today must be educated on the use of technology and its hidden costs for a sustainable future. Without early awareness, the youth will continuously be disconnected from the real world. The digital world creates a new challenging struggle for the youth to evaluate ethical concerns and understand the value of real social connectivity.

In education, we have been looking at things in fragmentation where science, economics and arts lead separate ways. In reality, science, politics, economy and even the military form a close cycle, serving each other. To be able to analyse this, it 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 for them. There are historical parallels, precedents in the past and ethical principles that could provide guidance. It is timely now, more than ever before to bring our cultural ethos, values and knowledge to look at science and technological advancement in a different and a more comprehensive worldview.

While the adoption of technology without appreciation of humanity is disastrous, adoption without God-Consciousness is arrogance. The more the quest of science and technology, the more evident is God’s presence and greatness. For example, current developments in quantum physics which benefit greatly the industrial revolution have to a certain extent revealed the mysteries of nature at small scales and low energy levels of atoms and subatomic particles. It has shed some light in understanding the universe, time and space and the existence of life. This new paradigm should bring one to realise that science and God-Consciousness is in a common ground. The Islamic teachings on this is clear as scientific discoveries are indications of God’s existence. The guide to face changes are contained in the Islamic principles outlined by the Maqasid al-Shariah (Purposes of the Shariah) 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. The Malaysian universities must play the role in promoting our understanding of the 4th 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, values and promotes a co-existence between human and God. With the right manner, technological advancements will bring greater prosperity, justice and happiness to mankind.