Confidence of man was perhaps stolen at the turn of this century when internet became a global reality. Millions of people of middle class culture have now been convinced that technology would entirely dominate their life. Artificial intelligence will dictate even their thinking the way smart phone has shaped their lifestyle, snatching away privacy.
They can't still be happy with hundreds of thousands of pieces of information they encounter on tech platforms every day. As if, something each of the restless individuals is looking for is missing.
So, a dissenting voice may claim technology doesn't solve all problems of life at hand. Thus, the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) the world is undergoing may present more risks than benefits especially when human factor is ignored.
Ideas are the currency of the twenty-first century, according to a 2019 Harvard Business Review article 'The Art of Persuasion Hasn't Changed in 2,000 Years'. It says, "The ability to persuade, to change hearts and minds, is perhaps the single greatest skill that will give you a competitive edge in the knowledge economy."
This suggests the proponents of 4IR have largely failed to persuade at least the Bangladeshi stakeholders to embrace it and gain from it, despite widespread use of mobile phone and internet.
There is hardly any disagreement that the Bangladesh economy has been stuck in lower-level technology, lower-level skills of manpower, from where leapfrog in the coming years and decades won't be easy.
Exports of lower-end apparel products and unskilled workers, mid-management crisis in industries, low-paid data entry assignments carried out by freelancers, lower value addition in farm produces, higher rates of road accidents, failure to implement development projects on time and the fiasco in holding online classes during the pandemic demonstrate the country's tech status.
Asked where Bangladesh stands in terms of 4IR, an expert told a recent seminar, "It may be 2.5 out of 4.0." The country may have been struggling with components of the third industrial revolution when the 4IR is marching towards the fifth one.
Thankfully, the importance of 4IR is being widely discussed nowadays. In his presentation on 4IR in the Bangladesh context, the expert mentioned that 'modernisation of education and curriculum systems, infrastructure development and government-industry-academia collaboration are utmost important'.
For initiating works related to 4IR, the authorities have identified a few major areas like transformation of the traditional education system, inclusive innovation, research and development, simplification of government policies, utilisation of skills of expatriate Bangladeshis and branding of Bangladesh as an innovative nation.
However, the quality of education and extent of research, the state of reforms, and the country's global ranking in creativity and competitiveness are lagging far behind national expectations.
Moreover, widening economic inequality has been a major concern in recent years. As a possible impact of 4IR, experts fear, non-inclusive growth may increase social and political instability within countries and undermine popular support.
At the forefront of 4IR, the mass media is not immune from the challenges. The expert concerned pointed out that the 4IR will provide the media industry with new tools such as augmented reality, artificial intelligence, three dimensional printing, drones and robots, which will have a significant impact on the sector.
That the Bangladesh media industry is ready can't be said with certainty. Most of the media outlets can't retain their readers and viewers as different yardsticks indicate.
Interestingly, the Harvard article has gone back to an old formula outlined by philosopher Aristotle more than 2,000 years ago, on how to master the art of persuasion in his work Rhetoric. The five rhetorical devices the author, Carmine Gallo, referred to, are Ethos or "Character", Logos or "Reason", Pathos or "Emotion", Metaphor, and Brevity.
All such skills and scientific knowledge can be acquired through nothing but education. Unfortunately, we are hardly serious about education, the oldest method of making progress individually and socially that has never been obsolete. For coping with the challenges of 4IR, Bangladesh, too, has the scope to start adopting quality education before anything else.