The Industrial Revolution 4.0: Preparing for Disruptive Technologies in 21st Century Asia
Date : 26 Oct 2017 - 27 Oct 2017
Venue : Asia Research Institute, Seminar Room
AS8 Level 4, 10 Kent Ridge Crescent, Singapore 119260
Download Program and Abstracts as of Oct 17

We are entering into a Fourth Industrial Revolution where ICBM technology (I.O.T., Cloud, Big Data and Mobile) and Artificial Intelligence systems (A.I.) are becoming the logic of operation that sustains the world’s economy. Automation and data-mining-based prediction technology are revolutionizing the business ecosystem. Asian governments have been developing policy frameworks to respond to these changes: e.g. Singapore’s ‘Smart Nation Initiative’ (2014), China’s ‘Made in China 2025’ (2015), India’s “100 Smart Cities” project (2015), and South Korea’s ‘Comprehensive Countermeasures on Artificial Intelligence Society’ (2016). However, as demonstrated by the U.S. government’s concern expressed in its white paper, ‘Preparing for the Future of Artificial Intelligence’ (Oct 2016), A.I. and related technologies are innovative but can also be disruptive. The ways in which societies adopt new technologies often re-structures socio-cultural, political, and economic conditions, which in turn change the employment landscape.  With the emergence of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, many are expecting that large numbers of lower-skilled workers and older people will need retraining. This will likely produce social problems: see, e.g., Amazon’s job-cuts resulting from warehouse automisation (Forbes, 2016), accelerating commodification of service in On-Demand and Sharing Economies (Lessig, 2008), and increasing labour precarity (Neilson and Rossiter 2005).

According to the UN agency, the International Labour Organization (2016), nearly 60% of employees in Southeast Asian regions will be left fearing for their jobs “in the next couple of decades” because of atomization. Although concerns about the impact of these technologies on social inequality are increasing, we have not yet explicitly heard the voices of those in precarious conditions who are potentially vulnerable to these changes. We have also not seen any detailed government plans explaining how this impact will be mitigated. How will governments protect and enhance the welfare of their citizens, minimize social inequality, and address the technology gap? The dominant social discourses on ICBM, A.I., and Industry 4.0 tend to focus on techno-economic-centric considerations of the embeddedness of new technology and measuring the resulting sustainability of society. These discourses often follow Western development trends as a basis for discussion.

The aim of this conference is to explore the social implications of emerging and disruptive technologies in Asian contexts and taking into consideration the various levels of ICT embeddedness (e.g., infrastructure readiness). This conference will update ICT social and cultural studies in contemporary Southeast Asia at comparative levels. The conference will avoid techno-centric approaches or industrialization-based approaches to A.I. It focuses on present and near-future effects rather than speculative futures. We will cover socio-political issues related to Industry 4.0 from a ground-up perspective and will explore current strategies for how to manage this new era in everyday practice.


Dr DongHyun SONG
Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore
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Dr Eric KERR
Asia Research Institute, and Tembusu College, National University of Singapore
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Contact Person(s)
Sharon ONG