Year-end ode: 4IR is the post-Covid-19 hero

By Dr Rais Hussin President/CEO of EMIR Research

As we take stock of 2020, billionaires as a group did pretty well this year; the rest of us not as much. Billionaires’ wealth rose above US$10 trillion (RM46.37 trillion) during the Covid-19 crisis, up more than 25 percent over the year.

Meanwhile, millions of people around the world lost their jobs or were struggling to get by on government survive-to-restart programmes.

Covid-19 should be the final nail in the coffin of Neo Liberalism – the current model of capitalism in effect since the late 70’s which calls for deregulation and free market competition to distribute economic benefits across society.

Anyone paying attention knows that Neo Liberalism has only resulted in the super rich getting even richer. It didn’t take Covid-19 to realise this; 2008’s Global Financial Crisis showed us this.

You may be familiar with The Hero’s story, in which a hero fights the evil villain against all odds to save all mankind.

The essential part of this story is that to defeat the villain – Neo Liberalism in this case – we need to replace it with something better. After all, the current model of free market competition itself overthrew the Keynesian model in which the State oversaw the redistribution of wealth.

For 40 years we’ve seen Neo Liberal capitalism dominate, during which time the underclass of society has paid a heavy price indeed.

4IR has the power to change this with a new narrative to move society into the informational age – Malaysia 5.0 as we have termed it – in which society is at the center of technology, not the other way around, and data is decentralised into the control of its creators so they can monetise it for themselves.

Ironically, it is not the developed nations in the west that are absolutely committed to this new paradigm because it cannibalises their advantages and threatens advantages they enjoy from capitalism. Japan, South Korea are the exceptions amongst the developed nations in the east.

This is where developing nations such as Malaysia come into focus. Whoever is able to execute this digital transformation most effectively will create the greatest advantage for their people in the 4IR era.

Just as with every major technological shift those that embrace them fully and first will enjoy competitive and early mover advantages. History has abundantly borne this out.

Those with a better mousetrap (gunpowder, the steam engine, railroads, computers, internet and now data) made quantum leaps forward, while those that didn’t take up the latest tools were left behind in the so-called Third World.

The book I co-authored last year with Dinis Guarda: “4IR: Reinventing a Nation” seeks to emphasise this point.

In my incoming role as Chairman of MDEC I have taken this narrative forward as Malaysia 5.0, which engenders a participatory culture in which social benefits belong to the people and serves the common-wealth of a Nation.

Malaysia 5.0 vision is working towards the creation of a society deeply integrated with technology, governed by inclusive and equitable ‘eco-vironmental’ principles and practices. It has three main components: firstly, instilling a new core identity philosophy that transcends individual and societal dividends and uphold the value of shared prosperity. Secondly, adopt, value-add and produce digital transformation and 4IR technologies centered on solving eco-vironmental problems. And thirdly, produce well rounded citizens who are well positioned and empowered to face, navigate and thrive 4IR.

The goals of Malaysia 5.0 includes encouraging growth and progress for all; deep integration of 4IR technologies at every level of society: individual, industry, government and environment; and transform and reform the national education system to reflect ground realities (4IR) from primary school to university.

 Implemented properly, it is an antidote to identity politics. Democracy is by definition a representative process – but in the Neo Liberal capitalistic model it represents the elite rather than the Rakyat.

By putting the democratic process back into the hands of the people (through the decentralised power of 4IR technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Blockchain and FinTech) we can enhance society’s participation in the political process beyond communal, racial and religious groups.

For those who scoff at such a Hero, look only to the alternative narrative of autocratic fascism gaining traction across the world, which seems to be doing a better job at filling in the vacuum from the current system’s failure.

But there is still hope. Like all good Epics, the Hero is almost destroyed by his enemies until he defeats them against all odds to win the day in the end.

Anyone who’s a Liverpool Football Club supporter surely knows how good this happy ending feels.

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