The Fourth Industrial Revolution: Critical Analysis of Its Advantages and Ethical Dilemmas

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The fourth industrial revolution

In the twenty first century there has been improvements in technology such as the introduction of artificial intelligence that refers to the process of making technological devices intelligent, in the school context artificial machines (robotics) are equipped and trained to take the role of the teacher with the aim of improving the quality of education to minimize underperformance in different schools. The consequentialist theory determines how moral actions are based on the results that they produce. It is divided into different theories that include Utilitarianism which measures the correctness of an action based on the amount of happiness produced for the majority of the people and how pain can be reduced (The basics of philosophy, 2018-2019). This essay discusses the ethical dilemmas based on Utilitarianism theory that the fourth industrial revolution pose on the future of the South African education system.

How is the Fourth Industrial Revolution used in Education and its advantages?

Wisskirchen et al (2017) describes a “smart factory” as an area that consists of intelligent machines that are responsible for doing all the work that is required and supervised by human beings, a “smart classroom” therefore would be one whereby a robot transfers the knowledge to the learners while the teacher becomes the supervisor. Some of the advantages include improving the quality of education, providing inclusive lessons whereby learners acquire knowledge in a different and interactive manner. Transferring knowledge to the learners both physically and digitally will also equip the learners with the knowledge and skills that will enable them to improve their societies. Another greater advantage that Artificial intelligence has over human intelligence is the ability to make decisions that are well informed, that are not influenced by feelings and make few errors. Marwala (2018) describes the Fourth Industrial as the main “Ingredient” that needs innovation and the ability to shift our thinking to the global scale in order to improve the quality of the education system in South Africa.

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Ethical Dilemmas that the Fourth Industrial Revolution pose on the future re-imagination of South Africa education.

According to Molefi (2017) some the negative outcomes of the fourth industrial revolution is that it leads the creation of unprofessional employment with low salaries and does not provide long term decisions. This will also lead to job insecurities compelling most teachers to leave the profession. Artificial intelligence also does not encourage creativity and originality whereby people share knowledge and experience to learn but instead creates a society that prefers what is approved by the majority and this according to the theory of utilitarianism means that only the needs of the majority are regarded as important when making decisions. Molefi (2017) suggests that in order for the quality of the education system to improve in South Africa, they should try to emulate countries with good education systems such Canada that are using technology to improve their education .Unlike Canada, South Africa encounters challenges such as power outage, access to basic needs such as infrastructure which could derail and make the process unsuccessful.

Another challenge that affect most developing countries is accessibility and affordability since these devices are expensive. South Africa for instance has also been experiencing issues of indiscipline and violence in schools, therefore replacing teachers with artificial intelligent machines that cannot interact with the learners socially will lead to the learning environment becoming more unsafe. Marwala (2019) also emphasize that although artificial intelligence might be the solution to improve the quality of education but there is an issue of language barrier because these devices are produced in countries that use English as an official language, they therefore are unable to perform some tasks such as translating to other African languages. This will become a challenge in most South Africa public schools where not all the learners are fluent in English and teachers sometimes use native language to explain in the classroom. Wisskirchen et al (2017) emphasize that artificial intelligence requires sufficient knowledge as well as people who are qualified to use the system. The industrial revolution also will make it irrelevant for learning to take place in the classroom as there are online courses that will enable learners to access the content everywhere they are.

The Utilitarianism theory

The utilitarianism theory focuses on the happiness or the unhappiness that an action produces (The basics of philosophy, 2018-2019). The theory acknowledges the importance of consequences that are produced by actions but many argue that the idea that happiness is the ultimate good can be misleading as people prefer certain things based on their value and not how they feel about them, for instance the fourth industrial revolution was introduced in South Africa to improve the quality of teaching and learning and not because it makes the learners and teachers happy. When making decisions that affect the society the interests of people should be regarded equally as they might have a negative impact on the minority who do not agree with the decision, which will lead to more inequalities in society. Therefore many critics propose that instead of focusing only on happiness, interests and welfare of the majority of the people, actions should also be taken into consideration.

When the focus is only on the happiness of the majority the rights of the minority become violated because the main focus is on producing desirable results regardless of whether the actions produces harm to those who are against them. The theory has also being criticized for not taking into consideration the past, for instance what lessons can be drawn from the past in order to make more informed decisions. The Utilitarianism theory would argue that because children who grow up in the twenty first century have more access to mobile devices and learn quickly how to use them compared to the way they acquire writing skills, it would be beneficial to transfer knowledge to the learners using technological devices. The theory does not acknowledge the inequalities that might be created as some learners come from households that do not have access to technological devices.

As much as the fourth industrial revolution has advantages that might equip learners with knowledge and skills that are relevant for the twenty first century in an interactive manner, there are also ethical dilemmas such as accessibility, affordability, language barriers, job insecurities and challenges of maintaining discipline in the classroom that needs to be considered in order to ensure that indeed it reaches the goal of providing quality education.

Reference List

  1. Marwala, T (2018) “Do Student leaders have what it takes to help South Africa?” Available from:,-asks-UJ%E2%80%99s-Prof-Tshilidzi-Marwala.aspx. Accessed on 8-3-2019.
  2. Marwala, T., (2019) “Fourth industrial revolution business opportunities in South Africa” Available from: Accessed on 2-3-2019.
  3. Marwala, T., (2019) “The fourth industrial revolution and the prospect of human irrelevance” Available from: -the-prospect-of-huamn-irrelevance.aspx. Accessed on 5-3-2019.
  4. Molefi, I., (2017) “Implications of the fourth Industrial Revolution”. Available from:
  6. Accessed on 6-3-2019.
  7. “The basics of Philosophy” (2018-2019) Available from Accessed on 6-3-2019.
  8. Wisskirchen, G., Biacabe, B, T., Bormann, U, Muntz, A., Niehaus, G., Soler, G, J and von Brauchitsch, B., (2017) “Artificial Intelligence and Robotics and their Impact on the Workplace”. Available from: Accessed on 8-3-2019.
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The Fourth Industrial Revolution: Critical Analysis of Its Advantages and Ethical Dilemmas. (2022, August 12). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from
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