THE FOURTH WAVE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION: LAW AND TECHNOLOGY IN INDIA

THE FOURTH WAVE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION:
LAW AND TECHNOLOGY IN INDIA
Author: Ishika Ray Chaudhuri

3rd Year BA, LLB
School of Law, 
Christ (deemed to be) University

I.                INTRODUCTION
The “Industrial Revolution”, the name given to the incredible shift from an economy solely dependent on material goods being manufactured by hand to one dependent on machines, is an apt one. The late 18th century saw a growth in industries in a way unseen previously. This trend eventually materialised into the industrial factory system we comprehend today, and formed a guiding factor to the development of 19th century social dynamics. The birth of the steam engine and that of steel lead to the development of machinery and kick-started a factory system that employed a majority of the abled population. In England especially, where the Industrial Revolution began and took root, society and its hierarchy was irrevocably changed in a way still visible today through the United Kingdom’s worker-centric domestic politics.
There were some characteristic changes that took place during this time that defined this afore-mentioned shift as revolutionary. There was, of course, a rapid development in industry, developing into a total and since irreversible change in economic and social organization. This was aided by the features of the revolution itself: the system now utilised new basic materials (like steel and tin) and energy sources (coal and other fossil fuels), while consequently reorganizing working patterns of labourers. The invention of new machinery also included the developing communication and energy system[1], an evolution that would later end in the use of electricity before the end of the 19th century.
Revolution in this ideal has now ironically become an evolutionary practice, with what social scientists construe as the Second Industrial Revolution closely following the First. With only the added introduction of the assembly line in the time of Ford Automobiles, this second instalment of economic revolution was a catalyst to the burgeoning power of the United States, allowing the country to truly come to the forefront of the western world’s socio-economic melée. As production and communications systems progressed (with the arrival of the telegram and the telephone), therefore, the impact of the shifting industrial stage brought about new perspectives in economic and social arenas around the world, beginning in the early 20th century.[2]
The subsequent Third Industrial Revolution galvanised the industrial setup as we know it today, and made it a permanent fixture of daily life. Where the impact of industries on society had previously been limited to class differences and economic welfare – identities within the frame of society itself – the third instalment of the progression ingratiated these technologies within human life in a way that refused to divorce industry from personal life. It is on the heels of this phenomena (one that includes a wide array of technology that includes everything from the commercialisation of aeroplanes to the invention of the internet and mobile phones) that the Fourth Industrial Revolution comes knocking.
A seamless but therefore more frightening transition has occurred between the two stages of the ongoing Revolution. Where a change in societal patterns and communication techniques once symbolised the changing industrial landscape, the current scenario has merged existing industries into one ever-evolving backdrop; this now amalgamates the
se advances in social dynamics and communication technology in inalienable ways through phenomenon like social media while also canvassing sectors of the economy like medicine, healthcare and security into one massive digitally-charged arena.
It follows from the same that laws that once governed separate (but not disparate) parts of the industrial landscape now do not provide sufficient coverage to the current ubiquitous and amalgamous nature of the same. Furthermore, new arenas that emerge within this framework as the Revolution continues – like the advent of three-dimensional printing and biological engineering – often convalesce into the existing sump of technology, further ingratiating into society in a legally unsustainable way. This change is sudden but rapid, and thus is rarely followed by law.
The nature of law in society thus comes into question.[3]In previous avenues of the Industrial Revolution, the gradual nature of the changes occurring, along with their reliable outcomes, allowed laws to develop to suit all parties involved. Be it in the case of the improvement of labour laws or that of consumer protection – or even in the currently-evolving sector of information technology-related laws and cyber laws – the legal fraternity has had the time to adapt to these changes and thus construct viable legal ideals. However, as mentioned before, technological advancements occurring today have increasingly unpredictable outcomes. An example is advanced DNA profiling, a technology that allows great clarity in security systems. It, however, can also be used to perpetuate identity theft and a variety of other inter-related forms of crime due to its versatile and interconnected nature.[4]
It would be a folly to state that absolutely no laws exist that could refer to the revolution that is converging and then adapting the biological, technological, and social worlds. The Information Technology Act in India, for example, serves as the most recent of legal events that seeks to remedy the gap created. As Professor Klaus Schwab, founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, states in his book ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution,’ the issue lies with integrating these changes into a society that has already surpassed the infantile stages of this revolutionary wave, and surges forward at incredible speeds. Schwab has grave concerns: that organizations might be unable to adapt; governments could fail to employ and regulate new technologies to capture their benefits; shifting power will create important new security concerns; inequality may grow; and societies fragment.[5]
It is the aim of the researcher to provide for a viable social and legal framework and ask the following questions: What is the scope of the Fourth Industrial Revolution in India? Is it possible to ameliorate these ideals into one, modernised and fluid legal framework in India? Through research and the compilation of the opinions of experts in the fields of modern technology, this paper attempts to answer these queries.
II.            SOCIOLOGICAL IMPACTS OF THE FOURTH INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
The Fourth Industrial Revolution promises various changes to the existing social system, as mentioned above. The advancements that are to occur will present developments in employment patterns, social relationships, and personal privacy. The scope of these developments is vast and currently cannot be fairly estimated due to our lack of foresight to the extent of the inventions within this industrial revolution wave. New technologies, however, can be powerful agents for good.
Education and access to information can improve the lives of billions of people. Through increasingly powerful computing devices and networks, digital services, and mobile devices, this can become a reality for people around the world, including (and especially) those in developing countries. The social media revolution embodied by Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram has given everyone a voice and a way to communicate instantly across the planet. Today, more than 30% of the people in the world use social media services to communicate and stay on top of world events.

These innovations can create a true global village, bringing billions more people into the global economy, bringing access to goods and services to entirely new markets. This allows people opportunities, especially in the fields of education and awareness that did not exist before – which leads to the formation of entirely new identities. The current ease of delivery of products, for example, provided by websites like Amazon, can transform communities and jumpstart or alter the economies of small, remote or rural areas.[6]
Similarly, advances in biomedical sciences, another facet of the Fourth Wave, can lead to healthier lives and longer life spans. The innovations in neuroscience that this revolution brings about, like connecting the human brain to computers to enhance intelligence or experience a simulated world, has the power to change “Artificial Intelligence’ from robotic aid to human-like problem-solving capabilities. Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies can reduce motorway accidents and the roadways in general, impacting both insurance costs and carbon emissions; autonomous vehicles can reshape the living spaces of cities, architecture, and roads themselves, and free up space for more social and human-centered spaces.
Digital technology can also trigger a social liberation, liberating workers from tasks that can be automated, freeing them from production lines to enhance autonomy. It can also provide workers with radically new tools and insights to design more creative solutions to previously insurmountable problems. This is similar to the changes in the economy the First Wave of the Industrial Revolution brought about – and thus also has similar drawbacks; this could lead to unemployment and questions about the relationship between humans and machines.
However, while it is inevitable that the job market will be impacted, the artificial intelligence revolution is also going to transform many jobs—and spawn new kinds of work that drive economic growth, just as the Internet did in the last industrial revolution. But just the same, workers with less education and fewer skills, especially skills that require computer literacy, are at a disadvantage as the Fourth Industrial Revolution progresses.[7]
Further, the Revolution doesn’t necessarily pave the way for a more open, diverse, and inclusive global society. The lessons of previous industrial revolutions include the realization that technology and its wealth generation can serve the interests of small, powerful groups above the rest. Global digital networks can be used to keep societies under undue surveillance, while allowing vulnerability to cyber-attacks.[8]According to the World Economic Forum Global Risks Report 2017,
“The Fourth Industrial Revolution has the potential to raise income levels and improve the quality of life for all people. But today, the economic benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution are becoming more concentrated among a small group. This increasing inequality can lead to political polarization, social fragmentation, and lack of trust in institutions. To address these challenges, leaders in the public and private sectors need to have a deeper commitment to more inclusive development and equitable growth that lifts up all people.”[9]
Many people around the world also haven’t yet benefited from previous industrial revolutions. As Klaus Schwab points out, at least 600 million people live on “smallholder” farms without access to any mechanization, living lives largely untouched by the first industrial revolution. Around one-third of the world’s population (2.4 billion) lack clean drinking water and safe sanitation, around one-sixth (1.2 billion) have no electricity—both systems developed in the second industrial revolution. And while the digital revolution means that more than 3 billion people now have access to the Internet, that still leaves more than 4 billion out of a core aspect of the third industrial revolution, leaving them greatly disadvantaged in the face of the Fourth Wave of the same.[10]

Furthermore, the boundaries of what constitutes ‘private’ life are being redrawn by the immense amount of personal information available on social media today. Many applications can track the movements of their users, as evidenced by Facebook selling advertiser information to Cambridge Analytica, a private information storing company that has the potential to use this private information in unknown – and possibly unpredictable – ways.
To handle this landscape, it is necessary to take stock of these changes in a legal framework that is soon to fall woefully short of the various changes taking place in society, and thus render itself obsolete.
III.         INTERNATIONAL LAW AND THE FOURTH INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
The Possibility of an International Framework
Since law in the international arena is mainly advisory in nature and thus has very little to no legal binding on individual states, preparing an all-encompassing piece of legislation that contractually binds several members of international fora is no mean task. To begin with, one must tackle the nature of international obligations being fulfilled within the domestic laws of a nation. International regulations that fit the part that such obligations seek to play have some defining characteristics: first, they are well-established codes, backed by well-founded domestic judicial and arbitral proceedings. This, of course, is to ensure that states don’t attempt to justify the violation of such international regulations using the excuse of such obligations going against their own constitutional values. In this regard, our subject matter is secure; the essence of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is universal in nature, and equally lawless in its governance. To incorporate an international framework into such a climate will be imperative in the near future; forming a comprehensive charter of guidelines to follow provides a theme for states to base their own legislations upon, giving such a charter a sort of reverse-accountability.
Furthermore, Article 27 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties[11]states that requirements of domestic laws may not be used as justification for failure to perform the obligations imposed by a treaty. Thus, to render the proposed international framework with the status of a treaty and to therefore ask concerned states to ratify the same will be some form of binding international legislation, much needed in the field as it is. An obvious negative connotation of this form of the implementation of such statutes is that there also exists no such article that requires positive action on behalf of the states either. Also, since Article 26 and 27 are generally seen as the codification of international law requirements and they do not mention positive legal steps that need to be taken, this leaves a painful lacuna in any legislation that would otherwise have to conform to the treaty policy. However, as we are assuming this international legal framework to be the first step for member states to develop their own legal systems due to a desperate need globally for a viable framework, the lacuna stands diminished.
Finally, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Agreement[12]requires its members in Article XVI: 4 of the same to ensure the conformity of their regulations and laws as part and parcel of WTO obligations. This is also one of the more notable provisions on the subject of the enforceability of International Law, and applies easily to the analysis of this paper – should such an agreement be arranged for nations willing to follow any legal frameworks pronounced on the subject internationally, the need for the same will ensure conformation, which can be further ensured by contractually binding member state.[13]
It is thus evident that not only is such an internationally viable framework possible in its necessity, but also in practice. However, it is now important to denigrate exactly what such a framework would entail.
IV.          THE INDIAN PERSPECTIVE
As far as India is concerned, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is still in its nascent stages. In 2017, India progressed massively in the fields of biological design and engineering, with the Indian Institute of Science having invented a surgical arm that helps with surgeries. Furthermore, since 2013, the prevalence of the Aadhaar Card and the legislation surrounding it has grown with leaps and bounds, with the biologically-linked identification now being a compulsory aspect in attaining SIM cards, online payment options, and even bank accounts. Connectivity is thus subjective to biological individualism in the current Indian scenario, in a way that assumes the social milieu to have the Card in the first place – easier said than done, as the registration for the same requires documentation like proof of residence, a privilege not many rural and poor-urban Indians have.[14]
Sociological aspects aside, the Aadhaar has also run into legal hurdles with the passing of the Aadhaar Bill[15]in parliament. The omnipresence of the card has been widely contested and denounced, with questions being raised about the validity of such an act. Security concerns that such a presence raises is at the forefront of everyone’s mind, proving identity theft to be a real and evolving concern. Even more worrying is the lack of legislative backing for the same.
Another form that this problem manifests is the small facets that any legislation in the field comes up as. First, as seen in the case of Shreya Singhal vs. Union of India[16], certain aspects of the current social media milieu are being regulated through the pretext of freedom of speech. But guarantors of such freedom are few and limited. With the internet being so closely linked to cell phone usage, the Aadhaar Act and its limitations pose a serious threat to connections to those who cannot make themselves a card, or refuse to do – an option now sorely denied to protestors due to the identification’s ubiquitous nature. India too needs legal measures that govern these new aspects of daily life, and soon.
V.             A CONCLUSION
Ameliorating the Indian and International Perspectives
The proposed international agreement that capitalises on such global demands for legislation on the Fourth Industrial Revolution is equally as important in India as seen in the previous section. To introduce such a legislation is imperative; using guideline set in such a legislation would open up avenues of legal text for the Indian perspective to follow on the matter of biological identification.
Furthermore, such a legislation or a forum on the international forum would be multi-partisan and include the perspectives of multiple states and nations, allowing for a growing power like India to imbibe both its legislation in a global scenario, along with being at the forefront and equally placed at the international stage with other such powers like the United Kingdom and United States. Thus not only is such a legislation necessary for a country like India, but wholly beneficial in many different ways.

    



[1] Retrieved from Encyclopaedia Brittanica


[2] Vries, J. D. The Industrial Revolution and the Industrious Revolution. The Journal of Economic History Vol. 54, No. 2.


[3] Bakshi, P. M. (July-September 1995). Judicial Training and Research Institute Journal. Science, Technology and Law.

[4] Perez, C. ‘Technology Governance and Economy Dynamics’ (#20). In Technological Revolutions and Techno-economic Paradigms.

[5] Schwab, K. The Fourth Industrial Revolution.

[6] Id.

[7] Schwab, K. Shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution.


[8] Id.

[9](2017). Global Risks Report. World Economic Forum.

[10] Supra, 5

[11] United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 1155, p. 331

[12] 154, 33 I.L.M. 1144 (1994)

[13] Buniyan, S. (2010). National Law in WTO Law. Cambridge University Press.

[14] Humphrey, J. (1 July 2007). The supermarket revolution in developing countries: tidal wave or tough competitive struggle. Journal of Economic Geography, Volume 7, Issue 4.

[15] Aadhaar Act, 2019

[16] (2013) 12 S.C.C. 73
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