What is a human being?
A human has three components: body, mind and spirit. What is the most important component of a human being? In other words, which one among three is the dominant feature of being human? Does the body host the mind and spirit? Or does the mind, being represented by the brain, controls the others? We often focus on the mind and body when we discuss what defines being a human. The spirit itself is often neglected as we can't quite define what it is.
Indeed, it is interesting to see how the world has evolved through industrial revolutions and how events of this kind also affect the modern-day concept of what defines being a human. The First and subsequent Second Industrial Revolutions in the 18th and 19th centuries enabled mechanical means of production at mass scales, thereby changing the focus of a human's worth: shifting away from prioritizing the body to the mind. With industrious machines, a human's physical strength becomes less important and mental strength - knowledge and skills - becomes a more valuable trait. As a result, the concept of intelligence emerged and, consequently, the current school-based education system has developed, with focus on developing knowledge workers.
The Third Industrial Revolution in the late 20th century opened up the digital world and the world of automation. It changes everything about how and what we do - how we interact, work and play through electronic devices and the Internet. Within a decade, we are facing the Fourth industrial Revolution which is bringing together digital, physical and biological advances in a systematic way. This time, it literally changes who we are. The superhuman dream may no longer just be aspiration. Bionic humans, gene alteration technologies, synthetic biology and Internet-connected brains will challenge us to redefine what being a human is. Some may say that finally we can reach the stage of God, by playing the role of the creator of life. Or some may say that humans will no longer be the rulers of the earth, and instead be controlled by machines.
But one obvious fact is that the Fourth Industrial Revolution will yield another shift in the focus of humanness - shifting from mind to spirit. Just as the Second Industrial Revolution triggered the replacement of human physical labor with machines, the Fourth Industrial Revolution will trigger the replacement of human mental labor with artificial intelligence and robots.
The wisdom of spirit will become more important than knowledge and skills which can be aggregated through the Internet. A humble and sacrificial spirit to forgive others, even enemies, will be more important than selfish emotion and one's own mind, which will often be considered as a failing factor compared to no-error machines. Love and respect for the weak and troubled will not be calculated in the machine's optimization.
So this is good news. The Fourth Industrial Revolution has finally opened up a new era to the human race challenging us to focus on understanding who we really are. Yes. Indeed we are the spirit mastering the body and mind. As the Second Industrial Revolution yielded a current education system to sharpen our minds, we now need a new education system that awakens our spirit. The importance of the human spirit should be the guiding principle for future of education in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Dr. Yuhyun Park is the founder and chair of the infollutionZERO Foundation and is a researcher on digital education and policy at Nanyang Technological University. She developed the internationally acclaimed iZ HERO, a holistic research-based digital citizenship education program. She started the cross-sector development of DQ (digital intelligence quotient) as a global educational framework to strengthen the core future knowledge and digital competencies of children worldwide. She is an Eisenhower Fellow and an Ashoka Fellow. She is also a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader and a member of the steering committee for the Forum's Shaping the Future Implications of Digital Media for Society project.
This Spirituality and Transformative Leadership series was set up as a response to the need to bring 'higher order' principles into leadership today and to spark an ongoing discussion as to the role that spirituality, as distinct from religion, has in today's world. It is a curated series that invites both Young Global Leaders and others with an interest in leadership to contribute to a discussion on the role that spirituality plays in leadership today. For more information, please see the following link for an overview of the origins of this project and for a link to all the blog posts in the series please click here.