Conference participants together with NRCP and DOST Region 6 officials.

The National Research Council of the Philippines (NRCP) highlighted the human context in guiding technological advances as the world enters the Fourth Industrial Revolution (FIRe) during its recently concluded Visayas Regional Cluster Annual Scientific Conference and 16th Annual Membership Assembly last May 23, 2019 at the University of the Philippines Visayas in Iloilo City.

Focusing on the theme “Humanizing the Fourth Industrial Revolution” the conference focused on the importance of integrating the human perspective in technological advances that define FIRe such as artificial intelligence, robotics, machine learning, genetic algorithms, disruptive technologies, spatial computing, nanotechnology, etc. 

“This phenomenon is happening now. It is fundamental, radical and sudden. We have to be ready for it and take advantage of it,” said DOST 6 Regional Director Engr. Rowen R. Gelonga in his message.

With the demands of a highly modern life, FIRe is thought by experts to radicalize workforce and education system. A report by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in 2017 on “Realizing Human Potential in the Fourth Industrial Revolution” states that the workforce will go through significant change and “a third of the skillsets required to perform today’s jobs will be wholly new by 2020.” The education system should also be readied and comprehensive change must be made to address preparedness gap, inequality and unlock human potentials, the WEF report also suggests.

FIRe is about the fusion of technologies, and humanities are essential element in providing context and understanding the changes and challenges these technologies will bring.

Dr. Elmer Dadios, Regular Member of NRCP and professor of De La Salle University, gave a thorough description of swarm robotics in one of the plenary topics. Swarm robots are basically large number of robots mimicking collective behavior of insects or animals.

Dr. Elmer Dadios giving a talk on swarm robotics.

“If we can recreate the natural swarm and social behavior of insects with collective intelligence, the opportunities we can derive from this technology are endless,” added Dadios. 

He also discussed the potential applications of robotics and artificial intelligence to the various branches of natural sciences such as chemistry, biology and in the field of pathology. 

The 2017 WEF Report cites that “there will be an additional 26 million teachers needed by 2030 in order to achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs) on education.”

Dr. Allan B. de Guzman during his lecture.

Dr. Allan B. de Guzman, Regular Member of NRCP and professor of pedagogy and research at the University of Santo Tomas, underscored the important role of teachers in changing the education landscape in the face of FIRE.  In his lecture titled "Updating Pedagogies in Philippine Education System Relevant to the Age of FIRE," de Guzman emphasized that teachers should have empathetic relationship with students by making a conscious effort to facilitate students’ enthusiasm towards learning.   

Dr. Jonel P. Saludes, Associate Member of NRCP and professor of the University of San Agustin, Iloilo City, on the other hand highlighted the importance of placing a premium on intellectual capital in his talk “The Role of HEIs in Capacitating Filipino Human Resources in Response to FIRE.” 

FIRE is expected to change how we grow and produce the food we eat and biotechnology will play an important role on this. 

Dr. Christopher Marlowe A. Caipang, Associate Member of NRCP and research professor at the Western Philippines University, presented the use of biotechnology in aquaculture to increase food availability while reducing production costs. He highlighted approaches including the use of probiotics, biofloc technology and molecular barcoding in ensuring food safety among consumers.

Lastly, Dr. Victor Marco Emmanuel N. Ferriols, researcher at the Institute of Aquaculture, University of the Philippines Visayas, highlighted the importance of mechanization in the aquaculture particularly in the milkfish industry to facilitate efficiency in production operations. He introduced empirically tested protocols for mechanical feeders that helped fish farmers achieve efficiency in feed distribution.

The conference brought together some 80 researchers and faculty members from different universities and research organizations in the Visayas Region. It is also an annual membership gathering of NRCP members of the Visayas Regional Cluster for planning research activities and exploring potential collaborative ties across the region.  (Mary Charlotte O. Fresco)

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