Global challenges, including the oncoming Fourth Industrial Revolution, were on the minds of many of those attending the Summit on the Global Agenda 2015. Here are some interview highlights from the event.

Gordon Brown talks about the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which he describes as, “all-consuming… with a speed of change a thousand times faster than during the first industrial revolution and affecting all services, all products, all countries, all industries, and all people.”

Usha Rao-Monari, Chief Executive Officer, Global Water Development Partners, on water security as the world’s most impactful global risk, as identified in the 2015 World Economic Forum Global Risks Report: “There’s going to continue to be an unprecedented focus on water and the need for water as the world moves forward.”

Ricardo Hausmann, Director of the Center for International Development at Harvard Kennedy School of Government, on the impact of technology and the Fourth Industrial Revolution on manufacturing: “Whether this is going to make the world more equal or more unequal is up for grabs. It depends a little bit on the nature of the technology and how quickly it diffuses”.

Neal Keny-Guyer, Chief Executive Officer, Mercy Corps, on food security: “By the year 2050 there will be 9 billion people and we will need 70% more food production than we have now. How are we going to get there?”

Toomas Hendrik Ilves, President of Estonia:  “As with all previous industrial revolutions, we will see a re-ordering of the world. Those who move ahead will do well and those that fall behind will not.”

José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission (2004-2014), on the impact of technology on employment: “Personally I am a big believer in science and technology, but I know that there are some concerns and we should take those concerns with care.”

Patricia Milligan, Regional President, North America, Mercer (MMC), on the importance of human capital: “The notion that talent-ism is the new competitive advantage has really come forward as one of the big hypotheses of the Fourth Industrial Revolution”.

J. Carl Ganter, Managing Director, Circle of Blue, talks about the competition between water, food, and energy in an ever-changing climate: “How are we going to manage our water supplies in a new and changing climate? This is one of the biggest questions of the 21st century.”

Laura Liswood, Secretary-General, Council of Women World Leaders, explains the importance of gender parity: “The fact that if women were more fully engaged in the workforce, you would have an increase up to $27 trillion in the total GDP around the world.”

Michael Moller, Director-General, United Nations Geneva, on the current refugee and migration crisis: “The flexibility the Fourth Industrial Revolution is going to afford us is quite extraordinary and it is going to help us improve the lives and the lot of these people to a much greater extent than we are able to right now.”

Author: Murray Nicol is Digital Project Lead at the World Economic Forum

Image: A Palestinian boy sleeps on a mattress inside the remains of his family’s house. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem