As the world’s political and business leaders gather in Davos this week to discuss the big global issues, you may well be wondering what this year’s theme of Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution is all about.

These videos will tell you in a nutshell what you need to know about the dramatic technological changes that are going to change the way we live, work and relate to each other in the coming years.

Computing, communication and storage

Technology is making devices cheaper, smaller and more powerful. In the late 1980s, the fastest computer on Earth was roughly the size of a washing machine; 30 years later, a mass produced smartwatch has twice its capabilities; and in less than 10 years, most people will have a super computer in their pocket.

Meanwhile, data storage prices are dropping by a factor of 10 every five years, meaning that storing our ever-expanding digital foot prints will be virtually free.

Today, 43% of the world’s population are connected to the internet, mostly in developed countries. By 2024, that number is expected to rise to 90%. Providing everyone has equal access, this will empower many people to improve their living conditions and escape poverty.


What is big data?

The time of spreadsheets is over – data can be analysed and monetized from Google searches, barcode readings, online shopping histories, a tweet or even a voice message.

Super computers and algorithms allow us to make sense of increasingly larger amounts of information in real time. In less than 10 years, central processing units (CPUs) are expected to reach the processing power of the human brain.

There is a good chance that in 15 years, your job is going to be performed by computers since, decisions once made based on experience and intuition will be made through machine analysis of massive amounts of data.


People and the internet

When they first appeared, computers were as big as a room. A few years later, you could easily fit one on your desk, then your lap, now your hand or even wrist.

In the future, you’ll put them directly under your skin. The first implantable mobile phone is expected to be sold by 2023.

How will this affect the way we live our lives? Or the way we communicate with one another and absorb information?


What is the digitization of matter?

According to a survey done by the Global Agenda Council on the Future of Software and Society, most people expect that the first 3D-printed car will be in production by 2022, and the first transplant of a 3D-printed liver will be done by 2024.

3D printing redefines the notions of object design and production, closing the gap between makers and users, making the limitations of mass production a thing of the past.

But if someone can print auto parts, instruments, houses, bones, food and toys, they can also make counterfeits, weapons, or even unregulated human organs. This could have a radical impact on security, intellectual property, ethical protocols, and many more global challenges.


What is blockchain?

Modern technology allows people to communicate directly through voice and video calls, and emails travel instantly from A to B. But when it comes to money, people have to trust a third party such as a bank to be able to complete a transaction.

Blockchain technology is challenging the status quo in a radical way. By using mathematics and cryptography, blockchain provides an open, decentralized database of transactions, creating a record that can be verified by the entire community.

The future global economy will move towards one of distributed property and trust, where anyone with access to the internet can get involved in blockchain-based transactions, and third party organizations may no longer be necessary.


What is the internet of things?

By 2022, more than a trillion sensors are predicted to be connected to the internet.

If all things are connected, it will shift the way we do business and use resources. It will yield huge amounts of data – but who will own it and how will it be kept?

By 2020, around 22% of the world’s cars will be connected to the internet (290 million vehicles).

By 2024, more than half of home internet traffic will be used by appliances and devices.

The internet of things raises huge questions related to privacy and security that need to be addressed by governments, corporations and consumers.

But if we get things right, it will also bring unprecedented efficiency to processes that will no longer be offline.


The Annual Meeting is taking place in Davos from 20-23 January, under the theme “Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution”.