We can see it happening all around us: the combination of accessible, affordable, adaptable technologies that is changing the way we live and work; so fundamental to our lives that it is even shifting our understanding of what it means to be human. From ubiquitous mobile supercomputing, through artificially intelligent robots and genetically editable organisms, to neuro-technical enhancement, each of these and many other exciting technologies have moved out of the realm of science fiction and into the daily news.
Professor Klaus Schwab canvassed the World Economic Forum community on the extent and implications of what he dubbed The Fourth Industrial Revolution. Meanwhile, we asked Agenda readers What does the Fourth Industrial Revolution mean to you?
What does this change mean to you? Can you provide a concrete example of how the Fourth Industrial Revolution will play out in your community, your industry, or even in your family? What should we do to manage its risks and reap its rewards?— Essay Contest: What does the fourth industrial revolution mean to you
We asked that essays be 900 words or less and published on medium.com. We received more than 60 submissions, all available here. The entries provide an immensely diverse, entertaining and informative collection, providing insight into the breadth and significance of the changes that we all see around us.
In the end, the contest demonstrated one thing clearly, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is a global phenomenon, affecting everyone from small scale entrepreneurs in Indonesia to Canadian software developers, from Indian business students to African thinkers.
And the implications of this new era touch on almost every aspect of our lives. One popular format was the futuristic scenario, describing the world we'll wake up in tomorrow, from a perfect morning in 2025, to a vivid techno dystopia in 2020. Others took a broader more academic approach. How will we be affected by the different ways that humans and technology can combine? What kind of leadership capabilities will be required in this new world? How can we effect a mindful revolution in human consciousness?
The short list
The challenge for the judges has been to whittle the entries down to those which addressed the question - what does the Fourth Industrial Revolution mean for you? - in the most insightful way. 900 words is not many with which to get across complex and intricate ideas, so essays which chose concrete topics and worked towards some kind of resolution caught our attention.
Here are the five shortlisted entries:
The Fourth Industrial Revolution & the refugee crisis looks at how new technologies are not only helping those hit by conflict and crisis, but also through shifting employment markets creating conflict. It uses strong images, case studies and video to put its points across, and proposes solutions:
We propose a $100 million impact investment fund for humanitarian technology and innovation, as well as humanitarian impact bonds for the refugee crisis.— The fourth industrial revolution & the refugee crisis, Dave Levin
The Fourth Industrial Revolution and the future of ports looks at how port cities need to change their thinking from that of a node on a linear chain to part of a circular network. "Circular thinking" is a prerequesite for sustainability, a key concept for ports and the cities that host them.
When adopting circular thinking, waste becomes equal to value, while depositing waste, eroding the earth’s natural resources and degrading assets become equivalent to loss.— The Fourth Industrial Revolution and the future of ports, Maurice Jansen
What does the Fourth Industrial Revolution mean for our Jobs? is written by a Candian millennial developing apps for the Industrial Internet of Things (IoT). Brett Lewis celebrates the flexibility and adaptability of Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies that allows him to work from a small town on Canada's eastern coast while servicing a global market.
The success of IoT innovations and the industry as a whole will come down to one, major factor: human integration. Will we fully embrace this new technology at our disposal and use it to our advantage?— What does the Fourth Industrial Revolution mean for our jobs? Brett Lewis
Why it's wrong to fear the Fourth Industrial Revolution is a thoughtful call for a shift in human consciousness. The Fourth Industrial Revolution will inevitably shift the employment market away from what we currently think of as work, while at the same time increase abundance. There are two challenges here. One of distribution - everyone should have enough. The other is mindset - why is it that we believe that only those who work have meaning?
Questioning restriction-based economies will reveal the true freedom that an access-based economy will bring.— Why it's wrong to fear the Fourth industrial Revolution, by Kei Pritsker
What the Fourth Industrial Revolution will do for Africa looks at how the new combination of technologies and platforms will revolutionise the continent, from productivity, education, trade and investment, entrepreneurialism, to governance and transparency. Charisma D. Kakuru emphasises the importance of youth for Africa's future, participation and closing the gender gap.
Recognition of the significant asset that young people represent, and the fact that our future is tied to our development, are essential ingredients for economic and social stability both today and tomorrow.— What the Fourth industrial Revolution will do for Africa, by Charisma D. Kukuru
Thank you to all who took the time to write, and to read the essays.
The winner of the Davos 2016 essay competition will receive a signed copy of Professor Klaus Schwab's book The Fourth Industrial Revolution, and will be announced on Monday January 19.