Fourth Industrial Revolution

Navigating the Fourth Industrial Revolution

A gamer wears virtual reality (VR) goggles at the world's largest computer games fair, Gamescom, in Cologne, Germany August 23, 2017.

Image: REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

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Fourth Industrial Revolution

This is part of a series of articles exploring the role the World Economic Forum has played in supporting the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), ahead of our Sustainable Development Impact Summit in New York. The Fourth Industrial Revolution will have a role to play in achieving all the goals.

The World Economic Forum first drew the world’s attention to the Fourth Industrial Revolution – the current period of change driven by unprecedented technological developments. To help realize the benefits of these developments, the Forum has now established the Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a global hub of expertise, knowledge-sharing and collaboration.

The challenge

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is characterized by new technologies that are connecting the physical, digital and biological worlds, impacting all disciplines, economies and industries.

These far-reaching developments are a powerful force for good, but also pose risks. The quality of governance protocols – policies, norms, standards and incentives that influence the development and deployment of technologies – are crucial to maximize benefits and limit dangers.

However, government policy responding to emerging technologies has often been inconsistent and poorly coordinated. Some areas are heavily regulated, while others are hardly touched. There has been nowhere for policy makers to collaborate with those at the cutting edge of technology.

There was a need for a global hub where leading technology companies, start-ups, policy makers, international organizations, regulators, business organizations, academia and civil society could work together to develop policy responses that limit risk without stymieing innovation.

The strategy

The World Economic Forum launched the Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, based in San Francisco, to develop, test and disseminate flexible and pragmatic recommendations for Fourth Industrial Revolution governance. These practical recommendations can be adopted by policy makers, legislators and regulators worldwide to maximize the benefits of emerging technologies.

Projects underway at the Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution are formulating policy and governance responses in the following areas:

The impact

The Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution works closely with the World Economic Forum System Initiatives, which prior to the 2017 launch of the centre were already helping the world’s leaders master this new revolution. Examples of guidance to date include the following whitepapers and reports:

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Fourth Industrial RevolutionEmerging Technologies
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