World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

20-23 January 2016 Davos-Klosters, Switzerland

We’re on the threshold of a new era. New technologies are changing how we live and who we are. It’s a pivotal moment for humanity - and it’s being hailed as the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Klaus Schwab, the Forum’s Founder and Executive Chairman, has written a book about it. A proponent of the economic and social significance of technological change, he has also written a blog, which you can read in full here. Here's what he says:

Through history, human ingenuity has transformed the way we live and work, from Hargreaves’ Spinning Jenny, to Ford’s assembly line, to Wozniak’s personal computer. Today, I believe that we are on the cusp of a Fourth Industrial Revolution, powered by billions of connected devices, 3D printers and super-smart robots, to name a few. This revolution will not only change entire societies and economies, it stands to transform the very essence of human nature. So are we ready for it?

Why the 'fourth'?

There have been three major shifts in human productivity over the past three centuries. This chart shows how we've progressed from mechanization and mass manufacturing in the 18th and 19th centuries, to an industrial revolution driven by electronics and information technology in the 20th. The latest revolution comes to us courtesy of cyberspace.

Should we worry?

The fear is that robots will take over the world, virtual reality will replace normal relationships and new technologies will destroy our jobs. But this isn’t necessarily the case, says Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg. When it comes to technological progress, "hope should triumph over fear", she says.

In fact, Sandberg continues, when it comes to access to the internet and to data, it has been proved that women especially live longer, healthier, more productive lives.


In the Fourth Industrial Revolution, data is the new currency, says Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Cloud technology should make it possible for NGOs and civic organizations to access world-class tech, and from that be able to create world-class solutions. "We need a public cloud for the public good," he writes in a recent opinion piece in the Financial Times.

The internet is one of the greatest global goods, and common goods. If we destroy it, we destroy a lot of our economic future
- Satya Nadella

Central to the dilemma of fast-paced change is the manner in which new technologies separate us from one another. We are becoming more remote, warns Anand Mahindra, director of Indian company Mahinda and Mahindra. What we need is more empathy; we need it wired into our systems, programmed into our brains.

The question is:

Can we create artificial empathy?

Sheryl Sandberg believes we can, and that Facebook Inc is already in the business of connecting people in a way that improves (rather than strains) our relationships. The US group has already launched a campaign against hate speech, as outlined in a recent article on Reuters.com, saying "there is no place for hate and intolerance on our platform".

Want to know more?

Find out more about the Future of the Internet in our explainer
Brush up on the Fourth Industrial Revolution with this article
Learn more about technological disruption here

As it happened Last update: 23 Jan 15:06 UTC

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Moderated by

Tiny emoylzuhtg kwkma7hxoa 964z24ow09imtgg9rosoi Andrew R. Sorkin

Panellist

Tiny xfiwxmm6ho35lgci9rl7guahhvdjgqmeo6x4acoypm8 Sheryl Sandberg

Tiny qjef6tezlyziw9wlraiyx3yhjjd6l x2q0bzyqbbn4s Satya Nadella

Tiny aqfzf2uq7zdtcrt0o1wdemqvwfdjr ydkbxivlamvgc Paul Kagame

Tiny jxhfq5xmtmp2zfbkqmsbyfrhxudqulugdrihn6riegs Anand Mahindra

Tiny xzygqxsgqbuqkh0dywq1b9sp7kac1ac4lar7knchs9m Zachary Bookman