Our Impact

Fourth Industrial Revolution

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:
- Digital Trade and Cross-Border Data Flows
- Future of Drones and Tomorrow’s Airspace
- Future of Urban and Autonomous Mobility
- A New Vision for the Ocean

The Fourth Industrial Revolution: what it means, how to respond

We stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. In its scale, scope, and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before. We do not yet know just how it will unfold, but one thing is clear: the response to it must be integrated and comprehensive, involving all stakeholders of the global polity, from the public and private sectors to academia and civil society.

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By Professor Klaus Schwab

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