A Key Challenge of the Fourth Industrial Revolution: Staying Human – and Humane

23 Jan 2016

Fon Mathuros, Head of Media, Public Engagement, Tel.: +41 (0)79 201 0211; Email: fmathuro@weforum.org

· Rapid technological advances, including the proliferation of artificial intelligence, challenge individuals to maintain their essential humanity

· More than 2,500 business, government and civil society leaders from over 100 countries participated in the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2016, which drew to a close

· For more information about the Annual Meeting 2016, please visit www.weforum.org

Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, 23 January 2016 – As the world surges into the Fourth Industrial Revolution – a new age of interactive technologies, artificial intelligence and automation – a key challenge for individuals will be to understand and retain their very essence, their humanity, leading scientists and thought leaders on society and law said in the closing panel session of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2016. Being able to master the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution must be an essential part of that, the panellists agreed. Said Henry T. Greely, the Deane F. and Kate Edelman Johnson Professor of Law at Stanford University in the US: “All of us need to begin to understand and grapple with how we want to shape these technologies.”

“We are competing with artificial intelligence,” asserted Meeting Co-Chair Amira Yahyaoui, Founder and Chair of citizens action group Al Bawsala in Tunisia and a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shaper community of leaders in their twenties. “We really have to show we are the good ones. So the discussion of ethics and value has never been more essential than it is today.” Justine Cassell, Associate Dean, Technology, Strategy and Impact, in the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University in the US, countered: “I don’t think of robots as competitors. I think of them as collaborators to help us do what we wish to do but can’t do alone and help us to be part of a larger community.”

Robots and artificial intelligence will force people to hone human skills that were much more important generations ago in the days of very low tech. “Empathy, respect – those skills will be effective for the workplace of the future,” Cassell reckoned. “It is through comparison with robots that we will know what it is to be human.”

“We are the wine and not the bottles,” Greely stressed. “I have a metal hip but it hasn’t made me less human. What makes us human is not the body but what is inside us.” Jennifer Doudna, Professor of Chemistry and of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, in the United States, added: “I am a scientist and I feel that what makes us human comes from our brain chemistry. We are not about our physical bodies but what is going on in our brains.”

Genetics plays a part, Greely acknowledged. Being human entails “a learned set of responses to things,” he explained. “There is some genetic basis for altruism, ambition or compassion, but how to get that expressed depends on how we are taught. Being human is not a thing; it is a process. The way to make sure that we are human is to have teachers who teach us how to be human. If a robot internalized the same kind of human reactions that we have, I would call him or it a fellow human.”

Panellists agreed that, confronted by the rapid technological advances of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, “our goal should not be just to stay human but to stay humane and become more humane,” Greely proposed. “Staying curious, compassionate and gentle is fine, so let’s hang on to that,” reckoned Angela Hobbs, Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom. “But don’t just tack the ethics at the end. What we need to be doing from an early age is think about what it means to live a flourishing life as sentient beings. We don’t even need to use the word ‘humans’.”

“The question of what makes us interesting is interesting but it is not relevant,” Yahyaoui suggested. “We are at a crossroads and have to think about that. We should not stay human; we should become better humans.” Concluded Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum: “If we all create self-awareness and, in our own personal and collective lives, work towards improving the state of the world, we would live out our human dimension.”

The World Economic Forum is the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation. Over 2,500 leaders from business, government, international organizations, civil society, academia, media and the arts in more than 100 countries participated in the 46th Annual Meeting. Under the theme, “Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution”, the programme comprised over 300 sessions, of which over 100 sessions were webcast and are available for viewing online in several languages.

In the first session of the Annual Meeting, US Vice-President Joe Biden convened a panel of eminent scientists, doctors and technologists to consider priorities for the “moonshot” campaign to cure cancer that was recently launched by President Barack Obama. At what was the first international event to discuss the initiative, Biden proposed that the panel reconvene soon to focus on the big-data dimension of cancer research and treatment. Later in the meeting, in a keynote address, Biden called on participants to counter the hollowing out of the middle class and to renew in people the belief that anyone who works hard can achieve a decent life.

Pope Francis sent a message to participants, which Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, read out. The Pontiff urged business leaders not to forget the poor and to see the creation of jobs as an essential part of their service to the common good, alongside producing wealth and improving the world.

In two sessions, newly elected Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau underscored the benefits of diversity and gender equality. “Leadership should be focused on extending the ladder of opportunity for everyone,” he told participants.

Progress to make the world safer is taking place despite the reality of atrocities, John F. Kerry, US Secretary of State, told participants in a speech, citing the recent nuclear agreement with Iran as an example. “We are staring at extraordinary opportunities wherever we look in the world.” In another session, US Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter said that the defeat of ISIL “needs to occur (and) will occur,” calling on Turkey to use its pivotal position in the region to take the fight to the terrorists. He also announced new US investments in the defence of Europe.

Leaders from countries at the forefront of the ongoing refugee crisis asked the international community to find new ways to address the challenge. “We are willing to create economic zones where refugees can find employment,” said H.M. Queen Rania Al Abdullah of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, whose country hosts 1.3 million refugees. In a speech, Ahmet Davutoğlu, Prime Minister of Turkey, called for a more humanitarian foreign policy, especially towards refugees, particularly from Syria. “Before being political figures, we are human beings,” he remarked. “If I don’t feel the pain of Syrian children, my political decision won’t be human.”

African leaders discussed opportunities for new strategic partnerships to drive investments in Africa’s growth. Intra-regional trade and investment should be a particular focus, said Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda. “We know that, if we traded more goods among ourselves, we would have a lot of gains.” Rwanda is hosting the World Economic Forum on Africa in May this year.

In an unprecedented joint appearance, Nicos Anastasiades, President of Cyprus and Greek Cypriot Leader, and Mustafa Akıncı, Turkish Cypriot Leader, offered hope to a region roiled by turmoil and uncertainty. They committed to finding a peace settlement to reunite their divided island in 2016.

The government of Greece was represented at the Annual Meeting for the first time since 2011. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras appeared alongside German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaüble in a plenary session on the Future of Europe.

With concerns mounting about the planned referendum on its membership in the EU, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom David Cameron stressed his determination to secure the future of the UK in a reformed European Union. This would be “the best outcome for Britain and the best outcome for Europe,” he said.

Li Yuanchao, Vice-President of the People's Republic of China, which this year holds the G20 presidency, sought to reassure participants that, despite its slower pace of growth, his country will remain an important driving force in the global economy.

As Sri Lanka emerges from a 30- year long civil conflict, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe led the largest ever Sri Lankan delegation to the Annual Meeting to showcase the reviving economy. While highlighting the significant changes taking place in Sri Lanka, the Prime Minister sought the World Economic Forum`s support in agriculture and trade facilitation.

In his address to participants, Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto said that low petroleum prices would not deter his country from pursuing structural reforms, including the opening up of the oil and gas sector to domestic and foreign investors. “Low oil prices will not prevent, will not limit, will not stop energy reform,” said Peña Nieto.

Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim announced that they would form a panel to mobilize urgent action on the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) for water, sanitation and related targets. To be co-chaired by the presidents of Mauritius and Mexico, the High-Level Panel on Water will include heads of state and government from developed and developing countries. “Water is a precious resource, crucial to realizing the SDGs, which at their heart aim to eradicate poverty,” said Ban. “The new panel can help motivate the action we need to turn ideas into reality.”

The World Economic Forum and International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development released a sweeping set of proposed reforms to international trade and investment rules and institutions. The report outlines a pathway for better aligning regional free trade and investment agreements, as well as for adapting rules and institutions to changes in the world economy, such as global value chains, the digital economy and climate change.

At Davos, the global (RED) campaign to help people fight HIV and AIDS marked its 10th anniversary. Over the past decade, (RED) has raised more than $350 million with the help of 65 companies. “Where you live should not decide if you live,” said Bono, Lead Singer, U2; Co-Founder of (RED) and Co-Founder of ONE, Ireland. The anniversary celebration inspired additional contributions, including one for $10 million from the Sungjoo Group and MCM Group in the Republic of Korea.

Major public-private initiatives were launched at the Annual Meeting, including a $50 million commitment to secure access to education for refugee children and a $130 million initiative to cut food waste and loss by half globally. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Belgian government released a social investment tool to help more than 60 million persons with disabilities. In collaboration with the World Food Programme, UNICEF, the Rockefeller Foundation and private-sector partners, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) launched the One Billion Coalition to help fragile communities improve resilience in the areas of health, safety and economic inclusion. GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, Wellcome Trust and pharmaceutical company Merck & Co. announced an agreement to secure a vaccine for Ebola and to work towards better preparedness for epidemics.

The World Economic Forum presented the first comprehensive set of recommendations for countering cybercrime through public-private collaboration. The US Department of Justice, Interpol and numerous private-sector partners endorsed the proposals, acknowledging the risks of cybercrime to business and society.

Also at the meeting, 85 companies and nine industry associations from the pharmaceutical, diagnostics and biotechnology industries in 18 countries issued a statement on the need to tackle antibiotic resistance. The signatories to the Declaration on Combating Antimicrobial Resistance call on governments to join them in developing more sustainable markets for antibiotics by providing incentives for companies to invest in R&D.

Members of the World Economic Forum’s Oil & Gas community released a call to action for the industry to close the gender gap within the sector. Endorsed by 22 leading companies and posted on the Forum website, the declaration includes seven guiding principles for the group’s efforts to address the gender gap.

The Forum published a number of thought leadership studies relating to the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The Future of Jobs report identified over 5 million jobs across 15 economies that will be lost over the next five years. It also found that women will bear the brunt of these losses.

One of the great challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution will be to develop environmentally sustainable business models, according to the New Plastics Economy report. Unless drastic action is taken, the amount of plastic in the oceans will outweigh the fish by 2050.

The Digital Media and Society report found that, while people spend more time online than they do sleeping, only half of them feel it improves quality of life. The Internet Fragmentation report focused on 28 pressure points that threaten to fragment the internet. According to the Digital Transformation of Industries (DTI) initiative, with the right levels of commitment to multistakeholder collaboration, digitalization could deliver a $100 trillion windfall by 2025.

The Forum’s New Vision for Arab Employment initiative, which was launched in May 2015 by 14 Arab businesses to provide vital skills to people in the Middle East and North Africa region, reported that it had exceeded its initial target of 100,000 people by 35% in just over six months.

The World Economic Forum honoured actors Yao Chen and Leonardo DiCaprio, artist Olafur Eliasson, and musician and entrepreneur will.i.am with this year’s Crystal Awards, which recognize leading artists who have demonstrated a commitment to improving the state of the world.

The Young Global Leader (YGL) community received endorsements from across sectors for a pilot Social Credits Initiative to provide incentives for private-sector development investment.

Fifty Global Shapers from around the world participated in the Annual Meeting, bringing the perspectives of millennials to the agenda. As part of the Shaping Davos series, Global Shapers connected with communities in more than 20 of the Shaper hub cities, including Accra, Ahmedabad, Islamabad, Mexico City, Moscow, Mumbai and Rabat in live video conversations to discuss issues on the Davos agenda.

For the 14th time, the Forum convened the Open Forum Davos, the free parallel programme of panel discussions open to the general public. Panellists included nine heads of state or government, six corporate leaders, a Nobel Laureate, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Davos civil society leaders and refugees living in the city.

Notes to Editors

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