4IR and jobs: Billions of people at risk of losing out unless leaders take charge now

DAVOS — Technology companies such as Google and Amazon have proved to be among the driving forces for change in our world today. But as tech giants race to develop meaningful artificial intelligence tools, there’s a risk that innovation could leave millions or even billions of people without jobs. As a result, Klaus Schwab, who is the founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, has written a book in which he explains how leaders and regulators need to act now to ensure that 4IR technologies help create more job opportunities rather than leaving millions of people out in the cold. 4IR looks set to be a major theme at this year’s WEF gathering in Davos, where the world’s most powerful businesspeople and politicians meet. – Gareth van Zyl

By WEF*

Geneva, Switzerland, 18 January 2018 – The World Economic Forum today released a new book by its Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab entitled Shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The book aims to help leaders develop the techniques necessary to harness technological advances to solve critical global challenges.

The book is a sequel to Schwab’s bestselling 2016 book, The Fourth Industrial Revolution. The new book provides a practical guide to understanding 12 sets of emerging technologies from a systems perspective and better appreciating the rules, norms, institutions and values that shape their development and use.

Such an approach is necessary, Schwab argues, given the unprecedented speed at which technology is developing, which makes outdated and redundant the approaches of governments, regulators and companies on which we rely to manage the impact of technologies.

Schwab’s response is for leaders to adopt a “systems leadership” approach to ensure that developments in technology are not able to occur without parallel consideration being given to rules, norms, values and infrastructure. Unless technology develops within an inclusive and sustainable governance system, the Fourth Industrial Revolution could exacerbate income inequality and leaving billions of people behind, while wasting the opportunity to deploy technology to help address global challenges.

WEF Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab.
WEF Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab.

“It took the world more than a decade to develop a collective response to climate change. If we take the same amount of time to respond to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we will have lost the opportunity to influence the development of the technologies that shape the way we work, live and act. If we act now, we have the opportunity to ensure that technologies – such as artificial intelligence – sustainably and meaningfully improve the lives and prospects of as many people as possible,” said Schwab.

The book calls on leaders to rapidly adopt the concept of agile governance of technologies, matching the nimbleness of the technologies and the private-sector actors who create them in constantly updating and rethinking rules in collaboration with other sectors. For businesses, greater experimentation with new technologies and greater investment in people and skills are required to maximize firms’ ability to develop and bring to market winning innovations.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution

When it comes to the general public, Shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution urges people to be engaged in the issues surrounding the evolution of technology, and to make their voice heard to ensure that technology plays a positive role in helping to build a sustainable, inclusive, innovation-driven future.

Shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution draws on the contributions of more than 200 of the world’s leading technology, economic and sociological experts to present a practical guide for citizens, business leaders, social influencers and policy-makers. It outlines the most important dynamics of the technology revolution; highlights important stakeholders who are often overlooked in the discussion of the latest scientific breakthroughs; and explores 12 technology areas central to the future of humanity. It was co-authored by Nicholas Davis, the World Economic Forum’s Head of Society and Innovation, and features a foreword by Satya Nadella, Chief Executive Officer of Microsoft Corporation.

  • The World Economic Forum, which is committed to improving the state of the world, is an International Organisation for Public-Private Cooperation. The Forum engages the foremost political, business and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas.