The Fourth Industrial revolution has a potential to robotize humanity, and those compromise our traditional sources of meaning – work, community, family, identity. Or we can use the Fourth Industrial revolution to lift humanity into a new collective and moral consciousness based on a shared sense of destiny.
Norms, rules, expectations, goals, institutions and incentives, that guide our behavior every day, as well as the infrastructure and flows of material and people that are fundamental to our economic, political and social lives. Collectively, these influences how we manage our health, make decisions, produce and consumer goods and services, work, communicate, socialize and move around – even what we consider it means to be a human. As throughout the history of industrial revolutions, all these things, and many more, will fundamentally shift as the Fourth Revolution unfolds.
First revolution started in mid 18. century in Britain textile industry. Second was enabled by home appliances like radio, television, telephone and other mass appliances and peaked from 1870-1930. Third was digital with rise of private computers and breakthroughs in information technology and digital computing. All those revolutions brought cumulative improvement in human lives. The process of technological innovation – invention, commercialization, widespread adoption and use – has been the most powerful driver of wealth and increased well-being since the beginning of history.
If we want that benefits of use of new technologies are as wide as possible, three challenges need to be addressed:
- To ensure that benefits of Fourth Industrial Revolution are distributed fairly.
- To manage externalities of Fourth Industrial Revolution in terms of risk and harms it can cause.
- To ensure that Fourth Industrial Revolution is human-lead and human-centered.
In order to prepare for coping with 21st-century technologies, we need to change mindsets and institutions. As Madeleine Albright said – we face a task of understanding and governing 21st-century technologies, with a 20th-century mindset and 19th-century institutions. In order to define proper mindset, we need to work on four principles:
- Systems, not technologies
- Empowering, not determining
- By design, not by default
- Value as a feature, not a bug
Mindset build on technologies of 21st-century will need to adjust to improvement of today’s digital economy into ecosystem of Fourth Industrial Revolution that will bring value creation in the fields that we can imagine today. Second important consequence will be scaling effect that is so much bigger than ever before, because of digital nature of technological development. Knowledge and idea transfers are done digitally and with high speed and as such have influence on faster physical production, digital products and services are manufactured quickly and with low costs. The biggest power of new technologies come from their interconnections since innovation in one field, increases usability in another and whole development is speed up. New technologies also create similar benefits and challenges. They include inequality, employment, democracy, sovereignty, health and safety, and economic development.
It is hard to define relationship between technology and values. Two of the biggest misleading perceptions today are that technology determines future and that technology is value neutral. But that is not true, all technologies are political. They are solutions, products and implementations that are developed through social process, stand in and for people and institutions, and contain within them a whole set of assumptions, values and principles that in turn can affect power, structure and status in society. Technologies are more than sum of their part. In order to use their “political” nature in proper way we need to:
- Identify the values that are at stake with particular technology
- Understand how technology impact our choices and decision-making
- Determine how to best influence technological development with an appropriate set of stakeholders
If we want to create environment that will improve human wellbeing by using technology in a proper way, we need to define human values first and then align technology with them. Global agreement on shared human aspirations was design as New Social Covenant in World Economic Forum and it contains those free aspiration:
- The dignity of the human person – whatever their race, gender, background or belief
- The importance of a common good that transcend individual interest
- The need for stewardship – a concern, not just for ourselves, but for posterity
Even if we do agree on common values, encoding values into technology is not an easy task. It demands value shifts, self-restrainments, self-reflections and wider approach then just top down push from governments and regulations. Potential infliction points to build value-based approach to technology design, use, management and governance are:
- Educational curricula
- Fundraising and investing
- Organizational culture
- Decision-making and priority setting
- Operational methodologies – science
- Economic incentive structures
- Product design
- Technical architecture
- Societal resistance
The world is experiencing simultaneous transformative trends: urbanization, globalization, demographic shifts, climate change and increasing disruptive emerging technologies. The joint impact of this trends requires that we transcend traditional boundaries and forge sustainable and inclusive partnership. Inclusivity does not occur without both intention and action.
Author is suggesting not that we distribute wealth and benefits equally to all stakeholders, but that distribution must be sufficient for all stakeholders. In a global knowledge economy every country needs the capacity to absorb and adapt technologies for its national, social and economic development. Given the increasing importance of skills, fostering countries’ capabilities to fruitfully employ technologies will remain a critical need and will require investment in education, skills and national research and development. For balanced development of all countries and avoiding risk of bias use of technologies that will favor developed countries over developing, all stakeholders need to participate: development experts, global business, governments, civil society, international organization and affected populations.
Climate change is next challenge that development is bringing. New technologies are bringing additional threats with their have energy use, but also tools to better tackle some of the important environmental challenges.
Society changes will also bring disruption if not handled properly. Jobs will disappear, work requirements will go away, we need to think about new contracts between social and individual, new identity creators outside work related activities, economic implications of reduced work activities for humans.
Technologies that will push and shape world of The Fourth Industrial Revolution are coming from those areas:
- Extending digital technologies: new computing technologies, blockchain and distributed ledgers technologies, IoT
- Reforming the physical world: AI and robotics, advanced materials, additive manufacturing and multidimensional printing
- Altering the human being: biotechnologies, neurotechnologies, virtual and augmented realities
- Integrating the environment: energy capture, storage and transmission, geoengineering, space technologies
Those technologies are affecting industrial capabilities, social relationships and political strategies. They are expanding their footprint into physical world, they are upgrading our physical world, improving decision-making capabilities.
New computing technologies will need to address issues of limitation that we are reaching with implementation of Moore’s law. The semiconductor’s industry is reaching its horizontal limit. New material will improve situation, but new ways of computing is necessary in order to tackle not only volume issue, but first of all speed, latency and energy issues heavy use of AI technologies will bring. One of those new ways is quantum computing, disruptive in theory and challenging in reality. Qubits used by quantum computing have possibility to be in either 1 or 0 state until measured (bits can only be in one state 1 or 0). This enables them to simultaneously simulate multiple states. Second ability of quantum computing is entanglement, where one qubit provides information about second one. This enables probalistic shortcuts and improve efficiency in hard mathematical tasks. With improvement of those systems beyond merely theoretical applications, issues of security and trust will emerge, since quantum systems will have capabilities to decrypt almost everything. But real applications of quantum computing will not be substantial for quite some time. On the other hand, smaller and smaller computers are getting integrated into our environment. We live in computer-built world. Gadgets, wearables, sensors, not to mentioned that biological computing could soon allow us to replace specialized microchips with custom-design organisms – “biohacking”. Demand for bandwidth and storage is looking for new approaches. One of them is to store data in DNA (Harvard’s George Church). New development will have extreme demand on energy resources and access to benefits of new computing models will be biased, since developed countries have better ability to gain investments and human resources needed for innovations in this area. Today data centers are collecting flows of big data and storage it, but increased number of IoT devices, will maybe demand more localized, distributed environment for data to be access in agile, responsive way.
Distributed ledger technologies or blockchains is providing us with new system for storing and exchanging value in both our digital and real economies. But in order for those technologies to realize full potential in redesigning trust and transactions, collective governance, stakeholder engagements and solving “offline” coordination challenges are needed. Blockchain transactions are transparent, secure and traceable. They provide “internet of value”. This enables small contributors and individuals to become market player since it reduces entry costs. Main value of new technologies is so called “distributed trust”, that is lowering transaction costs, excluding intermediaries, providing possibilities for intellectual property protection even in areas of weak legal infrastructure. But it does bring one big challenge, especially mental challenge of disappearance of central authority. Decentralizing trust by relying on a complex set of algorithms is a radical shift from human deduction as the ultimate source of knowledge to reliance on modern scientific instrumentation.
IoT enables rich data to be combined with smart analytics, device performance data and user-impact data. It brings improvement in communication and collaboration of those devices which increase productivity and efficiency. It is about intelligent-interactive objects that provide new channels for value delivery to citizens. Biggest impact of IoT devices is seen in manufacturing, Using IoT devices will also bring new kind of economy machine-to-machine data economy. IoT value lies in data collection, analysis and management. The diffusion of IoT requires the development and deployment of four different layers:
- first, the devices that sense, communicate and perform actions,
- second, the communication infrastructure that connect those devices,
- third, a secure data management system
- and fourth, the application that process data.
With use of IoT devices we could see rise of outcome economy, where customers will be able to purchase outcomes by hours, liter or meter, rather than buy machinery to produce this outcome. Standardization in order to achieve interoperability and tackling the threat of cybersecurity are just few developments that is needed for proper IoT development. In combination with AI and robotics, IoT will decrease demand for routine manual jobs.
Digital economy ethics challenges are challenges of data ethics and not technology ethics. Life cycle of data – creations, curation, manipulation and use – is under supervision for ethical purposes. Regulation should look at projects from technical feasibility, environmental sustainability, societal acceptability and human preferability perspectives. Data ethics coupled with algorithm ethics and ethical practices should be carefully reviewed when we are further developing digital landscape.
When looking at cybersecurity threat we can adjust our organizations by adjusting the to four areas:
- Move from cybersecurity approach to cyber resilience
- Move from hackers to criminal organizations
- From technical exploits to human behavior
- From individual to collective risks across industries and organizations
Artificial intelligence and robotics are next great area where technology is shaping our world. From conference at Dartmouth college in 1956 and first manufacturing robot in 1961 development skyrocket. AI is gaining traction because of increased quantity of data, robotics is using automation to improve efficiency and now coupled with AI insight, they can address wider and wider field. Ethics is one of major concerns since AI coupled with robotics if not developed in proper way can pose a threat to whole humanity. The accuracy and usefulness of any algorithms depends on both how they are designed and the nature of data they are trained on. AI and robotics will transform tasks rather than make humans obsolete.
Advanced materials science will impact most if not all technologies of The Fourth Industrial Revolution. Energy storage is one of the hottest areas of research with energy demand from robotics, new computing technologies, blockchain. Materials should be developed in a sustainable way. Blockchain technology could help establish common database of materials and their origin trail. It can be reused by many developers of new materials. AI use can improve time to market. Use of nanotechnology brings ethical issues that need to be handled carefully.
3D printing could dramatically change landscape of manufacturing and producing. Digital plans, distributer over network will enable local production again and could disturb business models of countries with low cost labor. Not to mentioned changes of supply chain models. Terms 3D printing and additive manufacturing describe process where layers are added as manufacturing process. Some barriers Additive manufacturing could face:
- Skills and education
- Cost, investments and financing
- Standard and regulation
- Measurement, inspection and testing
Biotechnology as improvement of our understanding of nature and ourselves, has tremendous influence. This technology is more than other technologies emotively important for most of humankind. This technology is less predictive than let’s say digital technologies and very capital intense. One area where biotechnology is used already now is precise medicine, with focus on individuals’ profile and targeted area treatments. Second are with potential use is agriculture. The convergence of molecular biology, materials engineering, computational approaches and predictive mathematical modeling is going to impact our society, industrial landscape and global environment.
Neurotechnology enable us to better influence consciousness and thought and to understand many activities of the brain. New technologies are enabling big leap in measurements of brain activities and analysis of this activities. The ability to better measure brain activity could improve drug testing and help understand consumer decision making. Since technology of brain scanning is non-body invasive, its use can be utilized in everyday life for almost everything.
Virtual, mixed and augmented realities are revolutionizing how we experience, understand and interact with the world around us. This technology can be seen as another step-in evolution of interfaces.
Global availability of clean, renewable energy will benefit environment and developing nations with unsecure energy supply. In order to use this energy full, new solutions for energy capture, storage and transmission are needed. With right investments, new technologies such as biobatteries, energy-efficient nanomaterials, modular grid storage, synthetic biological-waste conversion and tidal energy can make further headway. Because of high investment needed into new technologies, multistakeholder agreement between governments and economy is needed to provide stable framework for development of new technologies.
Geoengineering is the idea that humans can deliberately and successfully control the behavior of the Earth’s highly complex biosphere. Some of its promised applications include shifting rainfall patterns, creating artificial sources of sunshine and altering biosphere using biotechnologies. Interference in Earth’s atmosphere with today’s scientifically knowledge is dangerous, we need to establish global framework, since we don’t know all the consequences and actions in one country can lead to consequences in another. Technology can help fight global warming and climate changes, but it is not the only solution.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution will bring cosmos closer to home. Space technologies are now developed not only by governments but also by private companies. A lot of spin in of new technology was done by development of space technology, like microchips and software engineering. Space will get more and more crowded and in order to use space for common use of all parties, private and public, we need to set proper framework and standards.
Challenges of tomorrow can only be solved with collective leadership. Cross-country cooperation and public-private partnership are needed. System leadership is about cultivating a shared vision of change – working together with all stakeholders of global society. System leadership is about:
- Technology leadership
- Governance leadership
- Values leadership
Technology of The Fourth Industrial Revolution is built on digital platform. This means fast changes, lots of data and new communication and transportation systems. New skills are needed for workforce of tomorrow and collaborative innovation is primary development concept. Governance in such a fast-changing environment will require rethinking of governments on what they govern and why. Answer on those question will include how, that should be based on new standards, that will incorporate landscape changes that new technology is bringing. Values leading development of new industrial landscape based on technology of tomorrow should be human-centric.
There are different stakeholders in development in The Fourth Industrial Revolution:
- Government – that should adapt agile government approach and learn to work across boundaries.
- Business – that should learn by doing, invest in people, adopt and engage in new governance models, develop and implement technologies with opportunities in mind.
- Individuals – that should explore, experiment and envision and be political.
Technologies are powerful actors that shape social perspectives and values. They require our attention precisely because we build our economies, societies and world views through them. Technologies will play part in finding solutions to today’s challenges, but they will also create new ones.