In the recent years, and especially surrounding Davos 2019, the World Economic Forum has denoted several ‘revolutions’. These range from Globalisation 4.0, to the Fourth Social Revolution, to being a key proponent of ‘Industry 4.0.’ Each revolution is fundamentally built around the introduction of newer, more intelligent technologies into the global sphere and into the workforce.
The WEF emphasises the importance of each revolution. But they cannot occur in isolation. Industry 4.0 (or the Fourth Industrial Revolution) will inevitably have a domino effect on other areas of life. It will have social, economic and environmental effects on the world.
I’ve heard of Industry and Globalisation 4.0 – what’s this social revolution?
The Fourth Social Revolution is a term coined by the WEF. Some refer to it as Society 4.0. It refers to the need for a restructuring of society based upon technological and economical changes. If Industry 4.0 occurs, but without social change, or without globalisation, it will ultimately fail.
Industry 4.0 is based upon
- Technological innovation
- Cyber-physical systems
So, it only makes sense that Society 4.0 is about people. As Dr. Maynard points out in his 2016 WEF article, “The Fourth Industrial Revolution…could profoundly transform humanity for the better. But [people] are integral to how the revolution will play out.”
Essentially: without the people, any revolution will fail.
What about technology is ‘social’?
Let’s start with an example: artificial intelligence.
AI is a great tool for problem solving, intelligent assistance and calculations. It does things we can’t, or which would be time-consuming to do. But one day, AIs may becoming so advanced that they require rights. It sounds like a dystopian future, but it might be eventually become reality.
This won’t fit seamlessly into our current social society.
Here’s another example: Blockchain.
Blockchain is, in a way, inherently social because it allows people to exchange information, data and money without intermediaries. It entirely removes banks or intermediary agents from money transfers and supply chains.
As we discussed yesterday, it could also provide accessibility and connectivity to those in developing countries.
Technology is inherently social. Even things like automation have social consequences. Automation will eventually require reskilling as robots take over manual jobs.
Do we really need so many revolutions?
Here’s the thing: since the first industrial revolution, there have been three. There could have even been two in your lifetime. Because we are constantly surrounded by technological innovation, you probably barely noticed.
Or at least: you didn’t call it a “revolution”.
That is, fundamentally, what it was, though. And as technology changed, so did society’s attitudes and ways of living. The internet didn’t exist a hundred years ago, and the way society was perceived and constructed was much, much different.
To accept nascent technologies into our lives, and into the global society, we need to reconsider how we view technology and one another. AI, automation, blockchain, quantum computing and machine learning will all question the way society is constructed.
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