The Big Picture, I – The Fourth Industrial Revolution

April 4, 2016 § 3 Comments

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

By Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum, for Davos 2016


“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. …

… a Fourth Industrial Revolution … characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres. …… evolving at an exponential rather than a linear pace. … The possibilities of billions of people connected by mobile devices … will be multiplied by emerging technology breakthroughs in fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage, and quantum computing.

… An underlying theme in my conversations with global CEOs and senior business executives is that the acceleration of innovation and the velocity of disruption are hard to comprehend or anticipate and that these drivers constitute a source of constant surprise, even for the best connected and most well informed. …

I am a great enthusiast and early adopter of technology, but sometimes I wonder whether the inexorable integration of technology in our lives could diminish some of our quintessential human capacities, such as compassion and cooperation.

There has never been a time of greater promise, or one of greater potential peril. Today’s decision-makers, however, are too often trapped in traditional, linear thinking, or too absorbed by the multiple crises demanding their attention, to think strategically about the forces of disruption and innovation shaping our future.

In the end, it all comes down to people and values. We need to shape a future that works for all of us by putting people first and empowering them. In its most pessimistic, dehumanized form, the Fourth Industrial Revolution may indeed have the potential to “robotize” humanity and thus to deprive us of our heart and soul. But as a complement to the best parts of human nature—creativity, empathy, stewardship—it can also lift humanity into a new collective and moral consciousness based on a shared sense of destiny. It is incumbent on us all to make sure the latter prevails.”

My assertion: art, culture and collective self-examination will help steer us towards the latter.

Pragmatically, it may also be one of the last frontiers where humans have a leg-up against machines.


Courtesy: Nature Magazine

My visit to China in March coincided with the hotly-followed match between AlphaGo and Lee Sedol. Among the billion spectators worldwide, 600 million were Chinese. Reactions ranged anywhere from awe to dismay. It was inevitably a hot topic on WeChat and at dinners with my friends. One of them, a high school classmate whom I hadn’t seen for nearly 30 years, is now a professor and Vice Dean of The School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Peking University. With already two doctoral degrees under her belt, she is now contemplating a third…

… in Art History.

Next: The Big Picture, II – Designers of the Future; and Anti-disciplinaries
Be acquainted with Cybernetic Directors, Drone Experience Designers, Interventionists, Conductors, Organ Designers and people who do not fit labels and boxes.




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