Visions of Technology: Social and Institutional Factors Shaping the Development of New Technologies

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A world of customer experiences, data-based services, and asset performance through analytics, meanwhile, requires new forms of collaboration, particularly given the speed at which innovation and disruption are taking place.

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And the emergence of global platforms and other new business models, finally, means that talent, culture, and organizational forms will have to be rethought. Overall, the inexorable shift from simple digitization the Third Industrial Revolution to innovation based on combinations of technologies the Fourth Industrial Revolution is forcing companies to reexamine the way they do business. The bottom line, however, is the same: business leaders and senior executives need to understand their changing environment, challenge the assumptions of their operating teams, and relentlessly and continuously innovate.

As the physical, digital, and biological worlds continue to converge, new technologies and platforms will increasingly enable citizens to engage with governments, voice their opinions, coordinate their efforts, and even circumvent the supervision of public authorities.

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Simultaneously, governments will gain new technological powers to increase their control over populations, based on pervasive surveillance systems and the ability to control digital infrastructure. On the whole, however, governments will increasingly face pressure to change their current approach to public engagement and policymaking, as their central role of conducting policy diminishes owing to new sources of competition and the redistribution and decentralization of power that new technologies make possible.

Ultimately, the ability of government systems and public authorities to adapt will determine their survival.

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If they prove capable of embracing a world of disruptive change, subjecting their structures to the levels of transparency and efficiency that will enable them to maintain their competitive edge, they will endure. If they cannot evolve, they will face increasing trouble. This will be particularly true in the realm of regulation. Current systems of public policy and decision-making evolved alongside the Second Industrial Revolution, when decision-makers had time to study a specific issue and develop the necessary response or appropriate regulatory framework.

But such an approach is no longer feasible.

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How, then, can they preserve the interest of the consumers and the public at large while continuing to support innovation and technological development? This means regulators must continuously adapt to a new, fast-changing environment, reinventing themselves so they can truly understand what it is they are regulating. To do so, governments and regulatory agencies will need to collaborate closely with business and civil society.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution will also profoundly impact the nature of national and international security, affecting both the probability and the nature of conflict. The history of warfare and international security is the history of technological innovation, and today is no exception. The distinction between war and peace, combatant and noncombatant, and even violence and nonviolence think cyberwarfare is becoming uncomfortably blurry. As this process takes place and new technologies such as autonomous or biological weapons become easier to use, individuals and small groups will increasingly join states in being capable of causing mass harm.

This new vulnerability will lead to new fears. But at the same time, advances in technology will create the potential to reduce the scale or impact of violence, through the development of new modes of protection, for example, or greater precision in targeting. The Fourth Industrial Revolution, finally, will change not only what we do but also who we are. It will affect our identity and all the issues associated with it: our sense of privacy, our notions of ownership, our consumption patterns, the time we devote to work and leisure, and how we develop our careers, cultivate our skills, meet people, and nurture relationships.

The list is endless because it is bound only by our imagination. 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.

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

Our relationship with our smartphones is a case in point. One of the greatest individual challenges posed by new information technologies is privacy. We instinctively understand why it is so essential, yet the tracking and sharing of information about us is a crucial part of the new connectivity. Debates about fundamental issues such as the impact on our inner lives of the loss of control over our data will only intensify in the years ahead.

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  7. Similarly, the revolutions occurring in biotechnology and AI, which are redefining what it means to be human by pushing back the current thresholds of life span, health, cognition, and capabilities, will compel us to redefine our moral and ethical boundaries. Neither technology nor the disruption that comes with it is an exogenous force over which humans have no control.

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    All of us are responsible for guiding its evolution, in the decisions we make on a daily basis as citizens, consumers, and investors. We should thus grasp the opportunity and power we have to shape the Fourth Industrial Revolution and direct it toward a future that reflects our common objectives and values. To do this, however, we must develop a comprehensive and globally shared view of how technology is affecting our lives and reshaping our economic, social, cultural, and human environments.

    There has never been a time of greater promise, or one of greater potential peril. In the end, it all comes down to people and values. On the other hand, it is also possible that the displacement of workers by technology will, in aggregate, result in a net increase in safe and rewarding jobs. All previous industrial revolutions have had both positive and negative impacts on different stakeholders. Nations have become wealthier, and technologies have helped pull entire societies out of poverty, but the inability to fairly distribute the resulting benefits or anticipate externalities has resulted in global challenges.

    By recognizing the risks, whether cybersecurity threats, misinformation on a massive scale through digital media, potential unemployment, or increasing social and income inequality, we can take the steps to align common human values with our technological progress and ensure that the Fourth Industrial Revolution benefits human beings first and foremost. We cannot foresee at this point which scenario is likely to emerge from this new revolution. However, I am convinced of one thing—that in the future, talent, more than capital, will represent the critical factor of production. With these fundamental transformations underway today, we have the opportunity to proactively shape the Fourth Industrial Revolution to be both inclusive and human-centered.

    This revolution is about much more than technology—it is an opportunity to unite global communities, to build sustainable economies, to adapt and modernize governance models, to reduce material and social inequalities, and to commit to values-based leadership of emerging technologies.

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    The Fourth Industrial Revolution is therefore not a prediction of the future but a call to action. It is a vision for developing, diffusing, and governing technologies in ways that foster a more empowering, collaborative, and sustainable foundation for social and economic development, built around shared values of the common good, human dignity, and intergenerational stewardship.

    Realizing this vision will be the core challenge and great responsibility of the next 50 years. The Fourth Industrial Revolution. Article Media. Info Print Cite. In case of a strong welfare state extensive redistribution policy, high level of protection against dismissal and more , economic and social policies could compensate the income losses of those persons who lost their job due to international competition.

    However, it must be pointed out that due to increasing globalization, national capacities to manage the consequences of a globalized world are limited. Because all markets need institutions, global markets require global rules, too. These rules have to be established on the global level. Hence national self-determination is violated. On the other hand, if national governments have too much power, they will apply rules and institutional arrangements according to the preferences of local population.

    Since preferences concerning rules and institutions are supposed to differ between countries, the result of national sovereignty is institutional heterogeneity which is not compatible with uniform global standards. Nevertheless, even limited room for maneuvers allows national governments to shape globalization, both its extent and its consequences. If, for example, globalization has gone too far according to the preferences of a country , it is not impossible to turn back some elements of globalization.

    And even more important: Any government has the possibilities to change the market outcomes of globalization in its own country. We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website.