An economy for our shared future

Allan: Irving Wladawsky-Berger writes a very good post about current and future economic challenges. Put aside the debate as to whether this is best characterized as the third or fourth industrial revolution, and instead focus on what we all need to do to cope with these changes and build an inclusive society. Inside this post are many good references, which I would also encourage people to read. Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum, writes:

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. We do not yet know just how it will unfold, but one thing is clear: the response to it must be integrated and comprehensive, involving all stakeholders of the global polity, from the public and private sectors to academia and civil society.

For those that read this Blog, you know that I have long been concerned about challenges that will face the workforce between now and 2025. Irving Wladawsky-Berger references a Pew Research Center study, Digital Life in 2025, that predicts the impact of the Internet on humanity by 2025. This is a perfect follow-up, and this study makes expert predictions that can be, “grouped into 15 identifiable theses about our digital future – eight of which we characterize as being hopeful, six as concerned, and another as a kind of neutral, sensible piece of advice that the choices that are made now will shape the future.” The most important conclusion, I think, is #15:

Foresight and accurate predictions can make a difference; ‘The best way to predict the future is to invent it.’

The issues are extremely complex; nevertheless, the future is ours to build.

Originally posted February 23, 2016
Irving Wladawsky-Berger: The Fourth Industrial Revolution

The Fourth Industrial Revolution: what it means, how to respond was the central theme of the 2016 World Economic Forum (WEF) that took place earlier this year in Davos, Switzerland.  The theme was nicely explained by Klaus Schwab, WEF founder and executive chairman, in the lead article of a recently published Foreign Affairs Anthology on the subject.

Dr. Schwab positions the Fourth Industrial Revolution within the historical context of three previous industrial revolutions.  The First, – in the last third of the 18th century, – introduced new tools and manufacturing processes based on steam and water power, ushering the transition from hand-made goods to mechanized, machine-based production.  The Second, – a century later, – revolved around steel, railroads, cars, chemicals, petroleum, electricity, the telephone and radio, leading to the age of mass production.  The Third, – starting in the 1960s, – saw the advent of digital technologies, computers, the IT industry, and the automation of process in just about all industries.

“Now a Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third, the digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of the last century,” he noted.  “It is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.”

Most everyone agrees that there was a major qualitative distinction between the First and Second Industrial Revolutions.  While some believe that the Fourth is merely the evolution of the Third, Schwab argues that they’re qualitatively different for 3 major reasons:

  • Velocity: Compared to the previous three revolutions, “the Fourth is evolving at an exponential rather than a linear pace.”
  • Scope: Disruptions are taking place in “almost every industry in every country.”
  • Systems impact: “The breadth and depth of these changes herald the transformation of entire systems of production, management, and governance.”

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