20 October 2016

The Unconventional Industrial Revolution

Looking a bit back in history, the first industrial revolution replaced muscle with machines using steam power; the second was mostly driven by the combustion engine, airplanes, moving pictures, cars and electricity; the third revolution started in the 1970s with personal computing, digital technology and the advent of the internet.  

Today, according to leading global thinkers, such as Klaus Schwab or Sharan Burrow, the 4th industrial revolution will give a new boost to innovations in areas such as smart robotics, new material (that are tougher and lighter), genetic editing, neuro-biological brain enhancement or driverless cars.

It will represent a mix of the Internet of Things, Internet of Systems, Cyber-Physical Systems; it will be fusing digital, physical and biological worlds impacting all areas, industries, and economies, and maybe even challenging basic aspects of what being a human means. However, IT, constructions, and automotive will most likely face the highest level of disruptions.

But not everybody will go through these swift changes; the already wealthy and highly competitive countries such as The Netherlands, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Singapore, Switzerland, US, UK, Hong Kong, will surely have a head start and benefit more.

Today it looks like our current business, political and social structures might not be ready to absorb all the transformations the 4th industrial revolution would bring. Schwab warns that governments could fail to regulate and employ new technologies to seize their benefit, organisations could also prove incapability of change, inequality has the potential to increase exponentially in the short run, while societies could fragment. Other concerns could come from the potential abuse of robotics, cyber weapons or genetic engineering.

Businesses are obliged to innovate continuously to avoid being destroyed by the revolution. The average lifespan of a corporation listed on the S&P index has fallen to 18 years from 60 in previous years. Collaborative teamwork structures guided by “the best idea wins no matter your level in the company” is the future. The era of command-and-control is coming to an end.

In order to remain competitive, business leaders will have to include systems and ideas that may never been considered, rethink their business models and strategies, and question everything, to discover the good investments in training and possibly disruptive investments in R&D. Governments also will have to stay engaged staying constantly connected with those leading the revolution.

For a flourishing future, we must first ask: how the technological systems we build and design, (and all of us) will not be limited to the means but rather serve the proper ends (not just focus on economic productivity and technological progress)? The 4th industrial revolution is an excellent opportunity to find out how to fight climate change, how to efficiently use our planet’s resources, how eliminate poverty, crime and violence, or even begin a new “Space Age”.

 We know the topic is fascinating and we also know that you want to stay at the top of these changes. This is one of the reasons why we’ve created the Unconvention event: a place where you can experience the 4th Industrial Revolution first hand, debate with leading experts, investors and find out the answers for your concerns. Book your calendar from 23rd to 25th of January 2017 and buy your early bird ticket here.

Sources: Financial Times, Forbes, World Economic Forum, World Economic Forum, The Guardian, Berkeley University.

 

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