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Fourth Industrial Revolution explained

German Klaus Schwab, founder and president of the World Economic Forum, WEF, shows the 2016 programme during a press conference in Cologny near Geneva, Switzerland. The overarching theme of the Meeting, which will take place from from 20 to 23 January, is 'Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution'. EPA/SALVATORE DI NOLFI

German Klaus Schwab, founder and president of the World Economic Forum, WEF, shows the 2016 programme during a press conference in Cologny near Geneva, Switzerland. The overarching theme of the Meeting, which will take place from from 20 to 23 January, is 'Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution'. EPA/SALVATORE DI NOLFI

Published Jan 15, 2016

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Cape Town – From Geneva to Gaborone, diplomats, directors and everyone in between, will be scrambling to get hold of a copy of a book released on Friday that examines the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the theme of next week’s World Economic Forum annual meeting (WEF16) in Davos.

The author of the book is no less than the founder and executive chairman of the WEF, Professor Klaus Schwab, who believes we are at the beginning of a revolution that is fundamentally changing the way we live, work and relate to one another.

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From intelligent robots and self-driving cars to neuro-technological brain enhancements and genetic editing, evidence of dramatic change happening at exponential speed is all around us.

Previous industrial revolutions liberated humans from dependence on animal power, made mass production possible and brought digital capabilities to billions of people. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is characterised by a range of new technologies that are fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds, impacting all disciplines, economies and industries, and even challenging ideas about what it means to be human.

The resulting shifts mean that we live at a time of great promise and great peril. The potential exists to connect billions more people to digital networks, dramatically improve the efficiency of organisations and manage assets in ways that can help regenerate the natural environment, potentially undoing damage done in previous industrial revolutions.

However, Schwab, who has been at the centre of global affairs for more than four decades, also has significant concerns. He worries that organisations might fail to adapt and that governments might be unable to regulate new technologies to capture their benefits. The danger is that the shifts in power that are already underway will create new security concerns and increase inequality.

In his book, Schwab puts recent changes into historical context, outlines the key technologies driving this revolution, discusses major impacts on governments, businesses, civil society and individuals, and suggests ways to respond.

At the heart of this analysis is the belief that the Fourth Industrial Revolution is within the control of all of us as long as we are able to collaborate across geographies, sectors and disciplines to grasp the opportunities it presents.

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In particular, Schwab calls for leaders and citizens to “together shape a future that works for all by putting people first, empowering them and constantly reminding ourselves that all of these new technologies are first and foremost tools made by people for people”.

Learning how mankind can benefit from this revolution while addressing its challenges is the central aim of WEF16, which has the theme Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Crowdsourcing ideas, insights and wisdom from the World Economic Forum’s global network of leaders from business, government and civil society and young leaders, this new book looks deeply at the future that is unfolding today and how we might take collective responsibility to ensure it is a positive one for all of us.

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African News Agency

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