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Improving Lives in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

January 20, 2016 by Judith Magyar 163

This week in Davos, global leaders discuss the ethics of the Internet, employment and food for the masses, and the fight against cancer.

Technology and the Internet make it a lot easier to wage wars in unconventional ways. From 3D printed weapons to genetic engineering in hidden labs, destructive tools across a range of emerging technologies are becoming readily available. Developments like these raise a number of questions for visionaries like Espen Barth Eide, a member of the Managing Board at the World Economic Forum.

According to Eide, we need to address inequalities that can lead to global resentment, ethical issues about the use of technology and the education of people worldwide to embed new norms and values in society and provide more opportunities for growth. That’s why the brightest minds from government, business and civil society meet annually to tackle big issues together in the collaborative “Spirit of Davos.”

The Future of the Internet

The World Economic Forum has been convening annually for 45 years. Its mission is to improve the state of the world through public/private cooperation.

On the bright side, technology and the Internet play a key role in achieving the 17 global goals outlined by the United Nations for a sustainable future. Hyper connectivity and the IoT are driving a new cycle of global economic activity focused on sustainable solutions that could end our dependence on fossil fuels, for example. Now, technology can help us reduce waste and redesign production and consumption systems to be more resource efficient. The Internet enables online learning, instant communication and a world of opportunity for sharing knowledge and best practices.

The Challenge of Employment

As we change technology, it changes us. The way we live and work and interact with each other and the things around us will never be the same. With software dominating the world and machines and robots doing the work of humans, we are entering an era where jobs become obsolete much faster than new ones are being created. Technology is threatening jobs that previously were considered ‘safe’ from replacement by machines. Consider the impact of self-driving vehicles on professionals from taxi drivers to airplane pilots. Even pizzas are being delivered by drones.

Certainly, new products and processes will lead to new growth. But change does not happen at the same pace everywhere. Societies that are technologically advanced will profit more while others will lag behind. How can we ensure that everyone will have the right education and skills to benefit from these exciting developments?

In the t timeline of history, we are in the fourth industrial revolution. In past centuries we moved from manual to mechanical to mass production. With the advent of electronics and IT we moved into the age of automated production, and we are now entering the world of cyber systems.

The Challenge of Food and Agriculture

Over the next 30 years, the demand for food will outstrip the supply. Widespread drought and access to water is impacting the production and the price of food. Practices such as deforestation and single crop farming are destroying our food chain and impacting the planet’s biodiversity. And finally, how safe is our food? The demand for cheap food in large volumes leads to substitution of cheap ingredients or non-food elements into the food chain.The greatest challenge of this age is disruption. On all levels – social, economic and political – we are facing digital divides. Global warming, for example, has dramatically changed how we produce and consume food.

Digital Transformation Improving Lives

With the right strategy and technology, SAP is helping to create solutions to these complex, difficult problems. A member of the World Economic Forum for years, SAP has played a proactive role in the public/private collaboration on the journey to improve lives. This year, SAP CEO Bill McDermott was invited to join the fight against cancer in a task force headed by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.

Click here to find out how SAP is helping customers, organizations and individuals achieve the 17 Goals for a Sustainable Future. You will be awed and inspired by the stories and examples of technology and people changing the world for the better.

Top image via Shutterstock

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