The Fourth Industrial Revolution – 4 levers to better prepare

History is replete with events that have transformed society and the way we live. From the first Agricultural revolution where humans shifted from being hunter-gatherers to settlers, to the first industrial revolution where the age of iron, steam and machine tools transformed work.

Where industrial revolutions increased the average living standards of many in the western world, particularly in the UK and its colonies where this all began, it harmed a woman’s role in the economy of the household, an impact we have been fighting to reverse ever since.

Fast forward 260 years, and we are on the brink of another revolution; a digital one; the rise of the machines and artificial intelligence. This revolution is bound to improve health care, agriculture, mobility, hyper-personalisation and experiences. But there is a dark side here too; it runs the risk of side-lining in a short space of time a large percentage of the existing workforce, and further creating distance between wealthy communities and those that still lack internet connectivity.

This revolution comes with more complexity than ever before. We know far more now about the impact of human activity on the planet and the planet’s future, and climate change presents a burning platform. In addition to increasing carbon in our atmosphere generating higher temperatures and higher oceans, we are rapidly losing eco-diversity on land and sea, and decreasing amounts of available arable land and water. The fact that our natural resources are not free puts pressure on the notion that the economic growth model on which the world economy has been designed, cannot sustain growth forever.

From a socio-economic perspective, the rapid growth in big data and global digital enterprises has opened up global market places and enabled smaller enterprises to expand their access to tools, technologies, and customers. In many ways, the market place has become more competitive in the SME category, but control over the platforms on which we trade is in the hands of a few. Furthermore, issues of privacy, free will and equitable distribution of wealth are increasing in global significance.

So how do we face it? 4 Levers

Good governance is an essential principle of politics. 

From its origins in the times of Aristotle and Plato, politics had its roots in organising around civil societies, acting of and for the people. In modern times governance has evolved into social organising around causes, as our institutions have become formal, rigid and bureaucratic.  Changing the status quo takes a rich understanding of complexity, drawing knowledge from every cross-section of its society to come up with optimal solutions that preserve that society’s interest. It follows that we must appoint, and hold to account elected officials that represent us, understand these challenges, and are prepared to act.

Life long Learning

We need to do all we can to ensure we maintain a state of continuous learning. A society impacted by artificial intelligence on the one hand, and climate change on the other, have incentives to learn STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) but also other skills such as arts and design, motion, history, culture and geography. The human of the future is a polymath; able to understand elements of multiple disciplines to create and to innovate.

Conscious investing

 Also known as Green or Ethical Investing is a means for us to support the growth of matters which represent our human interests. There are several green crowdfunding platforms that we can choose, to help grow sustainable business models that move us from being a linear industrial economy to a circular one.

Conscious consumption

 The power is within our hands to decide how we consume. Increasing demand for ethically sourced and sustainable supplies not only helps these segments to grow but encourages all investors to flock toward companies that are thinking equitably and ethically.

We explore these topics in future blogs.