Wisdom//

How the 5th Industrial Revolution Brings the Focus Back to Humanity

The time is right to realise that ‘for-profit’ and ‘for-benefit’ need not conflict in business.

The first Industrial Revolution witnessed mechanisation, invention of the steam engine, and replaced agriculture with industry. The second Industrial Revolution used electricity and other scientific advancements to create mass production. The third Industrial Revolution saw the emergence of computers and digital technology. The fourth Industrial Revolution is characterised by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.

According to Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, “The changes are so profound that, from the perspective of human history, there has never been a time of greater promise or potential peril.”

In this age of 4IR where we are only worried about advancing economic returns to shareholders, we are very fast moving towards creating a world for our future generations where we create jobs for our children which won’t exist in the future, destroy the human element in day-to-day activities, pollute the environment and exacerbate the climate crisis.

As we experience the fourth Industrial Revolution and enjoy the economic advances with technology trends like AI, Blockchain, Crypto, iOt, amongst others, there needs to be a responsive 21st Century connection of frontier technology to purpose and inclusivity.

To ensure we use technology for not only economic but social good, the time has come for us to create a new socio-economic era that closes historic gaps in last mile inclusion and engages the “bottom billion” in creating quantum leaps for humanity, and for a better planet.

5th Industrial Revolution is here

The 4th IR has already given birth to 5th Industrial Revolution, where we shall bend the focus back to “humanity” and it is high time we embrace it. AI shall help increase human labour productivity, Blockchain shall help give access to banking to the unbanked, and robots shall help humans align ROI with purpose. There is no reason why we cannot make decent investment returns to shareholders, as we continue to build new technologies, create meaningful jobs, build communities, and preserve the environment. Humans created machines and it will always be humans who shall control the machines, and not vice versa.

Businesses and companies need to move from for-profit to for-benefit. We cannot afford to reward business outcomes that put humanity, communities, and earth in danger. It doesn’t make sense to debate about a few percentage points better return on investment if that leaves us with a world which our children will be ashamed of.

As we use the technology of 4IR to save the planet and make humans and machines dance together in 5IR, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide history’s first universal matrix to achieve a flourishing future. Adopted by the heads of governments from 193 UN member states, the SDGs cover every facet of life globally—social, environmental, and economic. As businesses move from for-profit to for-benefit, it makes sense to use the language of the UN SDGs.

It puts women at the forefront

Role of women will be extremely critical in shaping the 5th IR and the most important SDG is SDG5—empowerment of women and girls worldwide. There is no hope for achieving the SDGs unless SDG5 is central to the agenda. If women and girls are empowered to lead campaigns for human flourishing, all the other SDGs will rise.

Businesses, through best practices in hiring and development and other kinds of support, will be essential facilitators.

The sweet spot at the intersection of frontier technology, SDG Aligned Impact and women leadership will be the lynchpin to solving global issues. The quicker businesses put this sweet spot into practice and work with social enterprises, government, and investors, the quicker we will start a world which we would all love to gift to our children and future generations. Are you ready to embrace the 5th Industrial Revolution ? It’s not merely about surviving, it’s about thriving. THE TIME IS NOW.

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Founder and Executive Chairman of World Economic Forum Professor Klaus Schwab.
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