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Fearing the Fourth Industrial Revolution is a mistake


There are many things that motivate us. But the most powerful motivator of all is fear.

Defined as a primal instinct, fear can be seen in many forms from pain, disease, injury, not being accepted, being scammed, missing an opportunity, and of course, failure.

With rapid technological advances, the 21st century has become a hotbed of sorts for economies and societies dealing with a fear of the future.

In other words, a fear of the unknown.

This leaves government leaders looking for answers as they try to understand and benefit from the digital age.

This was a topic of much discussion by the more than 2,000 science, technology, business, government and civil society leaders from over 90 countries at the 10th Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2016 earlier this week.

The resounding opinion? Overcome these fears and embrace inclusion for innovation if you want to harness the power of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

“The Fourth Industrial Revolution will be heralded by amazing new technologies,” said Marc Benioff, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Salesforce. “This can be scary for a lot of people. But these technologies are never good or bad; it is what we do with them.”

Rosaline Lee, Dean of the School of Entrepreneurship and Management at ShanghaiTech echoed this sentiment.

“If we want to encourage people to innovate, we need to be forgiving of people who make mistakes. Forgiveness should be fundamentally part of the human condition if we want people to overcome their fears,” Lee said.

Governments have the ability to wield considerable power to harness inclusion and diversity to produce innovative approaches to problems. Diversity and inclusion will ensure that different perspectives are heard and taken seriously.

For Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development of Canada, the challenge for governments isn’t that the Fourth Industrial Revolution is taking place, but that the benefits should help the majority of people, not just a select few.

In addition to the fear of innovation and diversity is the notion today’s workforce is in danger of being overrun thanks to the emergence of robotics and automation.

According to a new study by the Brookfield Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, 42% of the Canadian labour force is at high risk of being affected by automation in the next 10 to 20 years.

In other words, if your job falls within a certain category, it’s possible that advances in artificial intelligence and advanced robotics could make it obsolete.

Does this mean this fear of the future is valid?

The answer is yes and no.

With automation and robotics replacing jobs, the Brookfield study also found using the Canadian Occupation Projection System occupations with the lowest risk of being affected by automation — correlated with higher earnings and education — are projected to produce nearly 712,000 net new jobs between 2014 and 2024.

The future isn’t just killing jobs, it’s revolutionizing the workforce. Like innovation, the future is what people make of it.

So what’s next? Well, that’s the million-dollar question nobody has a definite answer for. However, it looks like most leaders have one idea in common.

Look to the future through the youth.

For Feike Sijbesma, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Managing Board of Royal DSM, young people need to be the engines for change.

Sijbesma breaks down the challenges posed by the Fourth Industrial Revolution to three things: “Dare to lift anchor, dare to focus on the long term, and dare to share with other people.”

In other words, instead of fighting the digital revolution, dare to not be afraid of the future.

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Michael Sutherland-Shaw

Michael Sutherland-Shaw

Marketing Communications Specialist at FreeBalance
Michael works in the marketing and communications department following a career in journalism. Michael is currently learning Ruby on Rails and loves discovering new music.

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