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Short-term future: Why the fourth industrial revolution is different to previous ones

08 February 2016


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The Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum has alerted world leaders to be aware on how the fourth industrial revolution is different than all the previous revolutions.

Prof. Klaus Schwab said the new fourth industrial revolution differs from other industrial revolutions – that brought to the world the steam engine, electricity to facilitate mass production and the rise to computer leading to digital age – in four ways.

The first difference is speed, he said.

“It’s coming like a tsunami. When we look at all the breakthroughs we have in the coming years it will be overwhelming to see changes at an exponential speed,” he warned. “The second difference is that it is not just one breakthrough, but a combination of many breakthroughs at the same time,” he said, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), brain research, drones, robots and artificial intelligence.

He added: “The third difference is it does not just bring new products and services, it changes the systems. Look at Uber, it is not a new product in itself. It’s a new system of mobility. Airbnb is not a new product, it’s a new system of hospitality. So this revolution changes all the systems, how we consume, how we produce, and how we organise supply chains.”

The fourth difference Schwab said, is that the revolution “changes not only what we are doing, it changes us”.

“Think of sensors planted into our brains,” he said.

He further added: “The opportunities are immense and we have to prepare ourselves already now. History meets us now.”