The Cycle of Conferences is placing a focus, beginning today, on the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, 20-23 January 2016, in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland. The theme of the meeting this year is The Fourth Industrial Revolution. To place this theme in historical context, Professor Klaus Schwab, the founder of the World Economic Forum, describes the First Industrial Revolution as using water and steam to mechanize production; the Second as using electric power to create mass production; and the Third as using electronics and information technology to automate production. And now, according to Schwab, through a confluence of technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage, and quantum computing – a fusion which is “blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres” – we stand at the threshold of a fourth revolution. There are further reflections on this theme here.
Our civilisation is fundamentally underpinned by technology, so this focus at Davos is both timely and useful. As Schwab notes, the Fourth Industrial Revolution could deprive humanity of its heart and soul, or it could lift humanity to a new collective and moral consciousness based on a shared sense of destiny. Many of those attending Davos-Klosters will be involved in significant choices concerning the creation of new technologies. The introduction of every technology has social consequences, some predictable, and some entirely unforeseen. All of us are responsible as citizens to engage with these consequences, judging their moral and spiritual costs and benefits, and acting accordingly. As the pace of technological change accelerates, a firm focus on the will-to-good of the whole becomes ever more important.
Our lighted support of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting begins now, and continues until the final day of the Meeting on the 23rd of January.
Cycle of Conferences