Dispatches from Davos

Humanity stands on the brink of a technological revolution

It will change the way we live, work and relate to each other

Marcus Ranney
Updated: Jan 21, 2016 11:35:39 AM UTC

Dr. Marcus Ranney is a business professional in healthcare and technology. He completed his Bachelors of Science and Medical degrees from University College Medical School in London. His expeditions have led him climbing the sides of Everest, skiing in the Arctic, the European Alps and serving as a medical officer in the Royal Air Force and at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. After practicing clinical medicine in London he made the transition to Mumbai where he has since worked within the Healthcare and Life-sciences industry across functions - currently serving as the General Manager of Thrive Global in India, a U.S. based behaviour change technology and media company founded by Arianna Huffington. A published author, public health commentator and keynote speaker, in 2013, the World Economic Forum appointed him as a Global Shaper. Marcus is a keen athlete and marathon runner, holding a Guinness World Record for backwards running. Most of all he thoroughly enjoys being a father to his two young children.

Klaus Schwab speaks at the World Economic Forum (Image: Dr Marcus Ranney)

“History will judge 2016 as the inflection point in the rise of technology”.

The central theme of this year’s annual meeting is the fourth industrial revolution. Professor Schwab, the man behind the World Economic Forum and the central figure to how this amazing organisation works, believes that humanity stands on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. He believes in this so strongly that his most recent book dwells on the subject and is therefore the theme of our conclave at Davos.

Today I had the rare chance to spend time with this incredible individual and hear his thoughts first hand on the power of this revolution and the impact it can have on the world around us. To explain the central premise of his theory; the first industrial revolution used water and steam power to mechanise production. The second used electric power to create mass production. The third used electronics and IT to automate production. And now the fourth is building on the digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of the last century. It is characterised by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.

Core to what his message was that this new revolution will force us to really think about who we are. “With advancing robotics and artificial intelligence, what will be the difference between a human and a robot? It will have greater memory capacity, intelligence, computational power that we can ever imagine. But can it ever share our ability to love? To form friendships and believe in a transcendental being?”

There were many unanswered questions from the conversation, but two things that stood out was the way this will redefine the global manufacturing scenario drastically, impacting national economies, especially in the developing world. With some estimates pegging this number as possibly leading to the loss of 5 million jobs per year, it does bring with it the opportunity for newer business models to develop at the confluence of science, biology and technology. Creating brand new ecosystems such as personal medicine, AI and consumer technology.

The second burning paradox from this discussion was how does this applies to developing world economies like India? With official statistics pegging more than 30 percent of our population living below the poverty line, we have 300 million people living without basic access to food, clothing, shelter – forget about luxuries such as electricity and technology.

For these people who have failed to be included in the second, never mind the third revolution as defined by Professor Schwab, what is the point of discussing the fourth? Can we leapfrog the previous steps? Is development necessarily a liner progression or can we somehow harness the power of technology, the entrepreneurial energy within our country and create new ecosystems and paradigms to ride this fourth wave? Maybe 2016 will provide the answer to this - time will tell.

Post Your Comment
Required, will not be published
All comments are moderated
Time for discussions, dialogue & Davos
Bet big on India for 2016