Nobel Laureate and former US Vice President Al Gore posed a piercing question to us at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum in Oslo.
“Will our children ask us why we didn’t act?”, he asked.
“Or will they ask us how we found the courage and rallied the resources to rise up and change?”
Gore is focused on the looming global climate crisis, and is frustrated about the world’s neglect of a catastrophic problem. But a still larger – and related – issue is illustrated by the march of successive industrial revolutions that the modern world has witnessed. Each has intensified the risks of dehumanizing economic progress, to the point that we now face an existential threat in both environmental and humanitarian terms.
The advance of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (robotics, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual reality and the like) has produced a developing scenario in which the service of humanity seems too often eclipsed by the momentum of technology and commerce. This challenge has been highlighted recently, as some of the leading innovators of the Fourth Industrial Revolution have begun to relinquish their intellectual property because of the risks to them as the owners of it. These captains of the Fourth Revolution surmise that the new technologies have the capacity to be an Orwellian “enemy of the people”. Meanwhile, our economic engines continue to roar and belch proverbial smoke into the air, as the world’s population grows and the ideals of human flourishing are left wanting.
Indeed, in many ways we are unprepared to meet the challenges ahead. According to The Future of Jobs Report 2016, 65% of children entering education today will end up in careers that don’t yet exist, and much of this will be attributable to the rapid advancements of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. However, there are now five “beacons of hope”….