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Book review: Fourth Industrial Revolution, by Klaus Schwab

Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum Klaus Schwab writes on embracing new technologies

Published: Updated:

Ubiquitous, mobile supercomputing. Intelligent robots. Self-driving cars. Neuro-technological brain enhancements. Genetic editing. The evidence of dramatic change is all around us and it’s happening at exponential speed.

Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, has been at the center of global affairs for over four decades. He is convinced that the world is at the beginning of a revolution that is fundamentally changing the way people live, work and relate to one another, which he explores in his new book, The Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Previous industrial revolutions liberated humankind from animal power, made mass production possible and brought digital capabilities to billions of people. This Fourth Industrial Revolution is, however, fundamentally different. It is characterized by a range of new technologies that are fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds, impacting all disciplines, economies and industries, and even challenging ideas about what it means to be human.

The resulting shifts and disruptions mean that the world live in a time of great promise and great peril. The world has the potential to connect billions more people to digital networks, dramatically improve the efficiency of organizations and even manage assets in ways that can help regenerate the natural environment, potentially undoing the damage of previous industrial revolutions.

Facing challenges

However, Schwab also has grave concerns: that organizations might be unable to adapt; governments could fail to employ and regulate new technologies to capture their benefits; shifting power will create important new security concerns; inequality may grow; and societies fragment.

“The Fourth Industrial Revolution has the potential to empower individuals and communities, as it creates new opportunities for economic, social, and personal development. But it also could lead to the marginalization of some groups, exacerbate inequality, create new security risks, and undermine human relationships,” Schwab recently wrote on the Project Syndicate.

In his book, Schwab puts the most recent changes into historical context where he outlines the key technologies driving this revolution, discusses the major impacts on governments, businesses, civil society and individuals, and suggests ways to respond. At the heart of his analysis is the conviction that the Fourth Industrial Revolution is within the control of all of us as long as the world is able to collaborate across geographies, sectors and disciplines to grasp the opportunities it presents.

In particular, Schwab calls for leaders and citizens to “together shape a future that works for all by putting people first, empowering them and constantly reminding ourselves that all of these new technologies are first and foremost tools made by people for people.”

“First, we must continue to raise awareness and understanding of the issues at stake. Decision-making cannot occur in isolation. We need an inclusive approach that brings together top minds from all over the world, from both the public and private sectors,” Schwab wrote on Project Syndicate.

Crowdsourcing ideas, insights and wisdom from the World Economic Forum’s global network of top leaders from business, government and civil society and young leaders, this new book looks deeply at the future that is unfolding today and how we might take collective responsibility to ensure it is a positive one for all of us.

The introduction of the book is available in PDF form here.

The full book is available in English on Amazon in Kindle and print-on-demand.

*A version of this article first appeared on the World Economic Forum's website.