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Sparking the dialogue: Public engagement on the Fourth Industrial Revolution

December 12 2017

Hugo Hodge

Consultant

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Futureye is looking for partners to initiate and lead an innovative project which aims to address the major challenges around the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) in a way that builds societal preparedness for technological change.

Futureye’s managing director Katherine Teh-White says the project aims to spark Australia’s dialogue on this new era of technological development which “will fundamentally change the way society operates.”

“The project hopes to facilitate multi-stakeholder, inclusive and constructive conversations about emerging technologies and their implications for the Australian public,” said Teh-White.

The project is in response to the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) 2017 Global Risks Report which identified emerging technologies as one of the biggest challenges now facing the world.

According to the WEF, the revolution will be defined by Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, the incorporation of technology into biological systems, and the proliferation of nanotechnology. All this will transform labour markets leading to over 5 million job losses in 15 major developed and emerging economies in the next five years.

The public engagement project will adress community concerns to increase societal understanding and alignment to prepare for the technological transition.

Futureye’s preliminary research has identified primary areas of concern which include automation and the future of work, AI takeover, the changing role of government, quality of life, and new socioeconomic systems.

The WEF report, featuring the perspectives of nearly 750 experts on the perceived impact and likelihood of 30 prevalent global risks, identified artificial intelligence and robotics as the most important driver of economic, geopolitical and technological risks now.

Technological dependence, driven by the convergence between digital, biological and physical technologies, is creating new global risks and exacerbating existing risks.

The 4IR has the potential to increase incomes and improve the quality of life for many. But like revolutions preceding it, the 4IR has created fears of rising inequality due to massive disruption to job markets.

The potential for emerging technologies to disrupt established government and business models is high and the approach to governance will be complex and varied.

“For government, business and industry to gain a social licence to operate we need to start a dialogue to dramatically improve our understanding of the technological change and build societal preparedness for the transition,” said Teh-White.

“On the basis of the higher perceived social alignment it will be easier to develop and put in place the necessary regulations. Reorientating the public with new technologies and education with an emphasis on new skills will be crucial to building actual alignment with society,” she said.

While it remains unclear how much of the 4IR will unfold, the response must be integrated and comprehensive, and involving all stakeholders of the global polity to reduce negative impacts and take advantage of the many opportunities.

“As we stand on the brink of this new technological age, we face a potentially damaging debate,” said Teh-White.

“When society is faced with monumental changes such as the 4IR, there is often resistance and challenge from all facets of society. To make progress, we need a non-polarised environment.

To fully explore the issue and avoid a polarised debate, Futureye will facilitate constructive conversations and work in a multi-stakeholder approach to define the scope of the risks,” she said.

Futureye is now looking for funding to understand the reality, identify the gaps, build the strategy and execute the project.

If you are interested in being involved with the project contact Futureye on info@futureye.com or contact 03 8636 1111

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