In celebration of London Tech Week 2019, we examined the future of technology and how it will affect our world.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, a term first used by Klaus Schwab of the World Economic Forum, has arrived and is set to bring forth significant changes to our businesses and society. The First Industrial Revolution mechanised our world as we harnessed steam and water. The second brought us mass production with electricity and factories. The third saw the rise of computerisation and automation, which combines with our current digital revolution of connectivity and blurring the lines between physical, digital and biological spheres.

The innovations this era will create will transform the world we live in, bringing both great benefits and potential challenges. These challenges can be overcome by investing in the future, ensuring that there is an emphasis upon bolstering digital skills for people of all ages.

The Impact Upon Business

Businesses will need to become more agile and adapt faster to new technology. The organisations that fail to keep pace with the rapidly developing digital landscape will be left behind. For example, data stores are already enormous and will continue to grow. Businesses in the Fourth Industrial Revolution will be able to make use of this information and gather detailed insights into the needs and behaviour of their customers. By harnessing the vast amount of information available to them, businesses will be able to tailor their products and services to better meet their customers’ demands.

It is important that the businesses embracing the innovations of the Fourth Revolution do not forget the human factor of their organisations. They must ensure that their staff and leaders are proactive and well informed about the changes. Leaders will need to possess the skills to manage organisations through drastic shifts.

Once these changes take place, transparency and clear communication about how new technologies can be utilised and how they will affect each person will be vital. For example, as Artificial Intelligence (AI) is adopted more widely by businesses, staff may become anxious that they will be replaced. Leaders must reassure them that it will act as an ‘advisor’ to them because of the additional intelligence it can provide. AI will also perform the more menial, repetitive tasks within roles, which will allow employees to concentrate on more stimulating tasks.

The Impact Upon Society

As more sophisticated technology becomes an increasingly large part of our society, it will influence almost every aspect of our daily lives. Everything from our privacy to our health will be affected by the increased presence of concepts such as AI and the Internet of Things (IoT).

If people fully embrace and adapt to the fast-paced world of technology, it has the scope to make every day lives more efficient and productive. For example, delivery services for online shopping will likely be performed by drones in the future. This presents the opportunity to transform communities and potentially boost their economies by the drones’ ability to reach remote places.

Additionally, if driverless lorries are initiated, they will still require a human passenger to monitor the journey’s progress and guard cargo. However, these automated vehicles will not require breaks in their travel, resulting in faster delivery. Autonomous vehicles also have the potential to reduce road fatalities, insurance costs and carbon emissions.

Advances in biomedical sciences could positively affect people’s health and expand their lifespans. Advances in neuroscience could also connect the human brain to computers, to enhance our intelligence or allow people to experience a simulated world.

However, as seen with the increased connection people have with their high-tech smartphones, dependence on technology can bring forth moral, ethical and cognisance issues. Will skills such as conversation and resourcefulness be diminished? Not only this, but our moral and ethical boundaries may be pushed to the limit as biotechnology and AI continue to become greater dictators of our lifespans and health.

With the new possibilities the Fourth Industrial Revolution brings to business and society, it is likely that new innovations will greatly improve our quality of life, workplace efficiency and income levels. However, with such rapid change, inevitable challenges will arise. The key to society and organisations succeeding in the Fourth Industrial Revolution will be their willingness to adopt technological progress and to remember that the new technology is made by people to help people.

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