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Pranjal Sharma

Pranjal Sharma has been analysing, commenting and writing on economic and development policy in India for 25 years. He has worked in print, TV and digital media in leadership positions and guided teams to interpret economic change and India’s engagement with the world

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Davos Diary | Ready For A New World?

Of the revolutions that the world will experience, some will be sharp, some short and some deep. Some revolutions will begin this year, some will peter out and some will gain momentum

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Of the revolutions that the world will experience, some will be sharp, some short and some deep. Some revolutions will begin this year, some will peter out and some will gain momentum. While political and social revolutions demand the attention of citizens, there is the other kind that has the power to overcome all others.

Already the world is in the middle of the information revolution. This has enabled and powered change in a wide arc that has created a common frontier of change for countries big and small, poor and rich. A new dimension of this revolution is manifesting itself in manufacturing. The Fourth Industrial revolution is upon us. And it promises to further break the boundaries not just between industries but between man and machine.

This fourth revolution will be the key theme at the World Economic Forum's annual summit at Davos and will bring together more than 2,500 participants from government, business, arts, academia and civil society. These participants, which will include many millennials, will hope to influence the minds of over 40 heads of state who will shape policy across the world.

Economic historians say that the first industrial revolution began around 1784 with steam- and water-driven mechanical equipment. The second in 1870 was driven by division of labour, electricity, and mass production. The third was triggered by computers, electronics and the internet in 1969, the benefits of which we are reaping today.

The fourth is nascent but growing at a faster pace than the previous ones. "Think about the staggering confluence of emerging technology breakthroughs, covering wide-ranging fields such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, the internet of things (IoT), autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage and quantum computing, to name a few. Many of these innovations are in their infancy, but they are already reaching an inflection point in their development as they build on and amplify each other in a fusion of technologies across the physical, digital and biological worlds," writes Prof Klaus Schwab, Founder, World Economic Forum in his eponymous book The Fourth Industrial Revolution.

These changes will affect different countries in various ways. What will be common, though, is the need for a rapid plan to prepare for this change. Every country, society and company will have to take steps now to be ready for a change that will sweep us faster than we realise.

India and other emerging markets will not have the luxury of learning from the experience of the developed world. Map this change with the shifting centre of economic gravity towards the east and you get tectonic shifts that move at lightning speed.

Policy makers, influencers and millennials have to prepare for a new world. Davos 2016 would be a good start.


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