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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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Harnessing A Revolution

Humans will have to think faster than machines to efficiently harness the fourth industrial revolution that's already upon us

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It will not happen with a big loud bang. Nor it will end in a whimper. The fourth industrial revolution is upon us and we have begun to live it already. Mostly, we don't realise it. At Davos 2016, it is clear that we will have to adapt faster to the changes that this revolution will bring about.

Robotics, artificial intelligence, new materials and processes are not isolated in labs. They have seeped into our lives.

The key question at Davos is about our ability to harness this change. Will countries companies and communities be able to harness the change to their advantage or will they have to cope to with collateral damage brought on by new efficiencies?

Carlos Moreira, CEO of technology company Wisekey has made it his mission to enable Internet security in devices and processes that didn't exist before. If the world will be run by the internet, then what will be the filters that separate the wanted from the undesirable.

Wisekey's brand ambassador Kevin Spacey is candid in saying that we don't realise the enormity of what could go wrong. The response then is to constantly innovate to see that a potential 50 billion devices can be connected to each other safely and securely, says Moreira. For these devices will enable a range of activity from basic communication to financial transaction at a higher volume and faster pace.

In the US, transportation would have changed in less than ten years, says Nitin Nohria, Dean of Harvard Business School. It could even be faster. And more importantly it could move to other countries rapidly. "The utilisation of an average passenger vehicle is just about 10% today. If that utilisation increases to 70% using driverless cars and such technology, imagine the impact on demand for vehicles," says Nohria.

Manufacturing jobs will reduce sharply with 3D printing and machine led production. so what will happen to job creation. Reskilling is seen as a potential solution but it is difficult case to make. Experts point out how manufacturing almost died in the US And Western Europe and no amount of reskilling could help. In emerging markets like China and India, job creation is a dire need. This question of impact of fourth industrial revolution on jobs doesn't have an answer yet.

Even as the prospect of future fascinates us, being ready for it is critical. At Davos, academics, business leaders and tech gurus are putting their heads together to harness the revolution and navigate the way ahead.

They will have to work faster than the machines.

Twitter: @pranjalsharma

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davos world economic forum robots technology