The eye-catcher ….
This afternoon during a town hall meeting in Bedford, New Hampshire, Andrew Yang, contender for the Democratic nomination for president, made the argument that his fellow candidates for president were not aware that the United States is in a fourth industrial revolution. Just what is this fourth industrial revolution that Mr. Yang is referring to?
You’re in the Matrix, baby…
In his book, “The Fourth Industrial Revolution”, Klaus Schwab describes the environment spawning the revolution of technology and how it impacts work, government, and the economy:
“We have yet to grasp fully the speed and breadth of this new revolution. Consider the unlimited possibilities of having billions of people connected by mobile devices, giving rise to unprecedented processing power, storage capabilities and knowledge access. Or 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.
We are witnessing profound shifts across all industries, marked by the emergence of new business models, the disruption of incumbents and the reshaping of production, consumption, transportation and delivery systems. On the societal front, a paradigm shift is underway in how we work and communicate, as well as how we express, inform, and entertain ourselves. Equally, governments and institutions are being reshaped, as are systems of education, healthcare and transportation, among many others. New ways of using technology to change behavior and our systems of production and consumption also offer the potential for supporting the regeneration and preservation of natural environments, rather than creating hidden costs in the form of externalities.”
We have all heard the buzz terms “automation” and “AI” bandied about. We take for granted that advanced communications bring us closer to our global neighbors, where we once occupied local space, i.e. being at home or driving thirty minutes to work, some of us now work on a daily basis with a colleague located in Mumbai, Bonn, or London.
Automation, as Mr. Yang reminded us today in Bedford, threatens to replace workers in fast food restaurants, grocery stores, and automobile plants. But we professionals are threatened, too. Just yesterday my employer emailed workers sharing the news of a partnership with a tech firm that uses technology that reduces the number of documents attorneys have to review. The upside is that attorneys may have more time to apply critical thinking skills to activities that they do best: problem solve. The down side is that we may need fewer attorneys to do certain types of work.
Change is never a factor that should be absent from our expectations
And what of agile response as part of governance?
Not only does government face policy challenges when addressing a changing labor market, government will face challenges from digital platforms capable of providing services government currently has a monopoly on. Again, citing Mr. Schwab:
“In summary, in a world where essential public functions, social communication and personal information migrate to digital platforms, governments—in collaboration with business and civil society—need to create the rules, checks and balances to maintain justice, competitiveness, fairness, inclusive intellectual property, safety and reliability.
Two conceptual approaches exist. In the first, everything that is not explicitly forbidden is allowed. In the second, everything that is not explicitly allowed is forbidden. Government must blend these approaches.”
One recent example of the challenges government could face from competing platforms is the proposal by Facebook to introduce a stablecoin. A stablecoin is a cryptocurrency that uses an asset or a reserve currency as a back up. In other words, the asset or reserve currency can be used to as a measure of the stablecoin’s value. Policy makers such as U.S. Representative Maxine Waters, Democrat of California, have expressed reservations that Facebook and other digital platforms that issue a cryptocurrency could pose a threat to the U.S. government’s ability to regulate currency and promote its economy.
None of the current Democratic candidates nor the incumbent president have expressed how modern financial technology and the currencies that fintech can produce may impact the U.S. economy. In a changing economy, could a lack of experience in this area contribute to poor policy making regarding governance in the digital 21st century?
Yang so far has the knowledge to govern in a digital 21st century America …
Changes in how Americans will work over the next twenty years and the currency that they will use for exchanging commercial value will require someone who does not make policy based on an analog view of the world. Observers of technology and government usually lament how policy never keeps up with rapid changes in technology. Can the United States go four more years with its government’s chief executive completely unaware of how the Fourth Industrial Revolution will impact livelihoods?