Many workers are fearful that robots will take their jobs
The fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0, is having a profound effect on how businesses and sectors across the economy work. It is bringing huge benefits, but it is also creating new challenges that many companies are unprepared for.
“Artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), big data, automation, drones, and robotics are just some of the technologies that are helping to bring about the Fourth Industrial Revolution, impacting consumers and businesses in the process—and exposing the world to new risks,” says Ana Angelovska, director of strategic initiatives at the Reputation Institute.
There is no doubt that new technologies are having a positive impact on society. Tools like AI and machine learning have led to advances in healthcare that are saving lives around the world, while these and other technologies are also leading to more workflow efficiencies, and creating new, more interesting professional opportunities for those who choose to pursue them.
“And of course, new technology networks have the potential to connect billions of people to each other and to new tools. Other advancements in technology can help regenerate aspects of the natural environment, potentially undoing the damage of previous industrial revolutions,” she adds.
But at the same time, “the Fourth Industrial Revolution is disrupting existing social and economic systems, changing the way people live, learn, work, and play. Many are wondering if digital technology will supplant humans or augment human ability and experiences.”
The Institute has found that 30% of leaders see the impact of technology as a risk to their reputation, in its 2020 Global Trends in Reputation report, classing it as the second-highest reputation risk after data privacy, which is a technology risk in its own right.
“The Fourth Industrial Revolution represents entirely new ways in which technology becomes embedded within societies and even our human bodies,” explains Nicholas Davis, a member of the Executive Committee of the World Economic Forum, citing genome editing, new forms of machine intelligence, breakthrough materials, and approaches to governance that rely on cryptographic methods such as blockchain as examples of how Industry 4.0 is changing our lives, influencing customer expectations and creating added risk due to the growing reliance of many businesses on digital platforms.
One of the biggest challenges these new technologies create is the spread of disparaging or false information, an issue not just for individuals but affecting events as disparate as the spread of the coronavirus and the US presidential election.
Companies are not immune from this risk – or from fake news and consumer campaigns against their products, or issues in their supply chains they might not even be aware of. That means business needs to monitor many more sources of potential information risk across social media.
“There is almost daily media coverage of issues related to the social, business, and labor impacts of technology, which tend to be more volatile than other trends,” Angelovska says. “Recent key drivers of media coverage have included discussion of the regulation of “Big Tech” firms, (particularly in the EU), as well as stories about technology’s impact on professional sports, changes in the automotive industry, and the move towards 5G technology in the telecommunications sector.”
And that is without taking into account the impact of technologies such as automation, AI, big data and robotics on people’s jobs.
“It’s worth noting that we are still at the beginning stages of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and there is plenty of development on its way—some we can’t even fathom yet,” Angelovska points out. “With the promise of advancement and improvement comes a lot of experimentation, uncertainty, and fear. For every step forward, there are many who will resist and say they prefer the old ways.
“Businesses will need to manage expectations around technology so they’re able to manage the impact such advancements have on their reputation and their bottom line.”
The full list of the Institute’s global trends for 2020 is below:
1. Higher purpose – Companies need to deliver on a corporate brand purpose and embrace cultural values, at an emotional level that transcends the products and services they sell.
2. Data privacy – Cyber and data breaches are an everyday reality and a growing threat for all major companies.
3. Responsible investing – Considering ethical and environmental concerns before making financial decisions.
4. Impact of technology – AI, the Internet of Things, Big Data, and drones are impacting consumers and businesses.
5. Climate change – Countries, governments, and businesses are expected to protect and manage their impact on environmental change.
6. Influencers – Stakeholders and individuals who have extraordinary influence on public opinion and reputation, who may be private individuals, politicians, or subject matter experts.
7. Mistrust of big institutions – The public’s mistrust and the questioning of the integrity of big institutions such as businesses, governments, and media.
8. Sustainability and responsible sourcing – There is an expectation that companies source materials responsibly and minimize environmental impact through their supply chain.
9. CEO activism – CEOs of major companies are increasingly taking a public stand on political, social, and values-based issues, and are not just concerned about their bottom lines.
10. Equality, diversity, and inclusiveness – Businesses are judged based on the demographic profile (gender, ethnicity, race, etc.) of their workforce.