Dalian - World Economic Forum

Technological development will cause tension - and it’s a good thing, say ‘Summer Davos’ execs

Key Points
  • Debate between business and the public sector is good for ironing out the challenges caused by technology.
  • Leaders should focus on educating and training workers whose jobs are threatened, says panelist.
Chinese employees working on micro and special motors for mobile phones at a factory in Huaibei, China, on March 7, 2017.
STR | AFP | Getty Images

As we race toward the fourth industrial revolution there will inevitably be tensions between public, private and individual interests. But these should be challenged, rather than shied away from, to minimize displacement, panelists at the World Economic Forum's "Summer Davos" agreed on Thursday.

"The tension between the private sector and the public sector and civil society and each of us individually is a good tension to have," Lauren Woodman, chief executive of NetHope, a consortium of NGO's with a specific focus on technology, as panellists debated the responsibility of government and private business to manage technological advancements.

Private business has faced criticism for the speed at which it has embraced automation, while public bodies are under growing pressure to manage this change in order to safeguard jobs.

"It means that the benefits (of technology) do surface to the top," Woodman told a CNBC panel in Dalian, China.

"Even the process of recognising that there is a gap, and that we have to struggle against that problem, means that we are at least beginning to bring those voices in."

A tax for robots

One proposed way of managing this progress and reducing its threat to jobs is by introducing a tax on robots, which could support those workers whose jobs are lost to automation.

However, Woodman said that the so-called "fourth industrial revolution" should not be viewed in isolation and conversation should also focus on improving education, training and reskilling those whose industries face job losses.

"Technology has always displaced," said Woodman, cited the now-defunct elevator operator.

"It is our responsibility as a society to make sure that we have an opportunity for education and training and skilling and growth."

Future-proofing business

However, Daan Roosegaarde, an artist and innovator, also offered hope that more businesses would move to embrace sustainable work practices.

"(Businesses) realize it's the way to go future-proof. It's the only way to have a good business," he said.

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