The Fourth Industrial Revolution: Revolutionizing Healthy Aging

January 20, 2016 Derek Yach

Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, contends that we are living in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The first industrial revolution (c.1750) delivered mechanical production, the second (c.1900) provided mass production, and the third (c.1960) brought computers. Today, the fourth industrial revolution is ushering in ubiquitous, mobile, and personalized technologies – technologies like rapid gene sequencing, artificial intelligence, and 3D printing.

Technologies encompassed by the Fourth Industrial Revolution share a commonality: empowerment. In health, wearable sensors empower real-time insights on our health behaviors, robotics empower us to live independently for longer, and Internet-of-Things pill bottles empower us to better manage our medications. The impact will also be profound on ageing. As birth rates decline and the world’s population ages in the coming decades, innovative technologies will enable us to allocate resources and work more effectively. We will live longer, healthier, and more productive lives because of advances embedded within this new revolution.

The proliferation of the Fourth Industrial Revolution will undoubtedly create uncertainties and unknowns in the development and deployment of new technologies. While they may impact jobs, disrupt economies, and destabilize markets, they may also be rejected by society if ethical, social, environmental, or cultural concerns are not proactively considered.

With deliberate foresight, the Fourth Industrial Revolution could build resilience among individuals, corporations, governments, and economies. Changes in health could enable everyone –not simply the wealthy – to live longer. To realize this vision, empowerment of individuals in the fourth industrial revolution necessitates the creation of governance and oversight frameworks. We can practice such deliberate foresight to realize a collective vision for the future by harnessing the power of interconnected and activated global citizens today and not tomorrow.

As the Chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Ageing, I am attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Tweet at @swimdaily if you have ideas to be proposed in the sessions.

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