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4th Industrial Revolution not to be feared: experts

Knowledge Summit stresses the benefits of digital transformation as a new frontier to empower the human race

Gulf News


Daunting digital disruption unravelling in the future known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4RI) will have its challenges but should not be feared, said experts attending the fourth Knowledge Summit on Tuesday.

Artificially intelligent machines, robotics, internet technologies and electric news will not overtake humans, but rather become synthesised assistants to the human race as the world hurtles into an expanded electric age touching all economic, academic, industrial and social sectors, delegates heard.

The two-day summit has invited thinkers, decision makers, academics and experts from around the world to share their thoughts on a platform to encourage forward thinking on digital transformation.

Noora Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, said the UAE cabinet is embracing the 4RI amid a long list of major government initiatives to innovate by “looking at how do we innovate in terms of the jobs that we do?”

The future will hold great promise and challenges that will be met by new generations of UAE society with a vision for the future with projects that inspire youth such as the latest project announced to build a city on Mars, she said.

“It’s a thrill to witness the new experiences in the digital age, it’s a challenge as well,” she said, noting that society will have to find its way through fake news, social media and a changing landscape toward a happy place.

Majid Al Suwaidi, Managing Director of Dubai Media City said there has been a shift from a time 16 years ago when the emirate was committed to attracting the 3,000 global Fortune 500 companies it now enjoys.

“We have gone through a major overhaul in the last 15 to 16 years,” he said. “Our next phase is to create companies in the region.”

New firms can create their own value and build original content that adds its own inherent value to the society and economy in Dubai, UAE and the region, Al Suwaidi said.

Speaking in a panel discussion on the Digital Revolution and Its Role in Traditional and Social Media, Larry Birnbaum, co-founder and Chief Scientific Advisor with Narrative Science, said technology will support, not assume the future.

“The model of the future will be machines that interrelate with humans to things that neither can do alone,” Birnbaum told a packed morning crowd. “The picture of the future is one of partnership.”

While artificial intelligence is unlikely to write an essay on behalf of a student in years to come, he said a computer programme could have a conversation with the student to help the latter write a stronger more information document.

Will Moy, Director of Full Fact, an independent fact-checking charity, said he sees the digital transformation ahead as “a time of enormous opportunity” but agreed that challenges such as fake news are challenging society’s read on reality by weaponising data to alter or influence public opinion.

In modern media, the challenge lies in providing quality content amid waning revenues which have traditionally supported strong organisations with internal fact-checking safeguards, he said.

“Now it’s harder to do investigative reporting that has made journalism such an important public service,” Moy told delegates.