Nobody is ready for fourth industrial revolution: WEF’s tech chief Sönmez

Nobody is ready for fourth industrial revolution: WEF’s tech chief Sönmez

Most of the sessions at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos were devoted to technology.

The fourth technological revolution, artificial intelligence, today’s hottest issue bitcoin and “blockchain” were discussed at a number of sessions at Davos.

We know there has been some confusion surrounding the fourth technological revolution in Turkey.

We hear representatives from various industries, from the food to the automotive sector, saying “they are getting ready for the fourth industrial revolution.”

I asked Murat Sönmez, member of the managing board of the WEF and head of the Forum’s Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution at the Presidio in San Francisco, whether Turkey is really ready for the fourth industrial revolution.

Here is what he said.

“Nobody in the world is ready for the fourth industrial revolution, including Turkey. Because nobody knows what is going to happen. Technology is well ahead of the business world. The business world looks at this puzzle from different angles. For instance, what would be the impact of unmanned cars on cities? We do not even know its impact on humans,” Sönmez said.

“We are not ready because we need to move forward only after assessing its possible impacts on the future,” he added.

Tips for Turkish companies

What are Sönmez’s tips for Turkish companies then?

“The key is education and the improvement of skills. Companies should take neither their experience nor knowledge nor R&D for granted. Keep an eye on fast developing technologies in the world. The most important question is how technological developments in the industry affect society. You can create ‘smart and ethical’ technology faster by looking retrospectively at its impact on humans,” he said.

“The fourth technological revolution is not just a technical matter,” Sönmez added.

In any industry - energy, transportation, automotive, agriculture, health or banking - the possible positive impact of new technology on people should first be assessed by moving forward. That is called “human-oriented design.”

“Turkey has a huge opportunity here. Its production industry is strong and we have a ‘brilliant’ young generation. Instead of buying things from the internet, we can actually produce them ourselves,” Sönmez said.

He added that the government, the private sector, academia and civil society should work together on this.

Sönmez also noted that Turkish institutions and companies can make partnership deals with the WEF’s Tech Centre in San Francisco in order to exchange information.

The WEF has already launched joint projects with the U.K., Denmark, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Rwanda.

Artificial Intelligence

I asked him what the hottest topic was at Davos this year.

“Artificial intelligence,” he replied.

Artificial intelligence was debated last year, but the difference from last year was that politicians, CEOs and NGOs widely discussed the impact of artificial intelligence on society as a whole this time.

“Artificial intelligence is way ahead of human intelligence. The artificial intelligence developed by DeepMind beat a Chinese ‘go’ champion in a watershed moment. The danger here is that artificial intelligence makes decisions by looking at data and we do not yet know why the artificial intelligence makes those decisions,” Sönmez said.

The WEF has established worldwide councils working on artificial intelligence, blockchain, the ‘internet of things,’ drones, unmanned vehicles, personalized health and robotics.

The ‘internet of things’ is the term given to a network of physical devices, vehicles, home appliances and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators and network connectivity, which enables these objects to connect and exchange data.

British Prime Minister Theresa May was the first politician to join the council on artificial intelligence.

As far as another hot topic at Davos, bitcoin, is concerned, Sönmez said “this speculative environment reminded him of the web companies back in the 1990s.”

“There are huge risks. It could be exploited by bad players, such as drug dealers,” he added.

Gila Benmayor, hdn, Opinion