Legendary English physicist, cosmologist, author and award-winning mastermind Stephen Hawking’s last stirring words to the internet really touched me. Two years ago, his last post was to the public internet forum a Reddit AMA, answering how humanity will weather an age of technological unemployment.
Unlike Donald Trump, who wants to build walls to keep the Mexicans out, most sane people think that robots will be taking U.S. jobs. And building a firewall to keep the robots out, that might seem somewhat naive. Bill Gates made much more sense: We should consider Robot Tax.
However, when we look at history, and especially the Second Industrial Revolution, also known as the Technological Revolution, people also shouted: Factories will be taking our jobs. Contrary to our eternal fear for new ways, the Second Industrial Revolution brought us economic growth and prosperity.
The panic for new technologies proofs that “We all want innovation, no one wants to change.” So, why would this be different this time? I have a little theory about it, which I’d like to share with you. I hope Stephan Hawking would have agreed with me.
The Impact Of The Fourth Industrial Revolution – Mad Men vs. Math Men
In my opinion, we’ll probably read that in a few decades on Wikipedia, we are living in a crucial moment in history – a turning point for the world. We have entered the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Experts also call it the era of Digital Darwinism: adapt to change, or die.
Digital Darwinism is the phenomenon in which trends, technologies, consumers, and society evolve faster than established brands can adapt. It’s a fate that also threatens governments, institutions, and all other corporate organizations. Today, tomorrow and in the unforeseeable future.
Modern companies like Airbnb, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Netflix, and Tesla all realize that trends are now more valuable than ever before. They have contracted dedicated trendwatchers and futurists, that’s why they keep coining the limitless business opportunities of the 21st century. Their ROI?
They are innovating on a scale that we have never seen before, embracing exponential growth that is unprecedented in human history.
The difference in mindset? Mad Men rely on advertising because it might win them a few quarters. Math Men, however rely on trend-driven innovation, because it will win them decades.
One thing I’ve learned about this Fourth Industrial Revolution: We all seem to underestimate its massive speed and impact. Industry 4.0 is in my opinion, more powerful than all three previous Industrial Revolutions combined. That’s why this time, the fear of robots taking over is more relevant than the fear of factories in 1900.
Stephen Hawking: His Last Stirring Words To The Internet
Professor Hawking’s last words on the Reddit AMA were that there was no problem with robots taking jobs — only with the dividends from that robotic efficiency accruing solely to the capital classes thanks to market dynamics, rather than being broadly shared through redistributive state intervention.
If machines produce everything we need, the outcome will depend on how things are distributed. Everyone can enjoy a life of luxurious leisure if the machine-produced wealth is shared, or most people can end up miserably poor if the machine-owners successfully lobby against wealth redistribution. So far, the trend seems to be toward the second option, with technology driving ever-increasing inequality.
Since I really admire Stephen Hawking’s radical vision and I feel he has always spoken to us from his profound purpose, I hope that he will inspire people with the idea that technology enables us to do more good. Hopefully, even people like Donald Trump, and the U.K. with its Brexit, will eventually understand that this era demands collaborative ecosystems, not EGOsystems.
As Martin Luther King Jr. said; “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”
In my most popular talk Mad Men vs. Math Men, I’ve used my favorite Stephen Hawking’s quote often:
Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.
And I’m very curious to learn what your favorite Stephen Hawking quote is. And why?
For the future, I hope our world will see greater leadership than i.e. Trump. A future in which our diversity is once again celebrated and our inclusiveness will set an example worldwide. Maybe, if we combine our minds with smart technologies and AI, we can make it happen sooner than expected.
Artificial intelligence gave Stephen Hawking a voice, but he also used his voice to warn us against AI. Whatever AI may bring us, it’s up to us (the people) to distribute future wealth much better.
If you’d like to read more on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, I suggest reading the info here at World Economic Forum.
Hawking or Gates, I think this era makes one thing crystal clear: Be nice to nerds, we will all end up working for one. A quote from another great leader with a “Math Man mindset” Bill Gates.
About the Author
In the spotlights, Igor Beuker is a professional public speaker and activist known for his foresight on trends and technologies that impact business, economy, and society. Behind the scenes, a social entrepreneur with 5 exits and angel investments in 24 social startups, an award-winning marketing strategist for brands like Amazon, L’Oréal, Nike and Unilever, and a new breed trendwatcher for Fortune 500s, WEF and the EU.