How Will We Measure the Golden Age?

“Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”
— John F. Kennedy

Industrial revolutions tend to benefit the rich more than the poor, initially. They all begin with great inequality. In unequal societies, life expectancies and trust levels are lowered. They tend to be more violent, experience greater levels of mental illness, and have higher rates of incarceration. In the U.S., one in 50 adults are on community supervision, probation, or parole. One in 50!

As it stands today, the future is not evenly divided. The richest 1% of the population now owns 75% of all household wealth and 8 individuals control more assets than the poorest 3.6 billion people combined—or half of the world’s population.

The anxiety over automation, the growing digital divide, is real, is present, and is the greatest moral question of our time. Reports vary in their quantum, with some at the low end (25%) and others at the high end (47%), but they all agree that the human workforce of the future is shrinking as more and more jobs are automated out of existence.

This increasing anxiety, divide, and inequality will create instability and security concerns for both citizens and states—a general state of unrest. The unrest can manifest itself from within—witness the BREXIT vote—or externally, with bad state-sponsored actors. The transformation is real and it will impact jobs and equality.

The strategic space for conflict is changing and new battlegrounds are emerging. In the future, power plants will not be bombed, they will be turned off. Leaders will not be assassinated, they will be toppled by propaganda, data leaks, and fake news. This has already happened in Iran with Stuxnet when Hackers made Iran’s nuclear computers blast AC/DC’s song Thunderstruck in the middle of the night, and even with the 2016 United States Presidential election.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) also goes deeply into who we are as a people, as a species, and speaks directly to our identity and our communities.

Beyond the transformation of all industries, beyond the new winners and losers and the creation of new “Kodak Moments,” how will we measure our new Golden Age of Innovation?

I have a series of modest proposals:

Personal Responsibility: We each need to take personal responsibility and be a driving force for positive change. We choose and instigate our own actions and we each need to be morally accountable, and thus, drive a common purpose of humanity in our new world, one leader at a time.

Education: Education is a game-changer. It creates a happier and more stable life, raises income levels, and creates more equality. It has the power to create independence. A more educated world is more tolerant, safer, peaceful, and surely, more economically prosperous. Educational equality is a dual-track system, supporting vocational and academic advancement, and ultimately, equality. The world needs skilled electricians, plumbers, roofers, carpenters as much as we need doctors, programmers, and lawyers.

Youth Sports: I am a product of public education and youth sports. Athletics have a positive, life-long impact. They instill in children the value of teamwork, personal discipline and healthy competition, and teach youths how to recover from setbacks. Sports help children to develop their cognitive and motor skills, provide positive influences and inspiration, and keep kids out of trouble. There is no other activity that affords the opportunity to impart so many positive qualities in children. There is a direct correlation between youth sport participants and a more productive future, but in the U.S. youth sport participation is declining. Roughly 40% of American youth participates in a regular team sport. We must increase participation to ensure a better future.

Technology Everywhere: Technology needs to find its way into the poorest communities and countries. Getting fees for a smartphone and rural connectivity down to $150 USD a year is still too expensive. For many, this represents a large portion of their annual income. A billion smartphones in underdeveloped regions like Africa would raise not just a community or a country, it would carry the entire continent into the 4IR.

Raising Humanity Out of Poverty: Technological conveniences are meaningless when you consider that much of the world is still living in poverty. Circa 1800, 95% of the world lived in poverty. Today, 50% of the world still lives in poverty. Fifty percent!!! While many view this as an improvement, I believe we can do better. The greatest injustice in this world is poverty. There is no structural reason why we cannot radically change the world— and technology can be the enabler for this.

Our Age of Innovation will be truly golden if we can raise the world’s citizens above the poverty line in our lifetimes and perfect conscious capitalism.

Testing, one, two, three. Is this microphone working? Can you hear me?

Thank you for joining me on this journey to explore the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Find out more about The Golden Age of Innovation and digital transformation at Enterprise World 2017 in Toronto, Canada.

About Mark Barrenechea

Mark Barrenechea
Mark J. Barrenechea is OpenText's Chief Executive Officer and Chief Technology Officer. A prominent thought leader, he has extensive experience in information technology and his vision is to enable the digital world to help transform organizations.

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