Davos, Trump and the 4th Industrial Revolution

“It is not true that building American cars in Mexico is harmful to the United States,” several American industrialists said a few weeks ago in Davos. “Lies” President Trump responded on the last day of the conference, adding: “to restore greatness to the United States we must recreate a robust industrial base. Only that will allow us to make America great again! ”

I had to return to Davos this year, accompanying 150 social entrepreneurs from various countries, as part of a strategy to persuade the global business community of the importance of social inclusion in the growing globalization of the economy. There is progress, but a lot is missing. For example, there are beverage companies that are discovering the importance of redesigning their products to conserve water, and there are other companies that, working with social entrepreneurs, are designing products that do not produce garbage. I had to talk about the “Companies without poverty” program that we are developing with more than 100 companies in Paraguay, Mexico and South Africa.

Trump, like many of the other 80 heads of states who also went up to the Alpine village to speak at the conference, appealed to domestic and foreign investment to create jobs.

A big issue in Davos was the future of work. Many entrepreneurs are worried about the tsunami that is coming at us. It is called the 4th industrial revolution. Unlike the first one that brought mechanization, hydraulic power and steam; the second that brought mass production, the assembly line and electricity; and the third that brought the computation and automation, what is coming promises to sweep everything. A revolution of cyber-physical systems is coming, in which the machines will connect to each other without human intermediation. Very soon there will be free data storage for all, robotic services, technology that is implantable in the body, connected homes, 3D printing of organs, more artificial intelligence, driverless cars and smart cities.

The question is: if Trump convinces American industrialists in Mexico to relocate their factories in the United States, will they use old or new technology? Probably these plants will be robotic and will not take much labor. My opinion is that we must rethink the question. It is not about the future of work, but about the future of the worker. What training and attitude should our education systems promote so that people flourish and do not succumb in the new era?

We in Paraguay are not far from this dilemma. Can Brazil encourage its industrialists who invest in our country to return to their country of origin, taking our new jobs? Will a new technology come to eliminate thriving local industries? We know that closing our borders does not work in our country. Do we bet on education?

Martín Burt, PhD.

Executive Director of Fundación Paraguaya