In his opening remarks at this year’s Summit on the Global Agenda, World Economic Forum founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab placed the need for new models to support effective use of technology innovation firmly on the table.

This is the fourth year I have participated in the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Summit – an intense two-day meeting of over 700 thought leaders from around the world to explore global emerging issues and opportunities and to begin developing possible solutions.

On the Global Agenda Council on Emerging Technologies, we have been working hard on getting the opportunities and challenges presented by emerging technologies on the radar of top-level decision-makers.  Not because we think they should know about the latest cool technologies, but because we feel that effective solutions to complex challenges demand an integrated and proactive approach to technology innovation.

It’s been a tough task – high level decision makers are often uneasy talking about science and technology, and prefer to assume that “techies” will deliver technology-based solutions to pressing problems as and when they are necessary.  Sadly, this is a model that doesn’t work well, and is rapidly running out of steam in the face of accelerating technological capabilities, increasing global connectivity and diminishing resources.

So it was gratifying to hear WEF’s Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab highlight the need for new models to master technological trends in the Summit’s opening keynote.  Schwab emphasized the need for new models in five areas – the fifth being how we handle accelerating technologies:

“Ladies and gentlemen, fifth, we need a new model to master the trend of technology. The velocity of technological change, for which we are not really prepared, will accelerate in an exponential manner, having significant implication on all of us. What is particularly striking, for me as an engineer I may add, is the character-changing nature of technological change. Today’s technological evolution no longer solely affects what we are doing, but also affects who we are. Of course, the internet in many ways is still a tool. But it has also become a part of our internal DNA. This new dimension of technological progress and societal change is still in relative infancy. The other ways of forthcoming evolutions in technology such as genetics and STEM cell technology, nanotechnology, and numerous sciences and so on, will all provide opportunities and threats regarding the ultimation of ourselves. And this raises fundamental moral and ethical issues, for which we are not yet prepared, and for which we have to prepare new models.”

(The full address can be watch on YouTube)

This is an important high-level endorsement to think differently about how we develop and use technology innovation for the greatest good, and it sets the scene for the Council on Emerging Technologies’ work over the next year.

We still have our work cut out – but at least we know that we have the strong support as we explore new models of developing and deploying technology innovation as successfully, safely and sustainably as possible.

Andrew Maynard