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  • Jack Lau

4th Industrial Revolution

Professor Klaus Schwab, Chairman of the World Economic Forum, published an interesting book called the Fourth Industrial Revolution. In his book, Schwab suggested that the era has come in which we are eviscerating the boundary between "the physical, digital and biological spheres".

We are familiar with the first and perhaps the second industrial revolution in which machines, steam engines, and electricity had powered countries like the Great Britain into the forefront of world leadership.

The 4 Industrial Revolutions:

1.0: ~1780 Mechanization

2.0: ~1870 Power (electricity)

3.0: ~1970 Digital Revolution (semiconductor, internet)

4.0: Today 4th Revolution

For some of us, however, it was the 3rd industrial revolution that has the most impact. The birth of semiconductor and internet had given us computer, mobile phones and apps which had fundamentally changed the way we behave.

The 4th industrial revolution, as suggested by Professor Schwab, is far more pronounced. For instance, we now have DNA editing technology. We also have machines which not only recognize you (face recognition); they will also give you social scoring.

CNBC has done a short video explaining the 4th Industrial Revolution:

While the past three industrial revolutions had primarily improved productivity, the fourth one touches on issues far more than productivity. With face recognition and social scoring, some have argued that we are giving up our privacy too much for the sake of convenience. (Incidentally, San Francisco has just banned face recognition. )

With DNA editing, the debate is even greater. Are we playing God?

There is also an issue with equality. Some may argue that inevitably these technologies are more accessible to the rich who will end up living better and longer…

Our legal system has not caught up with the changes in technologies clearly. And, who would have expected that these days a simple tweet or an Instagram message can reach tens of millions of people, connecting them and allowing them response, in a matter of seconds. And, only a hundred years ago, it took 100 years for the telephone to be installed in 100 million home. And, now an app can be installed in a few seconds by that many people.


Some Side Note:

a. If you have been following the news, a not as well known (but big) facial recognition company has been in the news in the recent trade dispute. The company is based in China and is called MEGVII with a product called Face++.

The Beijing based player has thus far raised US$1.2 billion. Just want to mention that in case some of you will come across this company in the news. Of course, we did talk about the other face recognition company (from Hong Kong) called Sensetime in our previous post as well.

b. Someone has asked us how are the intellectual properties trend in the world. We tried to come up with a quick answer. While these data are not most up to date (up to 2016). It may be interesting to look at the trend.

There is a web site called

which tabulates a wealth of world statistics. One is on patent filing.

We have done one with the number of patents applications comparing China, the United States, Japan an the European Union over the past 60 years. The full link is here:

Have a great week.

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