The Fourth Industrial Revolution, or 4IR, is the fourth major industrial era since the initial Industrial Revolution of the 18th century. In this post, we understand what 4IR can do for us and how it will impact our lives in the future. In our quest, we catch up with Alvin Carpio, Founder and Chief Executive of The Fourth Group, a global community in politics and technology. Alvin has spent the last decade working on issues of social justice, human rights, and public policy. In 2017, he was listed on “Forbes 30 Under 30 Europe” for his work in this space.
Alvin Carpio, Founder and Chief Executive of The Fourth Group
What is the fourth industrial revolution?
The fourth industrial revolution is a term used to describe the new technological changes that the world is experiencing right now. These technologies include the internet of things, biotechnologies, and exponential developments in artificial intelligence. During the first three industrial revolutions we saw the impact of mechanization, then mass production, then the impact of computers on humanity. Each of these changed the way we lived, worked, and played, and brought huge disruptions to our economies and societies. We’re only at the cusp of the fourth.
How far can political technology reach?
The Fourth Group defines “political technology” as software or hardware developed and used for political purposes, whether that be an app that aims to increase voter turnout or software which analyses big data to understand constituents. In the age of the fourth industrial revolution, we are seeing a flurry of new forms of political technology being built, all made possible by the high-speed internet, low-cost access, and other tech advancements. It has the potential to reach every citizen in the world.
How can technology be used for political campaigns?
In the West, US elections have been a hotbed for innovations in political technology. In 2008, Barack Obama was elected off the back of a significant number of mini-donations organised through a well-documented digital campaign. In 2016, Donald Trump used Twitter effectively to get coverage among newspapers and broadcasters, and utilised the technology developed by Cambridge Analytica to micro-target individual voters. Data is king in political elections. Outside of American electoral politics, in India and France, candidates have used holograms to campaign in multiple locations simultaneously in front of thousands of fans. Tech can be used to win votes, understand constituents’ wants, fundraise, and gain news coverage.
What are the major political changes due to technology that you foresee in the future?
I predict that we will see the automation of tasks politicians are currently expected to do. This follows the trends in the health and legal sectors where certain tasks previously carried out by doctors and lawyers are being automated. This will free up politicians to focus on other pressing issues. Online voting will become more of a norm, but there will also be a rise in electoral hacking and cyber-attacks. Finally, we will see further clashes between tech companies and government bodies, a tension which will eventually lead to better outcomes as the interests of citizens, governments, and the private sector negotiate with each other. All of this will mean that we will see the development of a new political class who will need to respond to the impact of the fourth industrial revolution.
Will the fourth industrial revolution have a human heart?
That depends on our choices. De facto, these technologies are being developed by humans. However, particularly, in the space of machine learning, the rules set by us will provide only a framework with some potentially unwanted or unpredicted outcomes. The fourth industrial revolution can bring huge gains, but scientists, engineers, companies, governments, and civil societies must work together to ensure that the opposite doesn’t happen. That’s why The Fourth Group is developing a new philosophy to help guide decision-makers and leaders through this new age. This philosophy, which we call Forwardism, aims to put the progress of humanity at the heart of major choices. For example, let’s look at the question of whether or not we should ban the development of killer robots. At a very basic level, the starting question should be: Will this lead to the progress of humanity today and for generations to come?
Tell us about your association with .tech domains.
In the summer of 2017, The Fourth Group hosted a hackathon to automate tasks politicians are expected to do. The event was sponsored by .tech domains and they provided free domains to the participants and sponsored the prizes.
How was the Politician AI Hackathon? What was the objective and what impact did it create?
It was great! We wanted to test out the theory that if you bring political and technology experts together, you could create useful and valuable technology is a short space of time. In the end, we had 5 finalists, and the winning team – Civic Triage – had created a chatbot app which would allow citizens to find out what public services are available to them when faced with a problem. Aside from that, we grew our community of solvers and we’ll be doing it again next year. It was absolutely fantastic!