The Road to Davos: Ushering in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

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The Fourth Industrial Revolution is just beginning. Photo: Shutterstock

As we’ve previously discussed here, one of the themes of the World Economic Forum’s gathering at Davos this year is “Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” Like the first three periods of change and divergence, this revolution will have far-ranging impact. From education in the developing world to the automation of labor made possible by the collection and analysis of data to fundamental shifts in shipping and the future of ports.

Underlying each of these is the struggle toward interoperable systems. As Nicholas Davis, Head of Society and Innovation for the World Economic Forum put it, “The Fourth Industrial Revolution [is] the convergence of digital, human, and physical domains; what happens when software ‘eats the world?’” The struggle originates in that colorful phrase from Marc Andreessen; the software connecting those schools and mining that data and running those ports is eating the world in small bites, and making cooperation improbable if not impossible across the globe. The Fourth Industrial Revolution will be the convergence of these disparate systems; the big swallow that brings those small bites together.

As the only distributed financial technology company invited to attend Davos this year, Ripple is undertaking one of the first tasks of this revolution: building the infrastructure. All of the outcomes the WEF predicts rely on not only interoperable global systems for messaging and communication, but for an equally seamless system for the transfer of value. Financial inclusion and economic growth are currently trapped in the same bottleneck; the technology exists but cooperation and regulation hold it back.

It is to this problem that we apply our solutions. If the world had a global standard for payments, it could lead to stronger and more inclusive economies, reducing inequality and inaugurating what Deloitte projects will be a period of exponential growth.

Ripple CEO Chris Larsen will join a host of other influential leaders in finance and government, all of whom are preparing for the changes this revolution will bring. Other inclusions range from establishment players like SWIFT CEO Gottfried Liebbrandt and Visa President Ryan McInerney to fintech upstarts like CEO Taavet Hinrikus of TransferWise. Davos’ focus on fintech this year reflects the WEF’s naming Ripple, iZettle, and Transferwise as Technology Pioneers in 2015.

As the Fourth Industrial Revolution begins, the task of cooperation for interoperable financial systems and economic growth looms large before us. Davos is the best possible venue for that cooperation to develop, and we’re honored and ready to be part of it.