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Humans’ intimacy with technology: Are we all becoming cyborgs?

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Do you think you could live without your mobile phone? What about the navigation and backup camera in your car? Could you drive as well without them? Could you get by without your smartwatch reminding you how often to get up from your desk to keep healthy or weather conditions for the day so you know how to dress?

Our obsession with technology and the information it delivers daily has progressed beyond the point of external mobile phones and smartwatches to implanted heart monitors and Fitbits. At one time, consumers were too paranoid to enter their Social Security or credit card number online, but now, they are willing to implant sensors and other wearable technologies into their bodies. In turn, companies are leveraging these devices to collect as much data about their potential customers as possible.

The latest fashion: Wearing data

Think about it: You’re carrying (and generating) large amounts of data everywhere you go with wearable and implanted technologies. This means 24/7 data collection for the companies that manufacture those devices, which in turn helps them create a 360-degree view of the patients, athletes or customers they serve with the appropriate products, services and marketing campaigns.

According to research by Talend, a cloud and big data integration software company, 33 percent of consumers already own wearables like the Apple Watch or smart clothing, and another 30 percent are expected to make a purchase within the next three years. That’s a lot of new sources of data for companies to utilize – and a plethora of information companies can use to more accurately define the preferences and needs of its customers.

How we’re using wearables

Topping the list of today’s most common consumer-use cases for embedded wearables is healthcare (57 percent), privacy (28 percent) and convenience (20 percent), all contributing to the rapid dissemination and uptake of these devices.

Healthcare is the leading use for implanted technologies, with the introduction of advanced-tracking devices such as Medtronic’s FDA-approved Reveal LINQ Insertable Cardiac Monitor with TruRhythm Detection, introduced in March of this year, which is designed to accurately identify abnormal heartbeats. This life-saving device is implanted just beneath the skin and communicates wirelessly with the patient’s bedside monitor, which uploads device data to the Medtronic CareLink network. Once the data is loaded, algorithms can be run to determine if the patient is experiencing slower than average heart rate, which can deprive the brain and other organs from getting enough oxygen. This advanced use of embedded wearables and machine learning helps physicians find answers for patients at risk of cardiac arrhythmias to better manage a range of patient populations.

Outside of healthcare, the second biggest use for embedded wearables is physical security. Several companies have started utilizing biochip implants to replace card keys and manual entry codes for employees. For example, Three Square Market offered employees implanted chips in July to make purchases in their cafeteria and break rooms, open doors, log in to computers and use the copy machine. Approximately 50 employees underwent the minimally invasive procedure, many of whom believe the chip is worth any potential discomfort, as it helps to streamline their daily processes. Though this may seem like a massive invasion of privacy for many, for others, biochip implants present a way to make life easier.

Establishing trust: Should you be worried about privacy of information?

While the results of Talend’s survey seem to point to the fact that consumers are getting more digitally comfortable, with greater trust from consumers comes greater responsibility for companies to understand the many ways they need to protect customer data.

According to Talend’s survey, the most likely scenario that would drive consumers to break up with a brand and take their business elsewhere is a breach of personal data. In fact, 78 percent of consumers want to be assured they have full visibility into what companies are doing with their data. But as implanted and wearable technology becomes increasingly common and technology improves, the trade-off between data privacy and convenience will only increase.

Consider a future of augmented reality where implanted contacts could allow you to visualize and interact with the world around you in practical ways, or a future with implanted audio wearables that translate languages in real time. Would that convenience and experience move you to adopt wearable technology even if it means relinquishing more of your personal information and privacy? At what point of technology adoption do we all essentially become cyborgs, guided each day by the obvious and subliminal information being fed to us via embedded and external devices? The day of total automation may be here sooner than you think.

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The urgent need for new action and thinking on the governance of emerging technologies

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The World Economic Forum today released a new book by its Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab entitled Shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The book aims to help leaders develop the techniques necessary to harness technological advances to solve critical global challenges.

The book is a sequel to Schwab’s bestselling 2016 book, The Fourth Industrial Revolution. The new book provides a practical guide to understanding 12 sets of emerging technologies from a systems perspective and better appreciating the rules, norms, institutions and values that shape their development and use.

Such an approach is necessary, Schwab argues, given the unprecedented speed at which technology is developing, which makes outdated and redundant the approaches of governments, regulators and companies on which we rely to manage the impact of technologies.

Schwab’s response is for leaders to adopt a “systems leadership” approach to ensure that developments in technology are not able to occur without parallel consideration being given to rules, norms, values and infrastructure. Unless technology develops within an inclusive and sustainable governance system, the Fourth Industrial Revolution could exacerbate income inequality and leaving billions of people behind, while wasting the opportunity to deploy technology to help address global challenges.

“It took the world more than a decade to develop a collective response to climate change. If we take the same amount of time to respond to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we will have lost the opportunity to influence the development of the technologies that shape the way we work, live and act. If we act now, we have the opportunity to ensure that technologies – such as artificial intelligence – sustainably and meaningfully improve the lives and prospects of as many people as possible,” said Schwab.

The book calls on leaders to rapidly adopt the concept of agile governance of technologies, matching the nimbleness of the technologies and the private-sector actors who create them in constantly updating and rethinking rules in collaboration with other sectors. For businesses, greater experimentation with new technologies and greater investment in people and skills are required to maximize firms’ ability to develop and bring to market winning innovations.

When it comes to the general public, Shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution urges people to be engaged in the issues surrounding the evolution of technology, and to make their voice heard to ensure that technology plays a positive role in helping to build a sustainable, inclusive, innovation-driven future.

Shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution draws on the contributions of more than 200 of the world’s leading technology, economic and sociological experts to present a practical guide for citizens, business leaders, social influencers and policy-makers. It outlines the most important dynamics of the technology revolution; highlights important stakeholders who are often overlooked in the discussion of the latest scientific breakthroughs; and explores 12 technology areas central to the future of humanity. It was co-authored by Nicholas Davis, the World Economic Forum’s Head of Society and Innovation, and features a foreword by Satya Nadella, Chief Executive Officer of Microsoft Corporation.

The preparation of this book has also led to the creation of the Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in San Francisco, soon to be supported by a network of affiliated centers around the world, to establish an agile governance cooperation platform for business and government.

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Cybersecurity Threats Outpacing Abilities of Governments and Companies

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Cybersecurity threats are outpacing the ability to overcome them unless all stakeholders begin to cooperate. The increasingly networked, digitized, and connected world is vulnerable to cyber-threats that can only be addressed by the combined capabilities of the public and private sectors, according to a new report by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with The Boston Consulting Group (BCG). Cyber Resilience: Playbook for Public-Private Collaboration is a tool to facilitate capacity-building, policies and processes necessary to support collaboration, safeguard cyberspace and strengthen cyber-resilience.

“We need to recognize cybersecurity as a public good and move beyond the polarizing rhetoric of the current security debate. Only through collective action can we hope to meet the global challenge of cybersecurity,” said Daniel Dobrygowski, Project Lead for Cyber Resilience at the World Economic Forum.

Working collaboratively in the cybersecurity space is difficult. Cyber-threats are complex, dynamic and increasingly personal as technology saturates our economy and society. Addressing these threats requires dialogue across industries and competencies, and on subjects from the technical to the ethical. Currently, dialogue between leaders in the public and private sectors is often off-target and at cross purposes. Policy implementation also varies by national context: every country has its own unique capabilities, vulnerabilities and priorities.

“There is no simple, elegant policy solution or silver bullet here. The iterative progress and feedback loop used in software development should be a model for improving policy,” said Walter Bohmayr, Global Leader of Cybersecurity at BCG.

The Cyber Resilience: Playbook for Public-Private Collaboration report helps leaders develop a baseline understanding of the key issues and pros and cons of different policy positions on cybersecurity. The policy models discussed in detail include Zero-Days, Vulnerability Liability, Botnet Disruption, Encryption, and 10 others.

In connecting norms and values to policy, the report encourages all actors to move past absolute and rigid positions towards more nuanced discussions aimed at solving key challenges, and presents the implications of policy choices on five key values: security, privacy, economic value, accountability and fairness. Cyber-resilience will continue to be a top-of-mind topic for decision-makers, and the Forum intends to continue leading future efforts in this space through its new Global Centre for Cybersecurity, which will be presented at the Annual Meeting in Davos.

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Buckle up for the new passenger economy

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A hundred years ago, few thought that the clunky automobile that broke down so often would ever replace a horse. In the 1970s, people wondered if the personal computer that a few eccentrics were using would have any use beyond storing recipes. It’s safe to say that these innovations, along with many of the technologies we now use daily, were once considered impossible dreams.

Right now, the most-talked-about piece of technological innovation that is poised to transform our lives is the autonomous or self-driving car. As self-driving cars gain widespread adoption, analysts are predicting the rise of what is known as the passenger economy — a term coined by Intel — that is expected to be worth $7 trillion by 2050 as validated in a new report by analyst firm Strategy Analytics.

Seven trillion dollars is a lot of money! A decade ago, people couldn’t fully imagine the way smartphones would give rise to the app economy. Today we are at the threshold of something equally momentous — that’s why entrepreneurs and investors are now beginning to imagine the economic possibilities tied in with autonomous cars.

The following are five big areas of opportunity that will unfold in the passenger economy era.

Time will be on people’s side. One of the most obvious benefits of a self-driving car is the amount of time it frees up. Drivers become passengers, and so will be able to concentrate on other tasks. Not only will people be able to work or watch a movie on their way to work, but the commute itself will be shorter, since traffic congestion will become a thing of the past. With smarter analytics, it’s estimated that by 2050, the widespread use of autonomous cars will free up over 250 million hours of commute time per year in the most congested cities.

Apps were only the beginning. As more people use autonomous cars, companies and entrepreneurs will respond by developing innovative applications that will entertain and provide services to passengers. Just like innovators used smartphones to unlock the sharing economy, there will be opportunities for startups to discover new “car-veniences” that will be expected to generate some $200 billion in revenue.

A new world of advertising. From the late ’90s, we started seeing new forms of advertising emerge on the web. With self-driving cars, we are poised to see powerful new opportunities that deliver personalized messages to consumers. For instance, algorithms can compute routes and route history to hone in on passengers with specific onboard advertisements from surrounding businesses or attractions. This could be a huge boost to local businesses and will be much more effective than the primitive billboard.

Mobility-as-a-service. Imagine ordering take-out, or having your groceries or a package of diapers come to your door via a driverless car. This is something that we’re likely to see fairly soon. Shipping and freight companies, local delivery services and internet giants will make use of autonomous vehicles to transport goods across the country. These types of services will likely generate $3 trillion in revenues by 2050.

New business models. Today, many companies offer perks such as work-from-home days or the option for people to leave the office to work in a cafe or wherever is most suitable for them. In the not-too-distant future, the workplace will further transform as the commute evolves. The self-driving car will blend with the office, turning the commute into a productive part of the workday. In turn, this will allow people to go home earlier and spend more time with their families.

The advent of the passenger economy will contribute to a safer and more efficient world. Those who can imagine and anticipate the coming changes will be in the best position to get the most out of it.

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