In the coming decades, developments in electronics and IT will fundamentally transform social and economic life. Traditional manufacturing has been digitally transformed by sophis¬ticated technologies such as drones, robots, nanotechnology and 3D printing. The most pertinent question is whether robots will take over our jobs.

The new, technology-led, fourth industrial revolution will be characterized by smart production system and changes in supply on the one hand and demand on the other. Digitalization will also affect local and global value chains; however, this could also result in the creation of new jobs for designers and developers on the autonomous systems of the value chain. At the same time, an important characteristic of the new reality is that the real and virtual worlds are progressively merging. Considering that it will become more and more important to connect individuals and machines with the help of technology across the value chain in a way that creates value predominately by generating, securely organizing and drawing insights from number of data. However, growing reliance on technology and automation will affect the labour market and potentially widen income inequality, especially in capital-intensive autonomous systems where human workers can often be directly replaced.

Moreover, in the future we will see an advanced move from automated (pre-programmed system) to autonomous systems (systems able to react dynamically to events). At present, automated systems mainly operate in more constrained environments, such as highly automated car manufacturing runs in closed and restricted spaces where the system is not influenced by humans. The key challenges when it comes to moving robotic systems with enhanced abilities and improved operationality from inside to less confined areas will be in motion planning and navigation, as well as in securing a safe shared environment that enables close cooperation between robots and humans in less constrained environments outside manufacturing.

Although robotisation is increasingly taking over conventional factory floors and causes certain economic sectors to disappear, the changing environment creates new jobs and new forms of work. The crucial challenge in the medium term will be to equip people with the skills that these new jobs demand. In order to address this issue successfully, the primary focus should be on developing the competencies and agility that enable individuals to adjust not only to different types of employment, but also on the several of employers. Analytical aspects of education will have to be combined with acquiring crucial skills, such as developing flexibility and cultivating lifelong learning. Low-skilled workers and other social groups that are most affected by globalisation are not adequately prepared for the coming technological revolution, which could dramatically widen the gap between ‘winners’ and ‘losers’. Most at risk are predicted to be single-income households headed by low-skilled women. Social innovations will have to follow or even surpass the development of the technological innovations in order to ensure the inclusion of the most marginalized in the labour market and to reintegrate them into active community life.

At this year’s Young Bled Strategic Forum, we are going to talk with social innovator, engineer from leading global manufacturer of industrial robots and global digital consumer experience (DCX) strategist about how the technology-led fourth industrial revolution will fundamentally transform the way we work, live and relate to each other and how to successfully prepare for it and get the most out of it.