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Do We Need A New Social Contract?

By 12 March, 2019 No Comments

Fourth Industrial Revolution requires new approach to risk management

Guest post: Leanne Kemp, Queensland Chief Entrepreneur

 

Every previous industrial revolution was tempered by the fact that it exposed individuals and societies to serious risks. However, it was technological progress that enabled us to deal with this situation, as it helped us to improve risk management practices.

Now, the interconnectedness of the technologies underpinning the Fourth Industrial Revolution calls for new approaches in order to effectively address potentially far-reaching and negative impacts.

When it comes to advanced materials, however, a consensus is needed before we can make progress on addressing related ethical issues. While there is ample evidence of interest in addressing the ethical considerations of artificial intelligence and robotics, for example, the case may be different when it comes to the development of the materials that are used in cutting-edge devices.

A transparent and conscientious consideration of human safety (for example, regarding physical or chemical toxicity, and radiation exposure levels) is needed at every stage of the material’s development lifecycle.

Social risks, in particular, deserve consideration.

The progress that has been made in developing lithium battery technology, for example, cannot obviate the basic human rights of children being exploited in cobalt mines in sub-Saharan Africa in order to make this development possible.

In addition, any agricultural crops that are grown for materials production may ultimately pose a risk to biodiversity. And, the rapid development of energy processes based on nuclear transformations should not take the focus off bolstering the safety systems that are needed to protect communities located in the vicinity of reactors.

Adequately addressing related risks to air and water quality, and to the integrity of food systems, requires a truly systemic view.

Hear more from Leanne Kemp at QODE Brisbane, 2-3 April.