As snow fell on the Alps, thousands of corporate executives gathered in upscale conference rooms to strategize on how best, and how fastest, to adopt machine learning and other advanced technologies into existing and emerging industries.
Precognize’s CEO and co-founder Chen Linchevski was among them. He has just returned from the high-power mingling event known as the World Economic Forum, held annually in Davos. This year’s focus was “Globalization 4.0,” with the major theme of “Shaping a Global Architecture in the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”
“It was remarkable that all of the world’s leaders were coming to the same place for one week, walking around the halls of congress and exchanging ideas,” Chen recalled.
The forum was comprised of some four hundred panels, meetings and workshops. Chen was among the 33 “tech pioneers” invited to Davos share their insights for building a global architecture for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. He and his “tech pioneer” colleagues were divided into four sub-groups with the purpose of exchanging ideas on their subjects of passion, ways for contributing to their home communities, and plans for contributing to the Annual Meeting community. They discussed potential goals for the Davos forum as well as ways in which to support each other in achieving them.
He also participated in working sessions made up of members of the Community of Chairmen, members of the International Business Council and “tech pioneers.” Together, the small groups were tasked with considering solutions to pressing problems facing the industry like determining the practical needs for the success of the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution; coming up with answers to key questions surrounding artificial intelligence, blockchain, robotics, quantum computing and cybersecurity; and assessing what role the forum itself should play as the trend toward automation races forward.
As a holder of a coveted blue and white badge that granted access to every panel and activity, Chen ate dinner in the dark atop a mountain, participated in a unique “day in the life of a refugee” simulation activity, and exchanged business cards at countless cocktail parties with representatives from more than 100 governments, 1,000 leading worldwide companies, NGOs, and thought leaders. Compared to his participation in the World Economic Forum of the New Champions in Tianjin, China in September, Davos was a highly formal affair that offered fascinating insights into the state and future ambitions of the industry.
The forum was conducive to conversations in which participants spoke a shared language of understanding, and each participant’s contribution was valued.
“I heard stories about production from high-level perspectives and found my on-the-ground experience to grant me a unique advantage,” he related. “While CEOs from multi-national companies were often familiar with their production plants from occasional tours -- for which their employees put their best foot forward -- my experiences and conclusions come from my day-to-day observations and conversations in the field at our customer sites. From these experiences, I know which technologies can work and which cannot, and that corporate sustainability requires a holistic, realistic approach combining both machines and employees.”
Several of the Davos meetings revolved around the recurring question of how to leverage the data collected by the new technologies, to maximize efficiency and profitability. As a tech company built to detect and prevent problems before they happen, Precognize’s vision is based on the necessary, symbiotic relationship between human employees and the automatic machines from which they can glean large-picture analyses.
Our approach has always been that investments in human intelligence (HI) are the necessary platform upon which technology like artificial intelligence (AI) can grow. The two essential components generate long-term value when they work together, providing an overview of productivity that reflects both the granular and macroscopic aspects of gathered data. This is high worth information in production plants across the globe, spanning from Tennessee to Kolkata.
At Davos, a major topic of discussion was “upskilling,” the process of shifting workers’ skill sets in order to match the needs of the increasingly digitized environment. It’s a controversial, even taboo, topic where automation has been gradually replacing humans and causing serious social and political backlash. But CEOs and business leaders are, nonetheless, planning for this digitized future with highly-skilled workforces. With the contributions of innovation leaders like Precognize, they are building a new dynamic between the humans who will necessarily remain on the processing plant floor and the machines that they will manage.
While getting key topics like AI and upskilling onto CEOs’ and governments’ agendas, the long-term goal of the Davos forum is to ultimately affect broader, global change. Like in previous industrial revolutions, the yet-early phase of “Industry 4.0” will likely face obstacles in adopting and integrating new technologies. But the success of the transition will also depend on the willingness of CEOs to get in line with principles of innovation leaders [LAP1] like Precognize – that a broad view and a predictive approach can help companies proactively steer clear of pitfalls and get back to the important work of helping their industries thrive.