Given the scale and complexity of the global economy as well as our knowledge about human nature, it would be extremely naïve to rely simply on spontaneous and voluntary ethical behaviour by individuals and corporations to ensure fairness or improve human dignity. Regulation, combined with serious enforcement, is required to guide our behaviour and ensure the rule of law.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution has brought about a new challenge. This has been articulated in a white paper on values published by the World Economic Forum in November 2016: “Given the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s extraordinarily fast technological and social change, relying only on government legislation and incentives to ensure the right outcomes is ill-advised. These are likely to be out-of-date or redundant by the time they are implemented.”
The examples of social media and electronic cigarettes demonstrate this point. There are interesting similarities between them; both use advanced technology in innovative and fast-changing environments and are therefore almost impossible to define with enough specificity to allow the lengthy regulatory process to run its course. By the time that a regulation is finally approved, the product or service has changed.
Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, big data analytics, distributed ledger technology, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are creating new ways for consumers to interact—and disrupting traditional business models. It’s an era in which machines teach themselves to learn; autonomous vehicles communicate with one other and the transportation infrastructure; and smart devices respond to and anticipate consumer needs.
In the wake of these developments, regulatory leaders are faced with a key challenge: ‘How can we streamline the legislative process to keep up with the pace of technological change in society?’
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