Political entrepreneurs call for a new politics for the fourth industrial revolution

4th November 2017, London:  The Fourth Group hosted its inaugural summit, “The Future of Politics”, with a selection of high-profile speakers from the worlds of tech, media, economics and politics, including Geoff Mulgan (CEO, Nesta), Natalie Campbell (Chair, Nominet Trust), and Malini Mehra (CEO, GLOBE International) (full list available here).

Here’s what was discussed:

  • The fourth industrial revolution is shifting the way we live, work, and play. But what is it exactly, and what are the issues it raises for global society and politics?
  • The foundations of the future are built today – so how are political actors responding to the fourth industrial revolution now?
  • What are the new movements and communities that are arising in response to the challenges of the fourth industrial revolution, and how can we develop political entrepreneurs to help tackle the major challenges we face?
  • How can we use technology to address societal problems and improve the future of politics?
  • What can we do together as citizens to proactively respond to the fourth industrial revolution?

For more details notes of what was discussed, go to the bottom of this page.

On the day, The Fourth Group outlined a forthcoming programme, The Citizens’ Inquiry into the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Headed up by a set of commissioners, the 18-month Inquiry will seek to understand global citizens’ views on what the pressing challenges are in technology (related to artificial intelligence, automation, robotics, bio-technologies, amongst others); define a global agenda including a set of recommended solutions in the form of international and national policies, new technologies, and civic action, in response to the identified problems, and; then undertake action for real world change.

Founder & Chief Executive of the Fourth Group, Alvin Carpio, said: “The fourth industrial revolution is fundamentally shifting the way we live, work and play. The Fourth Group community is at the forefront of developing solutions to new political problems in the forms of policy, technology, philosophy, and civic action. We run hackathons to develop technologies to improve tasks done by politicians; we are building a network of political entrepreneurs worldwide, and; we are to creating a School of Politics to educate people how to change the world. Every generation has a set of leaders, and we want to ensure the future leaders of today are prepared for the challenges ahead.”

Co-Founder and Chief Executive of Entrepreneur First, Matt Clifford, commented: “Political change happens when forward-thinkers create bold visions of what is possible. Entrepreneurs use the same spirit to create business innovations. The Fourth Group is building a global community for these people to collaborate, and I’m excited to be part of the community as it begins.”

Chair of Trustees at Nominet Trust, Natalie Campbell, said: “I am delighted to be involved with The Fourth Group’s summit as they share my view that by working as a community we can change lives through the application of tech.”

Former CEO of Metaswitch and backer of The Fourth Group, John Lazar CBE, said: “We are living through a profound and fast-moving technological change which is having a deep global political and economic impact.  It is vital that citizens across the world come together to discuss strategies for responding to this Fourth Industrial Revolution that will reduce conflict and encourage active citizenship in strong communities.  This is why I am so excited to be supporting the Fourth Group’s programme for 2018.”

For more photos of the summit, click here.


Detailed Recap

Overall Themes

  1. Technology is not a silver bullet – you also need a community of people to execute, and a moral/ethical framework to situate and consider the impacts of technologies.

  2. Studying the history of previous industrial revolutions is helpful – each helped lift long-term growth and prosperity, but the first few decades of each revolution often led to upheaval and unrest. Technology can accelerate our ability to produce both utopian and dystopian outcomes

  3. We need to consider our roles and responsibilities as citizens – what does good citizenship entail? And related, who should engage in helping to provide information and educate people on the technical fundamentals, but also implications upon society, of various emerging technologies? And where does the mandate sit to ensure that these technologies improve social well-being?

  4. We need to analyse power dynamics when it comes to tech – who holds power, who is networked with who,  who wins and loses as a result of various technologies

  5. Empathy and listening skills will become even more critical as the rate of technological change accelerates. We need to make sure that technological discussions incorporate a broader range of perspectives. And in some ways, the rise of technologies that might make some tasks currently done by humans redundant, will force humans to critically examine what it means to be “human”.


Opening: Alvin Carpio (Founder, The Fourth Group)

  • To build this new politics together, we need four pillars: a) A global community of organised thinkers and doers; b) New technology to improve political processes; c)  Policies which work for all, and; d) A new philosophy to guide political and technological decision making in this new age.

  • These four pillars are what we, The Fourth Group, are starting to develop. And we invite you to join us as we establish the foundations.

Panel/Keynote – What is the Fourth Industrial Revolution ( a)Hilary Sutcliffe, CEO, SocietyInside b) David Wood, Chair, London Futurists c) Dr Jason Blackstock, Head of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Public Policy Department, UCL)

  • The Fourth Industrial Revolution was defined in several ways:

  1. → exponential growth and intersection of “sensing, processing and actuation capabilities”
  2. → the rise of NIBC (nano-tech, information-tech, bio-tech, comms-tech)
  • We need to redefine our conception of citizenship – not just local/national, but also increasingly global, and also as citizens of online communities e.g. Facebook, Twitter

  • How do we include more people? Who is not in the room when technologies are designed/implications are discussed?

  • There is potential for technologies to help overcome the limits and constraints of the worst aspects of human nature – an “empowerment revolution”

  • However, we need to have empathy for opposing points of view – “democracy when you like an outcome, populism when you don’t”

Keynote – Geoff Mulgan – the Impact of Technology upon Politics (Chief Executive, Nesta)

  • Although long-run trends of previous industrial revolutions were good, in the short run terrible conditions often resulted. New innovations like public sewers, universal education, NHS were needed to ensure that power of these technologies benefitted broader society

  • Political discussion around 4IR is currently stifled – anachronistic mindset, a massive deficit of leadership, a  drift to nostalgia and the re-emergence of big man authoritarianism

  • There are several problems with the current direction of travel

  1. The purposes of investment e.g. military spending

  2. Lack of broader participation in shaping 4IR – most of the world are observers

  3. Digital techs left unchecked can amplify worst of human nature e.g. hostility/hatred, addiction

Panel-– the Impact of Technology upon Politics ( a) Tom Kibasi, Director of IPPR b) Paul Hilder, CIO, CrowdPac c) Gary Klaukka, Political Parties, Participation and Representation Programme, International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) d) Flossie Hunt, Researcher, Forum280/SUMMIT.AHEAD)

  • Tech is disrupting existing channels of influence e.g. historical media influencers

  • Real potential to disrupt financial aspects of politics (e.g. big money)

  • There is a sense that politics is still mostly reacting to, rather than responding to, the 4IR

  • There is a deficit of leadership in articulating a coherent political vision for the 4IR – and in its absence, forces like far-right populism will fill in the vacuum

  • People who are doing well are the ones thinking about the future

  • Technology has enabled people to quickly come together on issues more quickly, but how do you translate that into systemic change?

  • We need to be thinking on 20+ year cycles, not just 4 or 5 year election cycles

Keynote – Jon Barnes – Political Entrepreneurs (author, Democracy Squared)

  • There are 3x more countries than 70 years ago, and it has only been recently that the majority of governments have been democratic

  • A complex world is colliding against linear structures – “the pipes are too small, we need more bandwidth”

  • Some entrepreneurs profiled:

  1. Iceland crodsourced constitution

  2. Estonian e-residency

  3. Pol.is in Taiwan

  4. DemocracyEarth

  5. Blockchain direct democracy with mivote

Panel – Political Entrepreneurs ( a) Nat Whalley, Founder and Executive Director, Organise Platform b) Mete Coban, CEO, MyLifeMySay c) Dan Firth, Director, We Can Win)

  • Brexit has really politicised the young

  • There is a need to manage expectations – politics is a behicle which takes for change, and which requires compromise

  • Need both tools and training for people to leverage tech effectively

  • What does 4IR mean in places like Wolverhampton, and where do we find leaders to help create fairers economies in those places and elsewhere?

Keynote– Political Technology –  Natalie Campbell (Chair of Trustees, Nominet Trust)

  • Tech will always underpinned by cultural context and value

  • Analysis needed around power – who gets more or less power as a result of certain changes?

  • How do we rebuild trust? Tech can help provide clarity and demystify

  • However, tech may not always be better than a face-to-face interafction

Panel– Political Technology – (a)  Ed Dowding, CEO, Represent.me b) Caroline McGrath, Programme Operations – Entrepreneur First , c) Toni Cowan-Brown,  Vice President, NationBuilder)

  • Can we set up sandbox experiments where it’s OK to innovative and fail (e.g. like the current blockchain tech sandbox)

  • People organise when stakes are high, but lose momentum when they gain power

  • The average person generally hears from politicians only when they need something for you

  • Will the 21st century be terrible for control freaks?

  • Greatest power lies in our wallets, we tend to be better consumers than citizens

Closing keynote – Malini Mehra FRSA, Chief Executive, Global International Secretariat

  • A survey conducted for a publication “Global Governance for Global Citizens” showed that 75% of respondents identified themselves as global citizens

  • Some key risks that are top of mind for respondents: a) weapons of mass destruction, b) climate change, c) political conflict

  • Many people are drawn to politics because of power, or at least ability to influence

  • We think to think long and thing big – where do we want to be in 2030? 2050?

Citizens’ Inquiry announcement

  • Modeled upon the Citizens Inquiry conducted following the Tottenham riots in 2011, the inquiry will solicit perspectives from ordinary citizens to a) identify key problems/opportunities related to 4IR, b) derive potential solutions c) translate the solutions into actions and campaigns

  • Call to action: the Fourth Group is seeking i) commissioners to help steer the Inquiry, ii) funding and iii) outreach mechanisms to citizens

  • Some key differences from other similar initiatives thinking about implications of tech – this Inquiry will a) engage ordinary people and b) have a heavy focus on solutions


About The Fourth Group

The Fourth Group is a community of political entrepreneurs who collectively develop innovative solutions to the challenges and opportunities brought about by the fourth industrial revolution, using the expertise of the global community. It has over 2,000 members worldwide and hubs located in London, Paris, Berlin, and Bogota. Next year it will expand to Africa, North America, the Middle East, Asia, and Oceania.


What is the fourth industrial revolution?

The fourth industrial revolution is a term used to describe the new technological changes that the world is experiencing right now. These technologies include the internet of things, biotechnologies, and exponential developments in artificial intelligence. During the first three industrial revolutions we saw the impact of mechanization, then mass production, then the impact of computers on humanity. Each of these changed the way we lived, worked, and played, and brought huge disruptions to our economies and societies. We’re only at the cusp of the fourth.