MIDLAND, MICHIGAN – “Science knows no country,” said the great nineteenth-century chemist Louis Pasteur, “because knowledge belongs to humanity, and is the torch which illuminates the world.” Today, the innovative technologies and ideas that are driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution belong to all of humankind, and they are proving Pasteur right in ways that he could not have imagined.
But while the impact of technological innovation is global, it affects different populations in dramatically different ways. Rapidly changing conditions have brightened some people’s economic outlook; but they have left others behind, casting a dark shadow of dissatisfaction across the global economy. For those of us who know from history and experience that innovation creates new opportunities and prosperity around the world, it is time to redouble our efforts to forge a more inclusive capitalism, so that everyone can share in the benefits of progress.
Historically, there is no question that technological innovation and global commerce have underpinned rapid material progress and dramatic gains in living standards. According to the latest available data, the global economy is more than five times larger than it was a half-century ago, with global per capita GDP more than doubling over this period.
These numbers represent more than higher profits for corporations; they also amount to millions of jobs created, and billions of lives improved. In 2015, the World Bank estimated that the share of the global population living in extreme poverty would soon fall below 10% for the first time – down from over 40% barely three decades ago.