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President’s Lecture questions modern ‘Social, Economic and Security Implications of the Fourth Industrial Revolution’

By Staff | Oct 25, 2019

Linton Wells II talks about the “Social, Economic and Security Implications of the Fourth Industrial Revolution," during the President's Lecture Series in the Robert C. Byrd Center on Oct. 15. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — The second President’s Lecture of the semester focused on the “Social, Economic and Security Implications of the Fourth Industrial Revolution” in the Robert C. Byrd Center on Oct. 15.

Featured speaker Linton Wells II, managing partner of Wells Analytics, LLC and a former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, is the chief architect of the program Appalachia Advancing, which uses with Shepherd University and George Mason University students in McDowell County to identify opportunities “to build community-based, collaborative economies that leverage innovative technologies and public-private partnerships.”

“This is such an exciting evening. It’s my great pleasure this evening to welcome my great friend, Dr. Linton Wells II,” said SU President Mary J.C. Hendrix, mentioning Wells worked for both the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. “He’s a sterling example of putting partisan politics aside, for the sake of the country. I’m very proud to say he was one of my father’s former students at the Naval Academy. Here at Shepherd, we have the pleasure of working with Dr. Wells on many projects, including Appalachia Advancing.”

Wells began by defining one of the terms within the title of his lecture.

“First of all, how many of you know about the Fourth Industrial Revolution?” Wells asked, and received a few hands raised in response.

From left, Shepherd University President Mary J.C. Hendrix, SU Institute of Environmental and Physical Sciences chair Jeff Groff, Linton Wells II and his wife, Linda Wells, converse at the end of the President's Lecture in the Robert C. Byrd Center on Oct. 15. Tabitha Johnston

According to Wells, the name was coined by Klaus Schwab, who published the book “The Fourth Industrial Revolution” in 2016. The term also aligns with concepts developed in Thomas Friedman’s 2016 book, “Thank You For Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving In the Age Of Accelerations.”

According to Wells, in the modern age, technology is quickly advancing, with no end in sight.

“The velocity of change, scope and systems-wide impact is going to continue growing, with problematic results. The speed of change is actually challenging peoples’ ability to adapt,” Wells said, mentioning he believes technology can be used to improve many peoples’ quality of life.

Despite individuals’ discomfort with their reliance on computer technology, Wells believes the world will continue to grow more reliant on that technology in the future, to simplify their lives. One major problem technology will create, is for those in middle class jobs. Many of those job positions may be eliminated, because technology can do the jobs with less cost to businesses. This may result in the middle class dissolving, and the gap between the lower class and upper class expanding, according to Wells.

“Algorithms will be used to make decisions between themselves, which used to be done by people, such as if you can get a home loan or a kidney transplant,” Wells said. “The changes may raise income and quality of lives, but they are also going to separate people even more extremely between low-skilled, low-paid jobs and high-skilled, high-paid jobs.

“Those with a high school education or less will have four percent more job insecurity,” Wells said. “Problems also will include finding entry level jobs for those new to their career fields.”

To build the resilience to face the new world, Wells gave some straight-forward advice to his audience.

“Stop thinking inside of the box or out of the box — there is no box. We’re not actually facing a dystopian world,” Wells said. “I think we won’t be entirely replaced by robots.”