Today we are at the dawn of an age of unprecedented technological change. Sometimes referred to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, this historic moment has inspired a growing consensus that recent developments in science and technology are of a unique nature, and likely to impact almost every facet of our daily lives.
In areas from robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) to the material and life sciences, the coming decades promise innovations that can help us promote peace, protect our planet and address the root causes of suffering in our world. Our enhanced ability to interact through cyberspace is sustaining and reinforcing these broad technological strides, multiplying the opportunities we have to share information and build knowledge across our increasingly networked planet.
As United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has argued, these technologies can accelerate the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and promote the values enshrined both in the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Yet along with unique potential, there are unique risks. Mitigating those risks will require new kinds of planning and collaboration.
Today's revolution differs from previous leaps forward in three fundamental ways, with important implications for our future peace and security.
First, there is an incomparable level of technological diffusion, a democratization of means to create and access new technologies. Second, technological change is accelerating as combinations between innovations beget further advances and developments at speeds beyond historical precedent. Third, this revolution covers an unparalleled swath of human inquiry, bringing breakthroughs to disciplines from biology to computer science to materials technology.
The possibilities for improving the human condition through these developments are vast. Consider the field of medicine, where our burgeoning grasp of synthetic biology could someday help physicians tailor treatments to the needs of individual patients with extraordinary precision. This growing understanding is mirrored in outer space, where technology allows us a glimpse of distant worlds, even as it binds us closer together through our communication and transportation infrastructures back on Earth. Meanwhile, the on-demand production of customized parts and devices through additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, promises to tear down additional...