Sheryl Sandberg touts virtual reality at the WEF

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The pace of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the impact it will have on the way the world lives and works was debated at the 2016 World Economic Forum (WEF) in Switzerland. More than 2,500 leaders from business, government, international organizations, civil society, academia, media and the arts participated in the 46th WEF Annual Meeting in Davos. Under the theme, “Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution”, the programme comprised more than 300 sessions, more than 100 of then webcasted live.

From developments in robotics that threaten millions of jobs worldwide to artificial intelligence that see robots ruling mankind in the future, the current surge of technological advancement holds great advantages but also possible disadvantages for mankind. Many people are afraid that technology is moving too fast for humans to make sense of and adapt to intelligently.

During one of the panel discussions on the transformations driven by this Fourth Industrial Revolution, Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer and Member of the Board of Facebook, took a positive stance, saying: “Think about the changes in the world happening in terms of hope or fear. The question that Davos is trying to answer this year is how hopeful or how fearful the world should be. The challenge needs to be to have the triumph of hope over fear.”

Sandberg said the growth and development of virtual reality will help bring people closer. “Virtual reality is being used at this conference to show a film called ‘Clouds Over Sidra.’ It tells the story of a 12-year-old refugee girl and what her life is like. Because it’s virtual reality, it’s really much easier to feel connected to her and have an immersive experience.”

Three virtual reality experiences also debuted at the Switzerland gathering. Project Literacy: A Life Unseen, by Secret Location is about the complexity of the nature of illiteracy, why it persists, its devastating consequences, linking the problem to gender inequality and malnutrition.

The yearly meeting in Davos is an opportunity to get the attention of world leaders at a venue where they gather to discuss mankind’s greatest challenges and there isn’t a better medium to convey these challenges graphically than virtual reality.

Sandberg also said that technology “doesn’t just create technology jobs. It powers jobs in the non-tech sector.”

“Connectivity and data access is too important to keep it only to the world’s rich,” she continued. “There are 4 billion people in the world who do not have access, and when they get access they are more highly educated, they have job opportunities, and they have longer, healthier, more productive lives.”