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This year at Davos: How "Industry 4.0" affects you

More than 2,500 attendees from around the globe -- including world leaders, business executives, heads of NGOs, academics and cultural icons -- will gather in the Congress Center in Davos, Switzerland, for the 46th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum. The four-day event will kick off on Wednesday, Jan. 20, and finish on Saturday, Jan. 23.

The world is changing rapidly thanks to the technology revolution and that's having an enormous impact on our lives at work and at home. The engineer and economist Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, said the scale, scope and complexity of this transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced. That is why this year's theme in Davos is "Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution."

Central to the Fourth Industrial Revolution -- also known as "Industry 4.0" -- is how the speed and breadth of data being transferred around the world forces us to rethink and reimagine every aspect of our lives. We live in a lighting-fast-paced and interconnected environment where changes to technology, politics, demographics and economics can generate global shockwaves in an instant.

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"The challenges are as daunting as the opportunities are compelling," Schwab said of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. "We must have a comprehensive and globally shared understanding of how technology is changing our lives and that of future generations, transforming the economic, social, ecological and cultural contexts in which we live. This is critical, in order to shape our collective future to reflect our common objectives and values."

Key issues in the 2016 World Economic Forum gathering will include:

  • How the Fourth Industrial Revolution will transform the healthcare sector, financial services, mobile communications, education and many other industries.
  • How mankind can leverage technology in ways to promote growth for the poor as well as the rich.
  • How breakthroughs in science and technology help solve international public health crises and complex global issues like climate change.
  • How public- and private-sector leaders can better prepare their communities and constituencies for our rapidly changing global security and geopolitical landscape. What does the latest global security picture truly look like in 2016 and beyond? And how can new technologies keep people safe from cyber attacks?
  • How government's role in this complex, fast-moving world should be redefined to promote transparency in economic, social and environmental reform.

Schwab founded the World Economic Forum in 1971 as the European Management Forum. In the beginning, the mission was to focus on how European companies could adopt some of the management practices found in the United States. The meeting evolved over the years and Schwab's vision now is to create an environment where global leaders can work together to resolve international conflicts.

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Davos has become the place where leaders from many walks of life can share insights and figure out how best to navigate the future. The mission is simple: to improve the state of the world. But of course solving some of these complex issues may seem like mission impossible.

WEF's co-chairs this year include Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors; Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft; Tidjane Thiam, CEO of Credit Suisse, and Hiroaki Nakanishi, chairman and CEO of Hitachi. The acclaimed cellist Yo Yo Ma will be performing the night before the meeting's official start to welcome participants to Davos, the home for many during that week in January.

CBS News will be reporting live from Davos the entire week.