The 2018 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, just wrapped up a short time ago. Here are a few things I learned over the past week during this gathering of globally minded leaders, thinkers, builders, connectors, and teachers
Make the world great again, by sustainable solutions
Everybody loves blockchain.
The World Economic Forum shuttle buses that ferry meeting-goers from hotels to the Congress Center and back are rolling vessels of small talk in a Babel of tongues. It’s a reminder of what a missed opportunity it is that we Americans aren’t required to be proficient in anything but English. (In Switzerland, a land of four official languages, nearly two-thirds of citizens speak at least two of them every week.) But in this polyglot melting pot of business pooh-bahs, government grandees, and media loudmouths, there was one English word I heard over and over: “blockchain.” And yes, it came up in one-panel discussion after the next
Cars won’t just be autonomous in the near future, they may also be burning in the street
Joe Kaeser, CEO of Siemens, had one of the starker (and darker) predictions, warning that we will likely “have either the best society ever built”—with a happily “completed Fourth Industrial Revolution”—or one of the angriest: a world with bitter, left-behind citizens and “the biggest trade war we’ve ever had.” There will be “no middle ground,” he said. “We’ll not only have self-driving cars, we’ll have burning cars.” Kaeser, who leads a company with more employees than Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook combined, said the new economy must find worthy and essential roles for the untold millions of current workers who will be disrupted out of their jobs when the age of AI, robotics, and digi-everything fully arrives.
The mental health disorder time bomb is upon us
Most people with a mental disorder do not receive minimally adequate care,” says Pamela Collins, a renowned expert on global mental health issues at the University of Washington and a former top official at the National Institute of Mental Health. Blame the above, in part, on the stigma and shame that is still—irrationally, unfairly, and cruelly—associated with mental illness; blame the rest on a lack of recognition of the diseases in question, a lack of understanding, a lack of funding, and a lack of access to care. But whatever the reasons may be, the harm of hopelessness is being felt everywhere and in greater amounts—from the widespread burden of depression to steadily increasing suicide rates to the alarming epidemic of opioid misuse.
Smart data will help end malaria.
The first of those two Gates, Bill, offered his take this week on what would allow us to eliminate this scourge by 2040—which is a real possibility, he says, if we keep relentless energy and focus on the effort. As expected, it will require the usual arsenal of anti-mosquito bed nets, anti-malaria drugs, new anti-malaria drugs that can overcome resistance to existing anti-malaria drugs, an anti-malaria vaccine (if we’re lucky)…and probably, if we’re being wholly candid, an anti-mosquito genetic tool that will rewire this much-despised insect’s DNA to prevent the breed from either carrying the malaria-causing parasite, spreading the disease, or reproducing. (We’ll save that debate for another time.)
Companies still want to make a difference.
We call it the “Change the World” list, and we’ve created a new live-action program and conference to foster this work, called The CEO Initiative. Well, as was eminently clear in a week at Davos, this imperative is alive and kicking on a global scale. On Monday night, I had the privilege of awarding the Fortune Award for Circular Economy Leadership to the CEO of Philips, Frans van Houten
Surprise: Tech may make us better humans.
Somehow, in this inhumane procession of machines, one will emerge that speaks to you as no other, and that listens to you as no other. It will be the one that loves you—and that helps you rediscover your own humanity. Of all the predictions that afternoon, this was my favorite
Teleprompters may save the world
“America First” manifesto. Though I wouldn’t swear to it, the President did not appear to stray from his prepared remarks, glancing left and right at the twin teleprompter screens flanking the podium as he spoke. I suspect that’s a good thing. The earth is perhaps calmer today because of it. Its bannered nations are still apparently trading with one another and sharing ideas. The idea of a world economic forum feels a hairless divisive now than it did in the anticipation of Mr. Trump’s remarks