This week I’m heading out to the World Economic Forum jamboree in Davos, Switzerland. I’d like to play this cool – as if rubbing shoulders with politicians, business leaders and celebs is something I do all the time. But the reality is that this is my first time to what is probably the biggest annual gathering of world thought-leaders and decision-makers, and I’m just a little star-struck!
The World Economic Forum has been gathering world leaders together to address emerging challenges and opportunities in an informal and intimate setting for four decades now – this year’s Annual Meeting is the fortieth. It’s a unique forum, where political and business leaders rub shoulders with academics, activists and celebrities as they get a handle on the major issues facing society around the world. This is one of the few places where you run the chance of bumping into people like Bono, Bill Gates and Al Gore as you get your morning coffee.
Held in the Swiss Ski resort of Davos, a mix of formal, informal and private meetings brings a diverse group of people together to not only discuss the issues facing the world, but to craft workable solutions. In the 2500 people at this year’s meeting, there will over 900 chief executives from a wide range of business sectors, government representatives from the world’s top 25 economies and fast-growing small countries (including heads of state and government), civil society leaders, academics, thought-leaders and media representatives.
Within this rather eclectic mix, I will be talking to people about emerging technologies, and their place in 21st century global society. It’s an area that fits glove-in-hand with this year’s theme – “Improve the State of the World: Rethink, Redesign, Rebuild” – but is often overlooked in the social, economic and policy debates. There’s a tendency to simply assume that science and technology will come up with solutions to pressing problems – my job is to disabuse people of this fancy, and get some concerted action on how we are going to actively ensure science and technology help improve people’s lives without creating more problems than they solve.
Over the next few days, I’ll be blogging and tweeting from Davos (assuming I have any time in a schedule that starts early in the morning, and seems to extend to early the next morning). Just to avoid disappointment, I won’t be dishing the dirt on off the record meetings – there are rules to respect here. I will try and provide a sense of my experiences here though, and in particular how emerging technologies seem to be fitting in to the grand scheme of things.
But back to being just a little star-struck. Glimpsing through the program (I’m still filling my dance card) I see that Lang Lang (the pianist) will be performing, Margaret Atwood will be talking about After the Flood and James Cameron will be discussing Avator – and that’s before I’ve even got to the serious socioeconomic stuff.
I wonder if any of them are interested in talking emerging tech over an espresso…
As well as posting the occasional blog from Davos, I will be posting short comments on Twitter and the 2020 Science Facebook Page. I also see that Jason Pontin – Editor in Chief and publisher of Technology Review – will be tweeting from the event (I’ll be talking with Jason and a few others on science and technology breakthroughs next Wednesday).