(From their own site: weforum.com) With over 400 sessions on the official programme, covering everything from the rise of populism to the global economic outlook, you’d be forgiven for feeling confused by what just happened in Davos. While it would be impossible to condense it all into one article, here are some of the biggest stories.
A new leadership role for China
Before the meeting even started, China was already making headlines: not only was Xi Jinping the first Chinese president to come to Davos, but he was joined by the largest delegation the Asian giant has ever sent. In an address to participants, Xi emerged as a champion of economic globalization, insisting that despite a Western backlash, it still had the power to change people’s lives for the better. It was a message repeated by other Chinese leaders at the meeting, including one of the country’s most successful entrepreneurs, Jack Ma of Alibaba. It’s not globalization that’s to blame for America’s woes, he explained; it’s the way the process was managed. Rather than redistributing wealth to all Americans, it was squandered according to Xi.
Where now for Europe?
Sticking to the theme of uncertainty, British Prime Minister Theresa May came to Davos to outline her country’s Brexit plans. Despite her assurances that Britain was still open for business, financial leaders didn’t seem convinced, and spoke to journalists in Davos about their plans for downsizing their London offices. As for the European project more broadly, while its future is still unclear, leaders took to the stage to defend it from critics. National governments need to stop playing the blame game, they said, and instead rally round to save the union.
A new world order
The main sense throughout the meeting was that we’re living through a geopolitical shift not seen since the end of the Cold War – from a unipolar world, with one superpower, to a multipolar one. “We are moving into a world in which you have many great powers,” economist Nouriel Roubini told participants. “These great powers either work together, or there will be increasing frictions and conflicts on trade and currency, on economics and finance.” Change is scary, Alexander De Croo, Belgian’s deputy prime minister, told participants in a session on understanding the rise of populism – a theme that cut across the whole meeting. “What you have is anxiety about a world that is changing,” he said.
What will the new world look like?
The question that kept coming up is what that world will look like. Will it be a return to the 1930s, with a rise in selfish national interests at the extent of the broader good? Not according to Davos leaders. While almost everyone called for a reform to globalization, most people agreed with President Xi: globalization is worth saving.
Here’s another propaganda article from weforum.com on what the future might look like titled: “Welcome to 2030. I own nothing, have no privacy, and life has never been better“:
Welcome to the year 2030. Welcome to my city – or should I say, “our city”. I don’t own anything. I don’t own a car. I don’t own a house. I don’t own any appliances or any clothes.
It might seem odd to you, but it makes perfect sense for us in this city. Everything you considered a product, has now become a service. We have access to transportation, accommodation, food and all the things we need in our daily lives. One by one all these things became free, so it ended up not making sense for us to own much.
First communication became digitized and free to everyone. Then, when clean energy became free, things started to move quickly. Transportation dropped dramatically in price. It made no sense for us to own cars anymore, because we could call a driverless vehicle or a flying car for longer journeys within minutes. We started transporting ourselves in a much more organized and coordinated way when public transport became easier, quicker and more convenient than the car. Now I can hardly believe that we accepted congestion and traffic jams, not to mention the air pollution from combustion engines. What were we thinking?
Sometimes I use my bike when I go to see some of my friends. I enjoy the exercise and the ride. It kind of gets the soul to come along on the journey. Funny how some things seem never seem to lose their excitement: walking, biking, cooking, drawing and growing plants. It makes perfect sense and reminds us of how our culture emerged out of a close relationship with nature.
In our city we don’t pay any rent, because someone else is using our free space whenever we do not need it. My living room is used for business meetings when I am not there.
Once in awhile, I will choose to cook for myself. It is easy – the necessary kitchen equipment is delivered at my door within minutes. Since transport became free, we stopped having all those things stuffed into our home. Why keep a pasta-maker and a crepe cooker crammed into our cupboards? We can just order them when we need them.
This also made the breakthrough of the circular economy easier. When products are turned into services, no one has an interest in things with a short life span. Everything is designed for durability, repairability and recyclability. The materials are flowing more quickly in our economy and can be transformed to new products pretty easily. Environmental problems seem far away, since we only use clean energy and clean production methods. The air is clean, the water is clean and nobody would dare to touch the protected areas of nature because they constitute such value to our well being. In the cities we have plenty of green space and plants and trees all over. I still do not understand why in the past we filled all free spots in the city with concrete.
The death of shopping
Shopping? I can’t really remember what that is. For most of us, it has been turned into choosing things to use. Sometimes I find this fun, and sometimes I just want the algorithm to do it for me. It knows my taste better than I do by now.
When AI and robots took over so much of our work, we suddenly had time to eat well, sleep well and spend time with other people. The concept of rush hour makes no sense anymore, since the work that we do can be done at any time. I don’t really know if I would call it work anymore. It is more like thinking-time, creation-time and development-time.
For a while, everything was turned into entertainment and people did not want to bother themselves with difficult issues. It was only at the last minute that we found out how to use all these new technologies for better purposes than just killing time.
My biggest concern is all the people who do not live in our city. Those we lost on the way. Those who decided that it became too much, all this technology. Those who felt obsolete and useless when robots and AI took over big parts of our jobs. Those who got upset with the political system and turned against it. They live different kind of lives outside of the city. Some have formed little self-supplying communities. Others just stayed in the empty and abandoned houses in small 19th century villages.
Once in awhile I get annoyed about the fact that I have no real privacy. No where I can go and not be registered. I know that, somewhere, everything I do, think and dream of is recorded. I just hope that nobody will use it against me.
All in all, it is a good life. Much better than the path we were on, where it became so clear that we could not continue with the same model of growth. We had all these terrible things happening: lifestyle diseases, climate change, the refugee crisis, environmental degradation, completely congested cities, water pollution, air pollution, social unrest and unemployment. We lost way too many people before we realised that we could do things differently.
Yes, the communist plan to eliminate property will be sold to us with lipstick and rouge. Not taken from us by force. Once we’ve handed over our property rights for convenience as explained in the aboce scenario, the noose will tighten. Property taxes will become extreme moving everyone toward renting or having things provided as a service. Ownership will lie in the hands of the megacorporations who will eventually raise prices, force things on you that you don’t want, etc.