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5 reflections from Davos

By Jim Ormond and Jane Fiona Cumming

As delegates leave Davos this week following the 2016 World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting, we wanted to share five reflections from the discussions…

The Fourth Industrial Revolution and widening inequalities

The theme of this year’s Forum was the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”. A revolution characterised by the interplay between nanotechnology; 3D printing; mobile networks; big data; cyber-physical systems; artificial intelligence; robotics and the Internet of Things, all of which will create realities previously unthinkable and deliver radical system-wide innovation. Yet in addition to the exciting opportunities, there remains concern regarding the massive implications for society, jobs, inequality, privacy and corporate control. Many fear the 'elite' will capture all the benefits of the next wave of innovation – which will in turn destroy millions of jobs, hollow out middle-income employment and result in widening inequalities.

“My call to action here is simple - embrace your obligation to workers as well as your shareholders... When the middle class does well, the wealthy do very well, and the poor have a ladder up” US Vice President Joe Biden

The transformation of finance and money itself

Perhaps the most fundamental question posed at the Forum was whether cash will exist in the future? The overall consensus of the delegates was that, transformed by the smartphone, the next 10 years will witness the end of 'cash'. Cash in a new digital modern world is increasingly seen as inefficient, unnecessary and central to the illicit economy.

" Cash, I think, in ten years’ time probably won’t exist. There will be no need for it"

John Cryan co-chief executive of Deutsche Bank

The New Climate and Development Imperative

Following on so closely to the consensus reached in December at the Paris 2015 Climate Summit (COP21) - climate change was always going to be a key topic of discussion. In particular, discussions at Davos appeared to circle around three topics.

  1. the balance between development and environment - with developing countries cited as the biggest opportunity for carbon reduction
  2. the role of new technologies in facilitating the transition from fossil fuels to low carbon renewable energy
  3. the importance of setting a price on carbon.

"COP 21 was a success, but that was the easy part"

Christiana Figueres - UN Framework Convention on Climate Change

Diversity and Global Gender Parity

Coinciding with WEF’s latest Global Gender Gap Report – which found that it will take another 118 years for women to be earning the same as men – gender parity was a recurrent topic at Davos this year. Delegates as varied as the CEO of Coca-Cola, actress Emma Watson and the Canadian Prime Minister all commented on the basic requirement of treating men and women equally, central to solving the many complex challenges facing humanity.

“We need the three W’s – Women, Water and Wellbeing.”

Muhtar A. Kent, CEO, Coca-Cola Company

How to Reboot the Global Economy – stop measuring GDP…

Set against a backdrop of market turbulence - attention remained on the global economy, and the challenges associated with slowing growth in China; near zero growth in Europe and a world in slow recovery. One answer to this challenge was to reframe the question…. Specifically 'are we measuring the wrong thing?' ... and if we are measuring the wrong thing ... 'are we going to do the wrong thing'.

Economists, Joseph Stiglitz and Jeffrey Sachs, both stressed the importance of moving away from ‘Gross Domestic Product (GDP)’ – which fails to capture critical indicators for human wellbeing such as pollution; inequality and happiness and instead develop new metrics for humanity.

"GDP is not a good measure of economic performance, it is not a good measure of well-being"

Joseph Stiglitz, Economist

"We need to invent a new global growth model that combines economic growth with environmental sustainability"

Jeffrey D. Sachs, Economist

Image - courtesy © David McIntyre/Crossroads Foundation Ltd. Link

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