Davos and the Ties that Bind Us
Davos is a great way to get a sense of the world’s concerns and this Davos, my 17th I think, was no different. The sessions and discussions were dominated by economic growth and security concerns, with politics intertwined. After a few days in the Alpine glow of Davos, its easy to be disheartened by the difficulty of today’s problems.
Even with the late change from the European Central bank increasing the money supply, there is no unified vision of growth for Europe over the next few years. In the revolving discussions deep and dogmatic views are expressed by all sides. The North / South division is substantive, and must be very frustrating to everyone. The lack of a unified European single market is an issue for most of the people I met with, and the process of unification is political, difficult and slow moving.
The situation in Syria is horrific, with more than 300,000 deaths and more than 10 million people displaced or homeless. The human toll, economic toll and political toll is hard to overstate, and in private meetings its clear that the ISIL threat has finally unified most of the players. Consensus on this also takes time, while the civil war and fighting continues.
The security situation in Europe came up many times, with great concern over the aftermath of the Paris tragedy. The political view has now switched, with a number of countries considering deep restrictions on people and also on Internet usage. While the issues are real, the benefits of the Internet are so overwhelming we have to do everything we can to avoid fragmentation, or breaking the Internet into national silos. Economics, culture, and science all depend now on the free flow of information across borders and we should not stop that.
Our view, expressed in public and in private meetings, is that we are at the beginning of a new and magnificent cycle of innovation that will benefit everyone and in every country. Medicine becomes more personal, and far more effective, and people will live longer and better. Transportation will become much much safer, as automation makes a car much more automatic, predictive and less likely to crash or fail. Billions of people will get smart phones for the first time in the developing world, and their education, safety, information and entertainment will improve in a fantastic way. Improvements in artificial intelligence will make all of us smarter in ways even hard for the experts to predict.
Entrepreneurship, and innovation, released on a global scale are the solutions to many of the problems we hear about at Davos every year. Better education and more connectivity make us all more interdependent. This interdependence is the "tie that binds,” and its a good guess that the major predictions from last year (war in the china sea, banking failure, independence of scotland) that did not happen failed because of our mutual interdependence.
The Internet makes the “ties that bind” much much stronger, and we need to keep it open and connected. Those that limit or shut down the Internet are hurting themselves as our interdependence is our greatest reason for economic growth and global peace. By every measure the world is much safer now than it has ever been (remember World War II and the horror of Auschwitz?) and with a more leadership we can get many of our current issues fixed. After all they don’t require new math or new discoveries or physics that don’t exist in our universe. Just a commitment to fixing them.