I came across an interesting article during the days leading up to the World Economic Forum’s annual Davos conference. The article highlighted some of the topics predicted to dominate the dialogue at the Davos conference and one that particularly drew my interest was the threat that the rising inequality the world is currently experiencing is posing to the globalized world we have become accustomed to. Founder of the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab has stated that 2017 will be a pivotal moment for the global community as we face the threat of ‘a less cooperative, more inward-looking world’. More specifically, the WEF report credits the Donald Trump’s election victory and Brexit to be due to this rising inequality and thus, it was inevitable that the direction of dialogue in 2017’s Davos conference would center around establishing the causes and coming up with ways to combat these growing sentiments.
One of the most fascinating causes currently being discussed at Davos is the great advancement in technology and its effect on employment worldwide. Whilst this is credited to be the driving force behind the Trump victory and Brexit, economists have estimated that 86% of job losses that occurred in the United States were due to productivity of machines compared to that of humans, rather than the policies these supporters demonstrated that they were fed up with. Meg Whitman, Chief Executive of Hewlett Packard stated that, “Jobs will be lost, jobs will evolve and this revolution is going to be ageless, it’s going to be classless and it’s going to affect everyone,” This statement is evident in the type of industries technology has been disrupting; from the taxi industry to the healthcare one, robotics, driverless cars, artificial intelligence and 3D printing mean more and more jobs are coming under threat.
As disruptive as technology has been on certain industries it would not be fair to label it as completely negative. I am pretty sure the benefits it has come with far outweigh the negative, which is namely, the pace of adjustment by the world to these new innovations. Technology is credited with bringing hundreds of millions of people out of poverty; it has modernized medicine and agriculture whilst also ensuring that a greater number of people are connected.
So how do we remove the negative sentiment growing with the advancement of technology? How do we combat the rising inequality and unemployment due to these advances? The common sentiment, which answered this at Davos 2017, is best described in a quote by Megan Whitman. Whitman stated that; “”We need to create a new narrative and restore hope for people who have been economically dislocated, especially from technology.” This is depicted in the shared sentiment agreed on at Davos that technology such as Artificial Intelligence should not replace human capabilities, but rather enhance them. It was also agreed that it is essential that access to technology is democratized and it is essential that people are equipped with the relevant knowledge and skills to lay the groundwork for a more egalitarian and sustainable era of cognitive computing.
There are a number of issues worth following the dialogue this year which make the reality we face seem more like a scene from a psi-fi movie! The top five issues under discussion, termed the Top 5 Risks the the Global Economy for 2017 are the `Rising Income & Wealth Disparity, Changing Climate, Increasing Polarization in Societies, Rising Cyber Dependency and the Ageing Population.