The Road to Davos: There Be Dragons Ahead

Greta Thunberg, the 17-year-old climate activist, was not in a mingling mood during her second visit to the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. We are failing, she scolded. Scientific indicators are sounding the alarm that windows for climate action continue to close.

How will we activate necessary global shifts with the necessary pace and tenacity?

Under the crystal blue skies of Davos, Switzerland, where world leaders and CEOs rubbed elbows at the Forum’s 50th anniversary annual meeting, there was a new level of sub-aural, low-frequency unrest shaking the foundational structures of the status quo, particularly for climate change. I found angst and worry just below the surface of most events and sessions. 

Whether it was a workshop on the pros and cons of deep-sea ocean mining to our own session, “Designing Water’s Future,” there was sense of impending action. Companies are jockeying to define a new economy based on foresight, innovation, and shaping a better world in the face of existential risks. Microsoft promised a “decarbonized” future, and Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest investment fund manager, put climate change as the top influencer for the firm’s investment decisions. 

A few days earlier, at the DLD Conference (Digital, Life and Design) in Munich the theme, “What are you adding?” was refreshingly provocative for a gaggle of tech entrepreneurs, investors, A.I. visionaries, and media mavens. This time, the audience was fair game, not allowed to watch panels and presentations with passivity. “What are you adding?,” rippled through each speech, including my own. How will talents and resources combine to shift the world’s dangerous course?

On the streets of Davos, participants wondered if it would be a year when billionaires fiddled while the world burns. Or are we truly on the cusp of an era when values align with value, perception can once again be based on reality, and we can use the greatest tools of the Fourth Industrial Revolution in services for the earth? 

These are the questions we strive to answer every day for our clients. 

What are you adding?

-J. Carl Ganter, CEO Vector Center

Davos observations from colleague Nik Gowing and Vector Center advisor Will Sarni.

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