Jan 18, 2023 - Podcasts

Trusting business over politics in shaky times

Global trust in business is higher than trust in government, according to the new Edelman Trust Barometer. As business leaders gather in Davos, Switzerland, this week for the World Economic Forum annual meeting, we ask: How are businesses gaining this trust?

  • Plus, teachers debate the risks and merits of the AI tool ChatGPT.

Guests: Axios' Dave Lawler, Eleanor Hawkins and Jennifer A. Kingson.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Margaret Talev, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Fonda Mwangi and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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MARGARET: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Wednesday, January 18th.

I’m Margaret Talev, in for Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what we’re covering today: teachers debate the risks and merits of the AI tool ChatGPT. But first: Bundle up because we’re going to Davos, Switzerland. Trusting business over politics in shaky times – that’s today’s One Big Thing.

MARGARET: Global trust in business is higher than trust in government. That's according to the new Edelman Trust Barometer. Business holds actually a 54 point lead over government incompetence and a 30 point lead in ethics, according to this new survey. So as business leaders are gathering this week in Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum's annual meeting, how are businesses gaining trust…and at what cost?

Axios' World Editor Dave Lawler joins us from Switzerland and Axios’ Eleanor Hawkins, author of the Axios Communicators Newsletter is also here. Hello to you both.



MARGARET: Eleanor, let's start with you. What can you tell us about this Edelman Trust Barometer? What do the points mean exactly?

ELEANOR: Sure. Edelman has been conducting this trust barometer for 23 years, and the whole goal of the barometer is to understand how communicators can help with reputation and navigate maintaining trust among brands, employers, and leaders. What they found for the past few years is that businesses trump government, media and nonprofits, when it comes to trust. Another thing that's super important is it's not just businesses that are viewed as trusted, but it's specifically my CEO. So employees really value what it is that their leadership has to say on social issues and geopolitical issues.

MARGARET: So Edelman could have released this essentially anytime they wanted to. They chose to do it at the start of Davos, Dave, you are there. What has the conversation around trust and business been like so far at Davos?

DAVE: I think it might be a bit of a pleasant prize to some of the people here to talk about them, being trusted because obviously Davos is a bit of a boogeyman for, you know, people talking about the out of touch elites gathering here, a lot of executives from big global corporations. It’s not necessarily that people think they're totally trustworthy, it's perhaps more of a statement on how little they trust the government, at present.

But even more of a conversation around whether Davos and whether these sort of big corporations have lost touch with ordinary people. This week because we're talking about really tricky economic times ahead, high inflation, a potential recession. And I can tell you that you wouldn't know that necessarily walking around Davos, there's just as much champagne here as in any other year. You know, I was in a briefing about the potential recession ahead of us. And at the time, we were all having a little canape and drinking champagne. So it does feel theoretical here in a way that it feels very real, perhaps to people who are a long way from Davos.

MARGARET: These findings, Eleanor, are coming out as Americans are watching the George Santos debacle in Congress, this unfolding story in New Mexico around an alleged election denier turning to violence. So I wonder are Americans turning to business because they see businesses as trustworthy or because they have given up on democratic governance?

ELEANOR: I think you're seeing a very polarized environment here in America, but also across the globe. That's one of the findings from the Edelman survey is that polarization can lead to instability and create uncertainty, and so people are looking to business leaders maybe because businesses are taking action in a way that government can't or won't. And because of that, they are viewed as more trustworthy. They're not just saying, but they're also doing,

MARGARET: Dave, this was happening at a time when Davos' relevance had been a little shaky in recent years. Does all of this make this gathering more important than it has been in the recent past?

DAVE: Yeah, it's a good question Margaret. And I think their motto is improving the state of the world and is it really improving the state of the world to have all of these wealthy and powerful people get together. But, as an actual business forum, as people across different industries and even within the same industry getting together and talking about how are we gonna confront some of these challenges that are ahead of us this year. And, how do we not let our consumers look at us in some lens of polarization as well, because businesses can get swept up into the same problems as politicians in some cases.

You know, they're I think the kind of huddle on the mountain top here among business leaders might be helpful for them. But I certainly think that we're gonna solve all of the greater societal problems that are taking place by getting together for a week, here in a ski resort.

MARGARET: Dave Lawler is Axios’ World Newsletter and Eleanor Hawkins writes the Axios Communicators newsletter. Thank you, Dave and Eleanor.

DAVE: Thanks Margaret.

ELEANOR: Thank you.

MARGARET: In a moment: the debate over ChatGPT in the classroom.


Teachers debate the risks and merits of the AI tool ChatGPT

MARGARET: Welcome back to Axios Today, I’m Margaret Talev.

Welcome back to Axios Today, I’m Margaret Talev, director of the democracy, journalism and citizenship institute at Syracuse University, and an Axios senior contributor.

It seems like everybody is talking about the AI tool ChatGPT – including at Davos, this week – and now the technology is making its way into the classroom. Universities are tackling this challenge as students return for the spring semester… and public schools around the country have been freaking out since late November when ChatGPT first came on the scene.

So is AI the end of high school English class as we know it? Here to give us the details on the debate is Axios’ Chief Correspondent Jennifer Kingson.

Jennifer, remind us: what is ChatGPT, and how is it showing up in classrooms?

JENNIFER KINGSON: ChatGPT is indeed causing people to freak out for good reason. It is a chat bot, something that interacts with you. It's a piece of what we call generative artificial intelligence, meaning that it on its own can generate words and language and indeed essays. You type in something like, “write a paper about the theme of empathy in To Kill a Mockingbird,” and it will give you a queen 600 word essay that cites chapter and verse from the text, which is why teachers are so scared with justifiable reason. It's a modern tool that students can use to cheat, and that's why schools have been banning it right and left. At the same time, teachers are debating whether it can be harnessed and used as a valuable pedagogical tool in the classroom.

MARGARET: It's like some are saying “we've gotta stop this at all costs,” and others are saying, “You can't beat it. And if you can't beat it, join it.”

JENNIFER: Exactly. They're saying that the genie is out of the bottle. You know, in the same way that teachers freaked out when calculators came into modern homes in the 1970s. There are all kinds of ways that students can cheat if they want to, particularly in this day and age. The knee jerk reaction among teachers was to ban it. New York City led the way by removing access to it on school-owned networks and laptops. And other cities have done the same. But of course, that's no answer, people can get around that, use their own home devices and so forth. A better solution, teachers say, is both to strengthen honor codes and remind students of academic integrity requirements and to use it as a learning tool. Look at the answers that it generates and see if they give you, uh, ideas for how to write your own essays. The answers that ChatGPT gives you are very formulaic and very often quite inaccurate. The tool is far from infallible and its body of knowledge is intentionally limited to anything that happened in 2021 and before. So it's very much a work in progress.

MARGARET: I can't help but wonder though, when grades and essays and perhaps even college essays are at stake, whether there are concerns that this is gonna be another dividing line between economically advantaged and disadvantaged kids. Are there differences in who can access ChatGPT?

JENNIFER: I have heard concerns that students who don't have access to the internet other than on school devices in the cities that have banned it, won't be able to use it in the way that, others could who have, you know, easy internet access and, and their own family owned devices. But, anyone who has access to the internet or could go to a library and get it, can use it. I think the bigger question is the effects it's going to have on teaching and like so many technologies, how it's going to reshape the way we think and learn and write.

MARGARET: Jennifer Kingson is a chief correspondent at Axios. Jennifer, thanks so much for joining us.

JENNIFER: Great to talk to you, Margaret. Thanks.

MARGARET: That’s all for today – I’m Margaret Talev, in for Niala Boodhoo. Axios’ Erica Pandey will be with you for the rest of the week. Thanks for listening - stay safe and we’re back with more news tomorrow morning.

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