Jan 19, 2024 - Economy

Davos theme of "rebuilding trust" can't end at Davos

A cable car carries skiers up the Jakobshorn mountain yesterday on day three of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Photo: Hollie Adams/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Davos — "a self-perpetuating phenomenon" — has come and gone.

Zoom in: Organizers set "rebuilding trust" among leaders as the theme of this year's annual meeting of the World Economic Forum. It's a worthy one given the threat of geopolitics on business. However, AI took center stage.

  • Innovators, led by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, painted a world filled with endless possibilities (as innovators are apt to do).
  • Others, like Will.i.am (who's become a Davos regular) called for more attention and resources to upskill workers to keep them from being left behind, Quartz's Heather Landy observed.

Other dominant stories: Another term for Donald Trump seems to have been the consensus, but then again, Davos often gets things wrong.

  • Beijing showed up with what appears to be its largest delegation of Chinese leaders since 2017, as massive amounts of capital is flowing out of China.

Of note: There wasn't nearly enough public discussion about rising antisemitism, with only one panel on the topic on the agenda, the New York Times DealBook team pointed out.

The big picture: On the question of Davos' relevance, the simple fact is that as long as global elites keep going, other global elites will go to meet them, as Axios' Dave Lawler and Courtenay Brown have written.

💭 Hope's thought bubble: On this year's theme, I don't think I've seen anything to suggest Davos achieved its goal of rebuilding trust.

  • There are, however, many, many more video clips of people in parkas and gloves thinking out loud at a time when a growing share of the population worries that government and business leaders are "purposely trying to mislead people," according to the 2024 Edelman Trust Barometer.

What to watch: The WEF is keenly aware its job to build trust extends beyond the January conference.

  • That's why its metaverse platform officially debuted this year — to improve inclusivity of Davos-level conversations and to keep them flowing.
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