“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness…” This opening of Charles Dicken’s Tale of Two Cities seems just as relevant today as it did in 1900s, as we grapple with our human existence and our evolutionary path in relationship to one another and to nature; as we re-imagine our impact on the economics of world communities and the ecology of naturally intelligent earth systems. Will we discern the right course forward with the innovations we imagine and the technology we create in a rapidly changing, globalized, intricately connected, and increasingly fragile world?
I am en route now to the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, where next week 3,000 participants from over 110 countries– including 330 public figures, 65 heads of state/government, and private sector senior executives (representing 50% of the Davos community); as well as, scientists, artists, thought leaders, young global leaders, global shapers, civic leaders, social entrepreneurs, and technology specialists (representing the other 50% of the Davos community) will gather in a snowy Swiss alpine village to analyze the state of the world, and more importantly, shape the future. A plethora of issues on the global agenda will be addressed in over 600 sessions (many of them working sessions that take place in the WEF community throughout the year). These issues are aligned on tracks and spiked by expert task forces—aimed to help shape the future of manufacturing and production, consumption, the digital economy-society, economic progress, education, gender, work, energy, environment and natural resource security, financial-monetary systems, food, health, healthcare, information, entertainment, international trade- investment, infrastructure, mobility.
Did I miss anything? Indeed, the breadth and depth of the World Economic Forum’s Annual Summit is extraordinary… remaining consistently so, year after year. And, what’s most breathtaking and ambitious about this year (2019) in particular is the Forum’s focus on shaping the entire Uber-Architecture of the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Why? The suite of rapidly evolving digital technologies that comprise the Fourth Industrial Revolution (e.g. artificial intelligence & machine learning, robotics, blockchain, crypto-currency, internet of things, cloud computing, 3D printing, autonomous vehicles, nanotechnology, biotechnology, energy storage, and quantum computing) are already transforming every aspect of our lives at every level and our global society at an unprecedented speed, scope, and scale. The time is now to thoughtfully, consciously, systematically get ahead of the technology curve and aim to influence innovation in ways that support life on earth and that support sustainable earth systems in support of life… well, period. Otherwise, we may find ourselves sleep-walking off the evolutionary edge of a very sharp, steep cliff.
The impact on human + natural earth systems and the reaction of these systems in the next decade promise to be transformative and are certainly unprecedented. If we want to participate in shaping our common future, then again, the time is now, and the one compelling space to do so is the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos. Why? The Forum is the one global organization whose driving mission is to improve the state of the world– free of ideological or commercial interests (so impartial), focused on our future as a global society, holistic in its engagement of multi-stakeholder perspectives, and forward-guiding in a positive, progressive, and peace-keeping direction.
And the good news is that everyone can participate in WEF Davos 2019.
NEW THIS YEAR: Everyone is invited to create and post a 60-second video response to one (or more) of the Six Key Questions framed around Globalization 4.0.
Globalization 4.0: Have Your Say Campaign
This year is also particularly special because six of the seven program chairs for the annual meeting are Global Shapers—extraordinary young leaders under 30 years old from around the world. For this, there are over 100 Davos sessions accessible on the internet (via Livestream) to view and to comment. According to WEF’s program chair, Sebastian Buckup (WEF 2019 Press Briefing), there are an increasing number of Livestream sessions for the WEF in large part to educate, inspire, and activate more and more, every year greater public voice and participation in dialogue about our common future. As well, the Open (public) Forum parallels the World Economic Forum in Davos, and aims to do the same. Personally, I have attended the Open Forum, viewed online WEF sessions and read numerous WEF reports for many years now. I believe the hunt for diversity of thought and relevant expertise on all platforms is quite rigorous. And, I feel more informed, more confident in discussing global issues, and more able to make quality life and work decisions.
“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” Alan Kay
Welcoming the Twilight- The Season of Light and Darkness
Innovation and technology today may guide us toward a season of light– creative exploration, improved recycling of raw materials into circular systems, increased access to abundant resources we naturally regenerate, and greater collaboration within a larger humanity. And yet, innovation and technology may also summon a season of darkness– awakening the shadow side of humanity that leads to unintended consequences of tinkering with complex biological, societal, or earth systems. Innovation and technology could lead to ignoring these system’s threats; manufactured biological pathogens, greater production of weapons of mass destruction, natural disasters, respectively. Innovation and technology may quicken the end of liberal democracy through cyber-attacks on media, and the generation of fake news to polarize groups — further isolating individuals from one another. And, when I say technology I mean the human drivers of technology because technology itself is of course neutral. Thus, our global society is responsible to create a healthy architecture, universal codes, and common values for designers, scientists, engineers, and technologists to innovate in the direction that supports the wellbeing of all humanity, other living beings in the biosphere, and sustainable living earth systems.
Thus in these cold winter nights, I believe we are to be beacons of hope for shaping the future framework of innovation and technology, rejecting (annihilating) few human dark designs for a post-human, fully mechanized universe stripped of heart, soul, imagination, and natural wisdom. I believe we (humanity) were naturally intelligently designed rather to light the way toward a more visionary, inclusive, peaceful, sustainable world, aligned with our Natura Vera— our true human+nature. Yuval Harari in his book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, writes that good (secular) humans honor science, truth, compassion, equality, and freedom…and commit themselves to a path toward greater understanding through listening to multiple perspectives on issues, embracing complexity, maintaining curiosity, and taking charge of one’s growth and education in an open, adaptive, exploratory, and critical way.
Now comprised of 7.7 billion (January 2019) individuals interconnected in one global society, the world is increasingly more complex. We were once a tribal unit of foragers, hunters, gatherers, then we organized into agricultural collectives, followed by villages, cities, states, and finally nation-states. Now, most of the live as global citizens accessing information, digital resources, services, and products on multiple platforms across the world-wide web, influenced constantly (directly or indirectly through the products we buy) with others from different cultures and countries. We are now living in a globalized world. The communication vision of Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980, media guru) that we would one day be connected to one another in a Global Village has become a reality. The Internet has become the source of information, social capital, and value exchange for billions of people (4.2 billion internet users, June 30, 2018), worldwide. To ignore this global fact of globalization for over 55% of the world population is to do so at your own peril.
Holding tight to a single ideology, relying on group think, believing in the illusion that anyone’s knowledge is absolute, or sleep-walking into our future – these paths lead no where. To enlighten, means to be open to new knowledge, to be eager to listen, to have a conversation that may or may not convert, and to learn from our historical past.
Follow the World Economic Forum in Davos 2019 on Twitter via @WEF and @Davos, and join the conversation using #WEF19.
To Learn More about the author, Catherine Cunningham, PhD, to read her articles, listen to her podcasts, or watch her films aimed at empowering us to awaken our natural intelligence in the world go to Natural Intelligence Media.