The end of January has that excellent week to start the year inspired and with new ideas. We started with Digital Life Design, in Munich, and several followed in a caravan to Davos, where the World Economic Forum takes place, where the concentration of influence, money and grey matter must be greater than anywhere else in the world during these days. The almost festive atmosphere does not prevent several of humanity’s main challenges from being dealt with.
The number of topics is endless, but some caught my attention the most, namely:
- If the previous year the buzzword was artificial intelligence, and although it is still very much talked about, it has been replaced at the top by blockchain and crypto currency. Blockchain, for those who don’t know, is the “technology” at the base of bitcoin and other currencies that promise to revolutionize the world with transparency and decentralization. In reality the technology promises to be revolutionary, but the practical applications are still very limited or non-existent in most sectors. It is reminiscent of 1999 when everyone was talking about the internet being the future, but it wasn’t there yet. An absurd amount of CIOs, several of them with no “head or tail”, appear everywhere to try to take advantage of the euphoria around the subject. However, a lot of attention is needed, as the first cases of fraud are starting to pop up and crypto currencies are not at their best moment.
- The environment is another of the themes of order. The planet, the only home we have, is according to credible sources getting worse and worse and in an almost irreversible situation. Efforts to change the situation are too slow. Our oceans already have more plastic than fish. We seem to be going backwards instead of forwards.
- The power and lack of regulation of the technology sector. We have created “monsters” that went under the radar and today have unparalleled power never seen before in history. Companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple have a financial and data power with profound impacts on society, a situation that will worsen in the coming years. The need for control and regulation, and in the future perhaps “breaking” the companies into several smaller ones, seems to be a priority.
- Education is deeply outdated with a model based on the industrial revolution. Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba was one of the great advocates of the subject and defended the importance of teaching skills, such as empathy, where machines are not as good as humans are.
- The integration of sciences and humanities. Humanism, spirituality, consciousness, and science, which once seemed in opposing camps, are beginning to converge and barriers are breaking down. The new knowledge encompasses the different perspectives that seem to be more at the service of human well-being than before.
The Portuguese participation in Davos included Prime Minister António Costa and European Commissioner Carlos Moedas, as well as some of Portugal’s top businessmen and young talents, and allowed for a pleasant meeting at a mountaintop dinner. For me, who lives away for much of the year, it’s always a pleasure to see the country well represented.
In short, the world is changing, and the pace is accelerating more and more. Those who adapt best will survive. Now we must reflect and work through the rest of the year with the new lessons learned, because in 2019 there will be more.