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2016年月日 - 78jitong - 元旦快乐

What You Need to Know for Davos 2016

The World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland officially kicks off today. The meeting brings together 2,500 leaders across business, government, academia, civil society, media and the arts to brainstorm solutions to the world’s biggest problems. This may sound like yet another big global talk shop, but this year’s agenda puts tough questions front and center. I’ll be posting regular updates for LinkedIn throughout the meeting that you’ll be able to followhere. To start things off, here is your primer for Davos 2016.

Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution

The main theme of this year’s conference is the fundamental way technology is transforming our lives. We used to debate whether nature or nurture was more fundamental in determining the course of our lives. In the 21st century, that question is becoming nature vs. nurture vs. technology. It will take years, if not generations, for us to understand the full impact technology is having on our identities and communities.

Technology’s impact on geopolitics, though, is already being felt. 2016 will be the year we see the great rise of the “technologists,” highly influential non-state actors who are asserting themselves in global politics with startling speed. These actors—from hacker collectives to Silicon Valley powerhouses to retired tech philanthropists—wield enormous influence, and are accountable to very few. Think of how Bill Gates has inserted himself into the debate about climate change, for instance. His power on that issue rivals that of many major governments. Much of Davos will be spent discussing how to best align technology with the ideals of globalization. This is absolutely the right question, but any serious discussion will also have to factor in the way technology is destabilizing our geopolitics.

Addressing Global Security Issues

Technology has also sparked an entirely new category of global security concerns. ISIS now has a direct line into the pocket of every person with a smartphone. China and Russia, among others, have stepped up cyberattacks against both private and public targets. Advancements in drone technology have changed the face of modern warfare. Technology has opened new battlefronts across the world, complicating geopolitical relationships at a time when the world can least afford it.

Just look at the imploding Middle East. The mess in Syria is spiraling out of control, and there is still no serious prospect for a globally coordinated response. Much of that has to do with conflicting priorities among the key actors, priorities that are again shifting with the recent plunge in oil prices. Add in a resurgent Iran free of the most onerous sanctions—a game-changer in its own right—and a chaotic Middle East will continue to drive global security concerns in 2016. I’m bracing for a lot of Middle East talk at Davos this year.

Solving Problems of the Global Commons

The backdrop for Davos is the undeniable emergence of a G-Zero world, where no one country wants to take on the responsibility of leading the global order. Sadly, it makes sense. In the short term, countries have lots of incentive to stay out of problems that don’t directly concern them. China, for example, has steered clear of the Syrian war, giving it room to write checks around the world and expand its global footprint. But as Europe and the unfolding Syrian refugee crisis have shown this past year, unchecked problems will continue to grow until they spill over, at which point it’s too late for any one country to solve them alone. There’s a reason why the word “tragedy” is so often paired with the word “commons” in international relations.  

As bad as Syria is at the moment, the single biggest “global commons” problem facing the world today is climate change. We’ve passed the tipping point. The Paris Climate Conference last month was a step in the right direction, but it still falls short of the global response needed to avoid the catastrophic effects of climate change. But there’s reason to be more hopeful about climate change than about Syria. At least with climate change, people understand how to fix the problem. They just don’t want to pay for it. Here, technology can help. By making alternative energies cheaper and more reliable, we can slowly wean ourselves off our self-destructive carbon habit. But it will require more coordination than the world has so far shown itself capable of.

***

In a fragmented world, the WEF is the most global venue to seriously discuss these critical questions. At the heart of this year’s meetings is the evolving nature of technology, how it is uniting the world in some ways and fracturing it in others. There’s always a presumption that people will adapt to whatever the world throws at them, and that’s true… until it isn’t. Each revolution is bigger and faster than the previous one, and our current tech revolution is the biggest and fastest one we’ve seen. We know technology can be a force for both good and bad; what matters is how it’s channeled. I’m looking forward to see what we come up with at Davos.

Ian Bremmer is president of Eurasia Group, global research professor at New York University and foreign affairs columnist at TIME. You can also follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

 
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