Davos Snippets 2018


Greeting all. I haven’t posted anything in quite a while, but I’m kicking TWN back into gear — mostly with brief snippets, snide reactions to vapid political puffery, and some earnest observations.

I’m at the World Economic Forum swimming along side the rich, some famous, and some folks doing good things — like my friend Amar Bakshi who has created one of the most compelling displays, portals transporting Davos Man & Woman to communities around the world that are much less well off. Think refugee camps, troubled parts of big cities, and more.

In the new movie just released, The Final Year, then US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power gets excited by a similar portal display and a VR headset that takes her in to a Syrian refugee camp. Departing she sees the Saudi Ambassador to the UN and pushes him hard to stop whatever other schmoozing he is doing to take the time and see the squalor and bleak conditions of the camp. She tells him that nothing he could be doing at that moment could be more important than that. Perhaps it will be these kinds of virtual reality communications bridges that will help the rich and powerful find empathy with those not here in Davos. Just a thought.

Davos is less soulless than many think. Not everyone present runs hedge funds and is depopulating the future of work. Many attendees are authentic do-gooders, thinking through problems ahead. During the snowmageddon of four feet of snow the first day of Davos buzzing about, I heard (but did not meet) UC Berkeley bioethics professor Jodi Halpern talk rapturously about meeting other high octane minds obsessed with all kinds of governance questions. She and a number of others, including a former ICANN director, were sitting in the back of one of the WEF Shuttles chatting about the gaps in considering social impacts in the rising blockchain mania. Halpern’s passion and seriousness about social outcomes in the future impressed me. It’s one of the few times here that I quietly lurked, just learning from a smart discussion in a shuttle.

But the big story this week is Donald Trump is now here. There were doubts beginning of the week given the government shutdown, but most thought the Trump team couldn’t stay away. This is a defining moment for the Forum and for Trump. Does he try to piss on the Davos crowd? or try to ally with them in solving big problems? Does his America First thumping continue to alienate global partners – or does the world and the Davos elite bow down obsequiously? We will see. He speaks tomorrow, and I’ll be there.

Tonight is the famed George Soros dinner, at which last year he dubbed the government of Hungary’s Viktor Orbán as a ‘mafia state.’ Am sure he will offer pungent commentary tonight, which I hope is on the record.

More soon.

— Steve Clemons


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