CEO Club Briefing

Societal Challenges

Excerpt from remarks to Boston College Chief Executives Club

September 20, 2017


How has the mission evolved? What is your number one, top-of-mind mission today for the World Economic Forum as it stands today, after the more than 40 years of success that you’ve had convening and changing policy and kind of shedding light on things the world should be doing together? How would you and your staff talk about—what is the mission and strategy today as you go forward into the next generation?

I would maybe differentiate my answer. Let me give you three answers on three different levels. First, I think it’s so important—I come back to the fourth industrial revolution—to become aware of what makes us human. Eric Schmidt in Davos said look, the next decade will be the fight between robots and humans, and I’m afraid robots will win. So, if we want to win this fight, we have to know what is actually—what makes us different as humans. For me, cultural values are very, very important.

That’s the reason why I was so happy yesterday, for example—the special celebration, similar event—I had to introduce Lang Lang, who is an old-standing friend. Yo-Yo Ma, who is a Boston citizen—he’s a member of our board of trustees. So, values—because at the end, it’s not only values. It’s also the issue of the values we stand for, like personal freedom, market systems, democracy, and so on—how to preserve those values in a world of, let’s say—again, I have to be cautious—some politicians who do not necessarily stand up for those values? That’s number one.

Number two, if you ask me what is your next challenge, we have two new projects. The first one is cybersecurity. We are just now creating a platform—a global platform for cooperation between business and governments to create more robust and more resilient systems. And very interesting—when we started to conceptualize this idea after attack, I went to see Prime Minister Netanyahu. I wondered whether I should talk to him about this project, because I know how sensitive Israel is in terms of national security. I said, Prime Minister, this is our new idea, and he said, it’s exactly what we need. We give you full support. In the meantime, we have aligned already quite a number of governments, agencies, and so on, private companies, to work together on a global level to create, let’s say, higher robustness, but also to create possibility of best practices because of the exchange and so on.

And the other project—I remember quite a number of years ago, I had a mentor. His name was Raymond Barre, who was a French prime minister. He told me already 20 years ago, I foresee the time when the world employment will not exist anymore. It’s mainly self-employment—self-employment as a social entrepreneur or self-employment—I see here some of our tech pioneers. We have also a group of tech pioneers inside the World Economic Forum. So, to create entrepreneurial ecosystems is very important. And one contribution which we are doing now is we are just in the process of creating a global platform for startups. There are local platforms, but we are in the process of creating a global platform for startups to help those startups to move up faster than they do today.