Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum
Excerpt from remarks to Boston College Chief Executives Club
September 20, 2017
TAKEAWAY: World Concerns
You’ve just come from the UN and obviously talk to global leaders, presidents, leaders of countries all the time. Many people would say not since the ’60s and the Cold War has the world been in kind of an unstable position, with things going on in North Korea, with a lot of, let’s say, income inequality and issues facing the globe that are causing tensions between countries. What do you see in the upcoming forum—what are the issues we have to address? What are the challenges? And what do you see as hope for the future?
I think what we are seeing—if I would have to describe my concerns at the moment, I would say there are three major concerns, which we try also to integrate into our programs. The first one is that we are clearly in the transition from a unipolar to a multipolar world, not just with China but India, other countries coming up, and we will see hopefully—I’m always an optimist—we will see a renaissance also of the European Union, with Macron and with Mrs. Merkel re-elected next Sunday.
So, we are going into a multipolar world. Unfortunately, in this multipolar world, we have also a multiconceptual world—countries, powers which have different concepts of life, of political life particularly, as we do have. So, we are in an area of conflicts, and this is certainly a dangerous time. But I go back—I’m German and Swiss, but when I grew up during the Cold War, I remember that my mother always had a number of gold coins in her purse to leave the city we were in in a matter of some hours or some minutes if the Russians would come. I mean, the world was always full of tensions.
I’m more concerned, frankly, about the possible negative impact of the fourth industrial revolution, which means the fast technological development which offers enormous opportunities to solve most of the problems we have in the world—poverty, disease, and so on—but which at the moment is a major contributor to what we call this—in the past, we talked about the proletariat in the first industrial revolution. Now we talk about the precariat, which means all those people who feel in a precarious situation because they feel threatened with the technological progress.
So, my big concern—and we are very engaged. We just opened half a year ago with great success a campus in San Francisco to look at the implications of the fourth industrial revolution. So my big concern is how do we master this revolution to make sure that we use the opportunities and we make sure that this technological progress remains human centered? That’s my second one.
My third one is the issue of inclusiveness. Again, here the technological and economic development of course creates more a polarized society. So those are more or less the key issues which we have to face at the moment.