Skip to main content

Every January around 3,000 people descend on a mountain resort in the Swiss Alps. But this isn’t a pilgrimage to take in the breathtaking scenery or to jostle for position on the ski slopes. Those in attendance are the leading figures in politics and business from around the world, gathering for the annual Davos convention of the World Economic Forum.

The theme for the 2024 iteration held this week (15-19 Jan) was ‘Rebuilding Trust’, which some have attributed as a follow on to the theme of the 2022 edition ‘Working Together, Restoring Trust’ when the world was gripped in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year’s event was split into four different areas:

  • How AI can be a driving force for global economies and wider society
  • Developing a long-term strategy for climate, nature and energy
  • How to achieve security and cooperation in an increasingly fractured world
  • Economic growth and job creation

Representing the UK delegation was recently appointed Lord and Foreign Secretary David Cameron. His 48 hour presence at the conference was focused on calling for global unity, collaboration and new thinking to tackle ongoing conflicts including in Ukraine and the Middle East.

On the former, Lord acknowledged ahead of Davos: “The world has changed significantly since I first entered government, and we live in very unstable, uncertain and dangerous times. Ukraine is standing up for the rules that keep us all safe. This is why the UK has provided almost £12bn in support to Ukraine. We will stand with them for as long as it takes to achieve victory.”

Away from key discussions on geopolitical tensions and wars, AI unsurprisingly dominated much of the agenda. Open AI’s CEO Sam Altman discussed the future of AI from two different perspectives; firstly arguing that the future of the technology is dependent on the availability of more climate-friendly energy sources.

With close to half of the global population having eligibility to vote in a national election this year, Altman then discussed concerns around the role of AI in spreading disinformation and interfering with election results.

While at first appearing to downplay the risks, Altman did appear to then hedge his bets in a somewhat ominous warning around paying too much attention to what has been before, saying: “I don’t think this will be the same as before. It’s always a mistake to try to fight the last war.”

On a clearly related theme, the potential return for a second term in the White House for Donald Trump following his success in the Iowa caucus was another discussion point dominating the agenda. Interestingly, it was reported that there is a discrepancy between where geographically concerns around this lie, with US executives apparently undaunted by the prospect compared to non-US execs who are much more anxious.

Away from politics, one of the major announcements to impact UK businesses was the news that Google has begun construction on a new £789m data centre on a 33-acre site in Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire. The company claimed the facility would bolster the growth of AI and “help ensure reliable digital services to Google Cloud customers and Google users in the UK.”

Børge Brende, President of the World Economic Forum, brought Davos 2024 to a close by emphasising that the discussions held throughout the week is proof that “co-operation can deliver new results” and that he was positive about seeing progress throughout the year as initiatives discussed translate into action. Only time will tell if this comes to pass.

James Meredith

James is a Director at Liberty Communications

Leave a Reply