Readers have their say on the state of the World Economic Forum, home buying in lockdown, cancel culture, and the nature of disagreement
SIR – Since Klaus Schwab launched the World Economic Forum (WEF) in 1971, the event has grown in scope and stature. It has also lost its way. Famous rich men arriving in Davos on private planes to discuss climate change, sexism and inequality has increasingly hampered the WEF from asserting its relevance or justifying its existence.
It needs to be a world economic forum worthy of the name.
World: come down from the Swiss mountains to where the planet’s future is really being shaped. Whether the Europeans who have so far dominated the WEF discussion like it or not, the driving force today is Asia. Make this year’s foray to Singapore the first of a series of global destinations – each being an opportunity to showcase a region and its trends.
Economic: with hindsight, ceding the stage to Kevin Spacey in 2016 was a low point. In a bid for stature, the Forum strayed from its topical roots, featuring not just business leaders but celebrities – and the distracting media circus that follows them. Scaling the event down to refocus on stakeholder capitalism would be a significant step to clawing back its credibility.
Forum: as the event has grown in scope, so its ability to get participants to reach agreement on cooperation and commit to tangible action has dissipated. The WEF’s virtual event, Davos Agenda Week, is a start. Now use technology to record and track progress against agreed actions.
Return with vigour to the WEF’s original mission: positive change.
SIR – The desire to create a strong family base, in light of the pandemic lockdown, is more popular than ever. There is a real focus on work-life-family balance and what that should provide in the new world as we emerge from lockdown.
With many buyers looking for the quintessential edge-of-village Georgian house in a few acres where everyone can be under one roof, the smarter money is looking in the lesser-known fringes of geography for properties that can be adapted accordingly.
The ‘concertina house’, which can expand and contract according to the number of its occupants, is a growing request of late among my client searches, when looking for a home across Oxfordshire & Gloucestershire.
Disrupting the conventional model for how we live and operate around the property, providing connectivity between spaces, for different generations and purpose, I believe is the way forward to future-proof the desirability of the homes we create.
Calling out cancel culture
SIR – In response to your article ‘Reputation management in the time of cancel culture’, I did agree in most part with the content of the article, and in particular the comments made by Mark Borkowski, a mentor, colleague and friend of mine. However, I did feel that it missed an important takeaway.
The inexorable rise of social media, allied with the influence of Gen Z, has changed the game of reputation management. PRs such as myself, whose clients are household names, are acutely aware that reputation damage can happen. People should be accountable for their actions: Harvey Weinstein is a prime example.
Cancel culture has been created by Gen Z. Their view is that if they play a part in giving someone fame and attention, and they slip up, they have the right to take their stardom away. It is especially prominent when someone shows racist, homophobic, misogynistic or transphobic traits.
However, increasing number of Gen Zs now believe it has become too extreme. The right thing in this digital day and age is not to be quick to judge. It is up to reputation managers, allied with sensible Gen Zs like my daughters, to push back against the extreme nature of cancel culture and create a more forgiving call-out culture.
CEO, Burr Media
SIR – I read the interview with Professor Sunetra Gupta on the subject of the Great Barrington Declaration and her personal experiences around being a contributor to it. It highlights a growing concern that I have, which is the growth of ad hominem responses to, and the construction of non sequiturs from, viewpoints that are not in line with one’s own beliefs. In a landscape where the evidence on which we make decisions is changing fast, we must show epistemic humility.
Also, we ought to recognise that when experts voice arguments and interpretations that are not aligned with our own, sometimes disagreement is not founded on reason. As Ali Almossawi said in An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments, ‘Logic does not generate new truths, but rather allows one to evaluate existing chains of thought for consistency and coherence.
It is precisely for that reason that it proves an effective tool for the analysis and communication of ideas and arguments.’
Dr Magda Osman
Queen Mary University of London