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January 3, 2024

What to expect from Davos 2024

The World Economic Forum is returning to Davos this month. From AI to global security, what are the key themes this year?

By Livia Giannotti

Every year since 1971, the World Economic Forum has brought together major international organisations, governments, global companies and civil society members to embrace ‘an attitude of openness and cooperation’. It takes place each year in Davos, a town in the Swiss Alps whose name has become a shorthand for the annual meeting of international power players. The 2024 edition of the World Economic Forum is taking place from January 15 to January 19.

[See also: How should UHNWs protect against the risks of AI?]

The last forum was focused on conversations around better cooperation within a fragmented world, with key topics including the climate crisis, the Ukraine war and the state of the global economy. VIP speakers included Volodymyr Zelensky, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Ursula von der Leyen. Still, warnings about the threats of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and global interconnected crises were on everyone’s lips. This is what to expect from Davos 2024.   

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What is the theme for Davos 2024?

The World Economic Forum has confirmed the 2024 theme will be ‘Rebuilding Trust’, focusing on  ‘the fundamental principles driving trust, including transparency, consistency and accountability’. The forum has announced that the overarching question for leaders this January will be, ‘Will the coming year be a period of ‘permacrisis’? Or will 2024 be a time for resolution and recovery?’

[See also: Is this the death of Davos?]

More specifically, along with climate change and global security questions, the topic of Artificial Intelligence and technological safety will be at the forefront of this year’s discussions. This has long been an area of interest for CEO and founder Klaus Schwab. In 2016, Schwab published the book The Fourth Industrial Revolution, which led to the creation of the forum’s Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution – C4IR – focused on improving technology governance globally.

The ‘inevitable’ focus on Artificial Intelligence at Davos

The hypergrowth of technologies, AI in particular, has been a predominant topic across all industries in 2023. The inherent risks of this advancement are a potential threat to the world as we know it, with ultra-high-net-worth individuals being ‘particularly vulnerable’.

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In November 2023, the AI Governance Alliance (a branch of the World Economic Forum dedicated to ensuring responsible growth for AI) met with 200 leaders from the AI community to discuss the best ways to guarantee a safe transition to new technologies. The main outcome of the conference was a consensus among members on the importance of a robust international AI governance framework – which sets the scene for further robust discussion in January.

Matthew Lane, the co-founder and director of cyber security firm XCyber, tells Spear’s that ‘whilst it is inevitable that Davos 2024 will discuss AI risks, it is likely to focus primarily on the positive benefits the technology can bring.’ For Lane, AI’s application to other fields such as medicine or cybersecurity will be at the forefront of this year’s forum and is likely to spark debate, as he believes ‘the greatest risk in respect of AI is failing to utilise it effectively for the huge potential benefits it can bring for global society.’

What to look out for during Davos 2024

A consortium of AI investors and researchers has announced the creation of AI House Davos, to ‘bring together policymakers, industry leaders, investors, and academics to lead the global conversation on AI’, a spokesperson tells Spear’s.

[See also: Who will win and lose in the AI revolution?]

‘It’s no overstatement to say that AI will likely be the dominant topic in Davos 2024, with the eyes of political and business leaders fixed on the rapid development of this revolutionary technology,’ the AI House Davos spokesperson said. Their programme includes conversations around the specific applications of AI to medicine and business, and discussions about the role of investors in innovation. They will also host talks on the balance between AI regulation, innovation and experimentation.

However, more topics can be expected at Davos 2024, with the World Economic Forum working on monitoring and promoting new technologies such as autonomous vehicles, environmental innovations, digital trade and blockchain. Other areas of focus will include the themes of ‘achieving security and cooperation in a fractured world’, ‘creating growth and jobs for a new era’ and ‘a long-term strategy for climate, nature and energy’.

Lane adds: ‘Overall, we may expect the forum to conclude that present and future technology innovations are best capitalised through international public and private sector cooperation, for the benefit of all.’


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