Science at the World Economic Forum is about inspiration, solutions and collaboration. First and foremost leaders come together in Davos to address global challenges. Science has a critical role to play helping leaders understand why we have these problems, and increasingly leaders are looking to science for possible solutions. World leaders can also learn a lot from scientists in their ability to disagree, cooperate and compete constructively.
For these reasons alone, scientists need a seat at the table and a platform to share their views on global affairs and more. But Davos also gives scientists a forum to see where outcomes of studies or experiments might be of use to solving challenges in business, politics and society that they may not have been aware of. In Davos there are no talks – every session is a dialogue. Scientists do not come to Davos to preach, they come to engage. It’s through these interactions with the diverse range of participants from business, government, international organizations, civil society, religion and the arts that new insights are formed.
From cancer immunotherapies to the future of computing
This year Davos will welcome an extraordinary number of renowned researchers, acclaimed academics and stars in their fields, from autonomous robotics pioneer William “Red” Whittaker, to 2015 Breakthrough Prize winner Jennifer Doudna, whose work is hailed as the beginning of the end of genetic disease. Participants will hear from Nobel laureates such as Kostya Novoselov on what the supermaterial graphene means for the future of computing, and Mario Molina on how to fight climate change denial with evidence.
Participants will learn about the latest research, from quantum computing to cancer immunotherapies, from the future of antibiotics to stem cell therapy to end blindness. There will be a special series of discussions to explore what billion-dollar brain research initiatives are teaching us about emotional disorders, neurodegenerative disease, decision making, behaviour and mindfulness. And in a series of sessions designed in partnership with leading universities, participants will discover, debate and develop cutting edge ideas on topics from A.I. and robotics to the human microbiome.
Above all, Davos is an opportunity to spread the core values of science, such as embracing doubt in these complex and uncertain times. Richard Feynman, a 20th century theoretical physicist and great promoter of science to the public, once said “science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.” A healthy dose of scepticism about what we think we know and what others are telling us is true, might be just what we need to combat the dogmatism and fanaticism that appears on the rise in so many parts of the world.
Author: David Gleicher is Senior Programme Manager, Science and Technology, at the World Economic Forum.
Image: A scientist works in the laboratory of Professor Henry Markram (not pictured) head of the Human Brain Project during a media tour after a new conference at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) in Ecublens, near Lausanne January 29, 2013. REUTERS/Valentin Flauraud