The theme of this year's Annual Meeting, Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution, was appropriate considering the changes that we are facing economically, socially, technologically and politically.
There was a significant focus on Artificial Intelligence and the consensus seemed to be the same in all sessions – it doesn’t have to be either/or. Man and machine can co-exist but there will be a transition period once the market is flooded with robots that can carry out jobs that were once ours.
A Wipro panel discussion on the man versus machine debate captured the thoughts of T K Kurien, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, David Cheesewright, Tim Brown and Erik Brynjolfsson as panelists and Ilha R. Nourbaksh in the moderator's chair. China’s slowing economy and oil prices were two other hot topics.
Here are the top 5 observations that I take away from Davos.
1. We have to make technology work for us. The digital revolution has begun and now, there is no opting out. We must digitize or perish – this holds good even for entire countries. And with this new era of digitization, trust is what will keep companies and economies going.
2. Humans will not be overtaken by machines, at-least not in the next decade. The transition will be tough, especially for the middle class who carry out jobs that could easily be automated. But there will be new jobs created which will require creativity and judgement and cannot be done by machines - yet. Policies will have to change to keep this transition in mind.
3. The world needs and has to create major reforms to become more sustainable. The pace of growth and depletion of natural resources are not mutually exclusive. But sustainability is more than just recycling, it’s about making the economy circular. Climate change discussions will be one of the outcomes of sustainability reforms.
4. Governments and policy makers really need to get creative and adapt to the metamorphosis. Economical situations across the world, terrorism, dipping oil prices and changing technology is creating a sense of displacement which needs to be addressed quickly.
5. Gender diversity remains a key topic. At Davos this year, only 17.8% of participants were women. Public education and skills were two other areas on which there were considerable discussions and push.