“We are not the prisoners of a predetermined future,” John Kerry said at Davos on Thursday, as world leaders discussed just what that future should look like -- from the fallout of the Fourth Industrial Revolution in Mexico to feminism at work and the fault-lines running through the Eurozone.
In a special address, the US Secretary of State outlined three main challenges facing the world in 2016: good governance, opportunities for young people, and winning the campaign against the “exploiters, liars and criminals” who are twisting “a great religion”. Secretary Kerry said that “important steps had been taken” in bringing together governments in the Middle East and agreeing the steps to put an end to conflict in Syria:
Against a background of rising populism, he called for the world to resist the divisive rhetoric of extremists:
For Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto, building a resilient society means preparing the population to take advantage of the digital tools of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Luckily, the constitution is on his side.
The world of work may be changing, but some problems stay the same. We all know that women still get paid less than men for the same work, and that the problem starts young. We just weren’t aware quite how young, until Sheryl Sandberg introduced the concept of the “toddler wage gap” to a packed plenary hall in the session “Progress Towards Parity.”
“We assign our chores to our children in the United States, and it can be worse in other parts of the world… The boys are taking out the trash, it takes less time than cleaning the dishes and they get bigger allowances. We start out in our homes with these very different expectations and the time spent on these tasks is incredibly important.”
In the same session, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau explained the work that went into unveiling the world’s first 50/50 gender-balanced cabinet when he took power last year. He had to overcome women’s reluctance to put themselves forwards, launching a grassroots campaign called “ask her to run” and even resorting to “arm-twisting”.
Trudeau's politics have a personal dimension. He described how his wife took him to one side and encouraged him to “take as much effort to talk to his sons" about how they treat women and how they are going to grow up to be feminists "just like Dad.”
On a less uplifting note, European leaders debated whether the continent is at a tipping point. “It’s a mess,” David Miliband of the International Rescue Committee said of the refugee crisis. Faced with the biggest migration influx in a generation, Europe’s leaders seem unable to cope – and it’s testing the EU’s core values.
Instead of working together, policy-makers are choosing to turn inwards, said France’s economics minister, Emmanuel Macron.
But the "gated communities" approach does nothing but exacerbate the problem, argued Miliband, who once served as Britain’s secretary of state for foreign affairs.
The EU’s ongoing economic crisis is being handled with more determination and unity, Mario Draghi of the European Central Bank told participants in another session: “This union has become closer and closer, through one crisis after another,” he said. “All European leaders are trying to drive their people closer to the common European interest, in a way that is respectful of democracy.”
On the other side of the Atlantic, the political situation is just as fraught, said Kevin Spacey. Politics should be about “people coming together to really accomplish amazing things – it’s what we witness here at Davos,” the Oscar-winning actor explained. But the political landscape in the US was “slightly more depressing”.
But he still has faith in his country: “The US generally gets it right eventually. And I think we’ll probably get it right in the end.” In a one-on-one session, he went on to discuss everything from technology to education.
Later in the day, participants explored a completely different topic: advances in neuroscience that mean we might soon be able to read people’s minds. How would people feel about government authorities, their doctor or their spouse knowing what they’re thinking and accessing their memories? According to the poll carried out ahead of the session, very few people like the idea. Unfortunately, as Nita Farahany explained, we might not have much of a choice.
Make sure to tune in tomorrow for more livestreams from the final day of Davos 2016.
The Annual Meeting is taking place in Davos from 20 to 23 January, under the theme “Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution”.