Climate Crisis

Space, cyberspace and climate change: the best of Radio Davos over the last year

the best of Radio Davos podcasts

Radio Davos heard direct from space - hear the 'best of' our podcasts from the last year Image: Yang Shuo on Unsplash

Robin Pomeroy
Podcast Editor, World Economic Forum
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Climate Crisis

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  • Radio Davos is the World Economic Forum's weekly podcast.
  • Climate change, gender equality and the impact of technology are just some of the big topics explored over the last year.
  • This episode features some of our best audio from the last 12 months.
  • Find all our podcasts at wef.ch/podcasts.

The World Economic Forum publishes a range of podcasts, and this episode of Radio Davos gives you a flavour of what to expect from:

Radio Davos: the weekly podcast that looks at the world's biggest challenges and how we might solve them.

Meet the Leader: in-depth interviews with leaders about leadership.

Agenda Dialogues: audio of some of the high-level discussions hosted at the World Economic Forum.

World Economic Forum Book Club Podcast: discussions on books and interviews with world-class authors.

The best of our podcasts - a transcript

Robin Pomeroy: Welcome to Radio Davos, the podcast from the World Economic Forum that looks at the biggest challenges and how we might solve them. This week, we're celebrating the last 12 months in podcasts, during which time Radio Davos has taken you from the frozen waters of the Arctic...

Lewis Pugh: When you're lowering yourself down that ladder into water which is zero degrees and you're about to go for the swim, it's very, very hard, mentally and physically.

Robin Pomeroy: To outer space.

European Space Agency: European Space Agency, this is Mission Control Houston.

Samantha Cristoforetti: This is Station. Welcome aboard the International Space Station.

Robin Pomeroy: We've looked at the biggest problems, from climate change...

India Logan-Riley: Wildfires, sea level rise, wildfires suffering, sea level rise, biodiversity loss, sea level rise. Emissions continue to rise.

Robin Pomeroy: To economic turmoil.

Lewis Pugh: Stagflationary environment, where you have stagnation from an economic perspective and still elevated inflation.

Robin Pomeroy: The war in Ukraine.

Lewis Pugh: The escalation of the tension between the two great nuclear superpowers is a dramatic historical departure.

Robin Pomeroy: The global gender gap.

Saadia Zahidi: If this is the moment that businesses start rolling back on gender parity, they cannot hope to grow their way out of this crisis. Of course, gender parity is good for business.

Robin Pomeroy: And what technology will mean for our jobs.

Stuart Russell: If technology could make a twin of every person on Earth, more cheerful and less hungover and willing to work for nothing, how many of us would still have our jobs?

Robin Pomeroy: Subscribe to Radio Davos wherever you get your podcasts. Please leave us a rating and a review, and join us on the World Economic Forum Podcast Club on Facebook. I'm Robin Pomeroy at the World Economic Forum. And with this look at the best of our podcasts from the last year.

Adam McKay: Holy God, this is now.

Robin Pomeroy: This is Radio Davos.

Radio Davos is about to go on its summer holidays. But before we do, I thought this would be a good moment to take a deep breath and look back on an eventful 12 months.

The podcast that looks at the world's biggest challenges and how we might solve them guided you through the climate summit COP26, looked at how Russia's invasion of Ukraine changed all assumptions about the world's recovery from the pandemic, and spoke to many of the world's sharpest minds about how humans can take on some of the toughest problems we face.

Please take a chance to listen back through our weekly shows and indeed our daily shows, because we went daily when we were at the first Davos meeting that the World Economic Forum has held for over two years, that was in May.

On this episode, though, just a flavour of the diversity of stories we've covered over the last 12 months, on Radio Davos and on our sister podcasts, Meet the Leader, Agenda Dialogues and the World Economic Forum Book Club Podcast.

Climate change and COP26

So let's start with climate change.

COP26 - the 26th Conference of the Parties to the UN Climate Change Convention happened in November. Billed as the 'last best chance' to save the world from climate catastrophe. The jury's still out on whether it achieved that. At the start of the conference, Maori climate activist India Logan Riley said that despite all the promises of the Paris climate agreement, humans were still failing spectacularly to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

India Logan-Riley, climate activist: Six years ago I first spoke these stories into this space and every year since I have repeated the same words: wildfires, sea level rise, wildfires suffering, sea level rise, biodiversity loss, sea level rise. Emissions continue to rise.

I'm the same age as these negotiations. I've grown up, graduated, fallen in love, fallen out of love, stopped and changed a couple of careers along the way. All while the global North colonial governments and corporations fudge with the future.

Hands and minds made this present world. And so it is also hands and hearts and minds that can remake it.

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Have you read?

Robin Pomeroy: As part of our climate coverage on Radio Davos, we spoke to a 'futurist', Peter Schwartz, chief futures officer at the software company Salesforce. He's worked for, as well as Salesforce, the US military, and even advised Hollywood on the plausibility of science fiction films. I asked him to set out the possible futures we now face due to climate change.

Peter Schwartz, Peter Schwartz, Futurist & SVP of Strategic Planning, Salesforce: There are really three very different plausible scenarios for the future of climate change.

We are already in a period of climate change. It's already begun. We see it in the kind of extreme weather that we've been experiencing around the world in recent months. You know, massive forest fires, huge floods, big storms, etc. These are all symptoms of climate change. So the first scenario is that we are not very effective in dealing with it and preventing it, and what we see is that the current pattern continues to grow. That is, we will see gradually average temperatures rising, but more importantly, we will see significant variation around the trend, weather extremes will be ever more extreme and more common. So we'll have more severe storms, more floods, more droughts, more winter freezes that will be more extreme.

That's that's the first scenario. And that's the result of not doing very much effective about it. Frankly, that's where we're going right now. That is the scenario we're headed toward. So, call it a century from now, the average temperature will have gone up in centigrade. I'd call it about three degrees centigrade. Call it almost six degrees Fahrenheit. Really bad catastrophic scenario.

The second scenario is where that many of the mitigation measures that we're doing now actually begin to work. That is, that we reduce the emissions of human industry in human society. We reduce the amount of CO2 and other greenhouse gases like methane that we're putting into the atmosphere. And gradually we and we do a pretty good job of it, we slow the rate of climate change enough that we can adapt. That is, that the world can adapt more effectively to it. So we have a bit less extreme and a little less climb in average temperature. And so call this a kind of 'adaptability scenario' where in effect we're good enough to slow it down, but we still have significant climate change. So that's not a great scenario, but it's not catastrophic.

The third scenario and the best case is where we actually go negative on greenhouse gases. That over the next 20 or 30 years, we begin to figure out how to radically reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. We do a great job of, say, reforestation of the planet. That's the kind of thing over a couple of decades can make a big difference. And we radically reduce our emissions, we move to electric vehicles, we radically reduce the amount of carbon dioxide from coal and other fossil fuel burning and so on. And then we go negative in greenhouse gases. That's the best case scenario. That's where we actually draw down the CO2 and we begin to actually reduce the impact of climate change. And so we'll call it a century from now, a century and a half, we will have gotten the earth back on a much more benign climate trajectory.

The climate changes all the time, but we don't mind if it changes slowly over many, many centuries. What we don't like is if it changes really fast in undesirable directions over a short period of time. The climate will evolve, but it will be the natural, normal, many centuries cycles of climate change.

Robin Pomeroy: Some very interesting possible scenarios. Could I just ask you one or two questions about what it's like being a futurist, or a futurologist. I thought a futurist was someone from a German art movement.

Peter Schwartz: Futurist.

Robin Pomeroy: You leave off the 'ology'. I did all my research. I looked up your Wikipedia page! And it says you did climate change scenarios for the Pentagon. So the the world's militaries are looking at climate change. Why do you think that is?

Peter Schwartz: Well, look, when the world gets disrupted, there are often national security threats, famines, just to take a very real example. Extreme storms that disrupt societies. Really benign things. If you're the U.S. Navy, you've got ships in harbour. Those ships have to go out under bridges. If the sea rises four or five feet, suddenly your ship can't get out to sea. That's a real concern.

Robin Pomeroy: Further down on your Wikipedia page it says you've actually advised on certain movies, Minority Report, the one that interested me was War Games, one of my favourite films. When a Hollywood script writer or movie producer comes to you, what do they say to you in terms of what can you help us with?

Peter Schwartz: Well, in that case, it was two writers, Larry Lasker and Walter Parkes, came to me with an idea for a movie. Then we began to discuss it, and it evolved into what became War Games. It was originally a movie about a boy and a scientist, and I said, look, if you're a boy today, you're starting to play computer games, you're a kid hacker, you know? And the context is, in fact, nuclear war. Those were the big issues.

And I'll tell you an interesting story. We only learnt something quite recently. A book was recently published. I mean, this is a great example of how scenarios work. A book was recently published on the history of nuclear deterrence and how it all worked. And it turns out, unbeknown to us as a scriptwriters or even anybody working on the film, the film was shown to Ronald Reagan at the White House. It turns out that Larry Lasker's mother, Mary Lasker, was a very close friend of Ronald Reagan and said, 'My boy Larry just made a great movie. You ought to show it at the White House.' And so Larry's mom got it shown to Ronald Reagan. And so Reagan watched it in the White House theatre with his military attache, the military adviser. And he turns to his adviser and says, 'Oh, you know, at the end of the movie, you know, could this actually happen?' And the adviser says to Reagan, 'Mr. President, you don't know. It's even worse than this.' Now I won't go into the details. It's all laid out in the book. But they realised that there were ways in which you could inadvertently, by computer, trigger a war, and it led to policy change in how the deterrence system actually worked. So it had a really quite remarkable - here was an early warning scenario that led people to rethink literally how the system works. Now, truth is, we were aiming to entertain and make people think a bit. So we actually got Ronald Reagan thinking a bit.

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Robin Pomeroy: Salesforce futurist Peter Schwartz on the power of predicting the future and averting global catastrophe.

As I record this in the summer of 2022, millions of people in the northern hemisphere have experienced record high temperatures, raising awareness of climate change. Radio Davos spoke to someone who has felt global warming even the coldest parts of the world. Lewis Pugh is an extreme swimmer who has braved the freezing waters of the North Pole to raise awareness of the risks posed by melting ice caps.

Robin Pomeroy: The sound of a man swimming in the sea. But this is no normal beach holiday. This is Lewis Pugh, and he's swimming in freezing water near the Greenland town of Ilulissat

Lewis Pugh, endurance swimmer: Everything when you look around you, there are icebergs and there's brush ice and everything is telling you you shouldn't be getting in there. But when you're lowering yourself down that ladder into water which is zero degrees, and you're about to go for the swim, it is it's very, very hard, mentally and physically.

Robin Pomeroy: Lewis isn't just an endurance swimmer. He's also UN patron of the oceans. And he's been swimming in the Arctic since 2003 to shine a light on how global warming is already changing our world.

Lewis Pugh: When I did my first swim in the Arctic, and I did this in the Norwegian Arctic and was right on the edge of the Arctic ice packs. The water was three degrees centigrade. I went back there 12 years later and the water was no longer three degrees. centigrade, it was now 10 degrees centigrade. We just think about that. It's gone from three degrees to 10 degrees centigrade in just 12 years.

I'm swimming in the water. I'm in the ice. And I've been in the ice for the last 18 years. And I'm seeing the changes and I'm feeling it. And every single degree of water temperature which goes up or goes down has a huge difference. I mean, if I swim in water, which is zero or I swim in water, which is three, that is an enormous difference.

So I think it's important to use storytelling to convey a message about what's happening to the planet. Data and science are absolutely crucial. But we are moved not necessarily by data, but by human stories of what is happening and how this will be impacting all of us.

Greenland is so far away from everybody, except obviously the people in Greenland. But to realise that what is happening there will impact every single person on this planet, every future generation, the whole of the animal kingdom.

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Don't Look Up

Robin Pomeroy: Lewis Pugh. Now talking of the power of storytelling, to communicate an important message. The movie Don't Look Up used the metaphor of a massive comet hurtling towards Earth to examine humans' apparent inability to acknowledge and combat the threat of climate change. I spoke to its writer-director Adam McKay.

Before we hear some of that interview, here's a clip where scientist Leonardo DiCaprio is trying to explain the situation to the US President and her idiotic chief of staff, played by Jonah Hill.

Leonardo DiCaprio: If this comet makes impact, it will have the power of a billion Hiroshima bombs. There will be magnitude 10 or 11 earthquakes.

Jonah Hill: You're breathing weird. It's making me uncomfortable.

Leonardo DiCaprio: Sorry, I'm just trying to articulate the science.

Jonah Hill: I know, but it's, like, so stressful, I'm, like, trying to, like, listen and you're, like...

Leonardo DiCaprio: I don't think you understand the gravity of the situation.

Adam McKay, film maker: I would say it's a big, ridiculous comedy about two scientists trying to warn the world that a death comet is going to hit. And they're trying to warn a world that is much like the world we live in right now in 2022. So, yeah, it's a comedy and then it's got some dramatic, tragic elements to it as well.

Robin Pomeroy: So your inspiration for this movie, I believe, was climate change. You were reading a book and it suddenly dawned on you what an awful situation humanity's in. Maybe you can tell us a little bit about that, but I'm just curious to know why didn't you make a movie about climate change? Why did you turn into this kind of allegory and turn it into a meteorite strike?

Adam McKay: Yeah, I had read the U.N. climate report about four years ago, I had read David Wallace-Wells's book Uninhabitable Earth, which I highly recommend. And I had this moment where I realised the climate crisis, which I always thought was very serious and something we had to deal with, but I always kind of thought it was 50 years away, 80 years away - for my grandkids. And I started reading this and going, 'Holy God, this is now!'

The models have all been too optimistic, and it's impossible to model a system as complex as planet Earth when you talk about turning the heat up the way we're doing it. And I got very scared very fast and I realised - well, you know, I'm a guy who makes movies, so I got to make a movie. I mean, no matter, you know, if I made sandwiches, - well that doesn't quite work - I was going to say I would have made a 'climate crisis sandwich'. I guess you could.

Robin Pomeroy: You could, I'm sure. Depends where you source your products, doesn't it?

Adam McKay: Yeah, you're right, you're right. So anyway, I started kicking around ideas and I had about five different ideas and some felt overly dramatic, there were some that were kind of thrillers with a twist. And in every case I just kept thinking, I know the audience that will see this, and I don't know if it's enough. I think, you know, we know we can talk to a certain audience. And it was my friend David Sirota, who's a journalist and a former speechwriter for Bernie Sanders, he and I were commiserating about the lack of coverage of the climate crisis on our mainstream media. And he made an offhanded joke about how it's like the movie Armageddon, only the asteroid's going to hit and no one cares. And I laughed and then for like two weeks I couldn't shake the idea, I kept thinking about it. And finally I called him and I was like, 'David, I think that's the idea.' And he kind of laughed at me like, 'Yeah, right!' But that was it.

Meryl Streep: Call it 70% and let's just let's move on.

Jennifer Lawrence: But it's not even close to 70%.

Meryl Streep: You cannot go around saying to people that there's a 100% chance that they're going to die. You know, it's just nuts.

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Robin Pomeroy: Meryl Streep as the president of the United States talking to a scientist played by Jennifer Lawrence in Don't Look Up.

First Movers Coalition

Robin Pomeroy: You're listening to Radio Davos with our look back over some of the best episodes of the last 12 months. So far, we've mostly looked at climate change. Let's hear one more clip on that. At COP26 in Glasgow, the World Economic Forum teamed up with the US climate envoy John Kerry to launch the First Movers Coalition, a group of companies committing to create the demand for and supply of carbon neutral products and services, big energy intensive things such as steel, cement and shipping. Here's John Kerry.

John Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate: For the first time in a massive way the private sector is at the table and, frankly, leading in the way that even some governments are not. But you're going to make this happen because there isn't enough money in any government in the world to effect this transition. It can only be achieved if this kind of initiative takes hold and many times more, obviously.

So you are genuinely first movers. Every single one of you. You're pioneers in this transformational moment.

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And there are uncertainties. Fifty percent of the emissions reduction that we will get between now and 2030 is, according to the economists and scientists, going to come from innovations that are not yet at scale, from technologies that are not yet at scale, that have to be brought to scale in order to get where we're going.

And what the First Movers Coalition is achieving is the creation of markets. I mean, this is a big transformation. It's a big deal.

It's a such a simple proposition. Volvo says we're going to buy X%, 10% of our vehicles going to be made with green steel. And so all of a sudden people making green steel know, hey, there's somebody out there waiting to buy this. And we create this energy where the market says, this is where things are going. Same thing with trucking or steel or shipping. Maersk says, we're going to buy, first of all, they've ordered eight new carbon free propelled ships which allow ship builders to say, you know what? There is a market there.

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Ukraine

Robin Pomeroy: US climate envoy John Kerry on the First Movers Coalition, part of our wide coverage of COP26 and climate change.

In February 2022. Russia invaded Ukraine, starting a war that has global repercussions. At the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in May, the first in-person Davos meeting for more than two years, thanks to the pandemic, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke by video link. Here he is, speaking through an interpreter.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of Ukraine: This is really the moment when it is decided whether brute force will rule the world. If so, the force is not interested in our thoughts and there is no need for further meetings in Davos as there would be no reason. Brute force seeks nothing but the subjugation of those it seeks to subdue. And it does not discuss, but kills at once, as Russia does in Ukraine just as we speak. And what it brings to the world, it inspires other potential aggressors to act. Instead of successful, peaceful cities, there's only black ruins. Instead of normal trade, sea full of mines and blocked ports. In Ukraine, instead of tourism, closed skies and thousands of Russian bombs and cruise missile.

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Robin Pomeroy: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaking at Davos in May.

We've covered many angles of the war here on Radio Davos, the refugee crisis, the impact on food and fuel prices and supply. And to look at the geopolitical implications, we heard from the historian and economist Adam Tooze. Here he is speaking just ahead of the Davos meeting.

Adam Tooze, Director, European Institute, Columbia University: Clearly the war in Ukraine, Russia's war in Ukraine, is top of stack. It's the most dangerous potential for escalation that we've seen in a long time.

It's less, as it were, the shock, the almost civilizational shock that Europeans are feeling at the sight of conventional warfare and the destruction of cities on European soil, which, after all, unfortunately, has been the lot of people in the Middle East for some time, in part as the result of our doing, that I think should concern us. But the fact that it is now the announced strategy of the Western alliance led by the United States and emphatically led by the United States, successfully led by the United States, to inflict a defeat on Russia. And that may be desirable, and it's hard not to wish for that, but it is an astonishing objective.

In the history of NATO, in the history of Cold War relations, this is a very important departure. It may not be entirely unique in that during the phase of the Cold War in Afghanistan, for instance, we intended to attrit Soviet power and humiliate the Soviets. But we did it far more delicately than we're doing in this case. The Stingers were supplied then furtively and undercover, whereas what we're doing now is really just lining up openly and supplying Ukrainians with, at this point not everything they would like, but a remarkable arsenal of conventional weapons with the explicit purpose of stopping Russia's army, which means killing Russians and inflicting a humiliating setback on Putin's regime.

And this is the number two nuclear power in the world. So that is a radical departure in terms of our willingness to bear risk globally. And it has ramifications that we are only just beginning to work our way through.

Even if we reach a ceasefire, if we were to reach a situation in which a ceasefire could be negotiated, let alone a peace, this will remain in the system. Everything Russia at every point previously said about our [the West's] disguised intentions with regard to them has now become manifest. The American president has said that Putin should not be in charge. And our intention at this point is to inflict a defeat on them.

It isn't, as it were, the economic impact of Ukraine, which is severe enough, or the shock to the European system. All of this is very real, but it's also quite local. This more general escalation of the tension between the two great nuclear superpowers is a dramatic historical departure.

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Global economy

Robin Pomeroy: The Ukrainian war has had a big impact on economies around the world, just as they were struggling out of the pandemic. We've had several episodes looking at that, both here on Radio Davos and on our sister podcast Agenda Dialogues, where we've published audio from some of the best discussions from the annual meeting in Davos. Here, for example, is economist Gita Gopinath. She's the first deputy managing director at the International Monetary Fund. This is on the episode of Agenda Dialogues called What Next for Global Growth.

Gita Gopinath, First Deputy Managing Director, International Monetary Fund: The war in Ukraine has been a major setback to the global recovery. We had a serious downgrade to global growth in April. And the world continues to face headwinds because we have a cost of living crisis as prices of commodities, including fuel, food, are going up around the world.

Central banks are trying to tackle this. High levels of inflation are raising interest rates very sharply and that they need to do. But that has consequences for global finance and trade. China is also slowing because of the new waves of infections that are hitting that population and the lockdowns that go along with it. The weaknesses in the real estate sector. So we have a confluence of shocks hitting the world and we are still not out of the woods.

But the point I would also like to make is that this is all happening at a time when we have very divergent recoveries in the world. So we have the advanced economies that, based on our projections, will basically get back to where they would have been in the absence of the pandemic in 2024. So, literally, no output losses. But we have emerging and developing economies that will be around 5% below where they would have been in the absence of the pandemic. And it is this gap that's going along with now a food crisis. Cost of living increases the risk of financial turbulence on a much greater scale. That's really worrisome.

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Robin Pomeroy: Gita Gopinath of the IMF speaking at Davos. You can hear that on the Agenda Dialogues podcast.

Inflation has become a key concern of economists and, coupled with a slowdown in economic growth, that could mean stagflation. We spoke to Gregory Daco, chief economist at Ernst and Young's global strategy consulting arm EY-Parthenon. We asked Gregory Daco about the risk of price inflation and wage inflation causing a vicious spiral.

Gregory Daco, Chief Economist at EY-Parthenon: The idea of a wage price spiral goes back to the late 1960s and early 1970s, where we had an environment in most countries around the world where you had elevated inflation and, as a result, elevated wage growth, and the combination of the two were feeding off of each other, the idea being that in a higher inflation environment employees would essentially have more bargaining power and they would ask for higher wages. Companies facing those requests would then have to essentially take on those additional costs but also pass them on and so they would increase their prices and so you end up with this environment where you're essentially in a higher inflation regime where inflation is no longer trending at a modest 2% clip but it's at a 4,5,6,7% steady state which is very different in terms of the economic consequences because what tends to happen in a high inflation regime is that you have an erosion of growth.

Consumers spend less because in real terms when you adjust wage growth for inflation, where you essentially adjust wage growth for the cost of living, then that is actually declining and so what happens oftentimes is that consumers are less able to spend, businesses are less able to invest and hire, and so there is a natural cutback in economic activity. Leads to slower growth, slower productivity growth and depressed living standards. And that type of environment is something that most authorities around the world, whether it's governments or central banks, really want to avoid. They want to avoid this type of so-called stagflationary environment where you have stagnation from an economic perspective and still elevated inflation on both the consumer price front and the wage growth front. That is definitely something that authorities throughout the world want to avoid.

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Robin Pomeroy: Gregory Daco, chief economist at EY-Parthenon on the Radio Davos episode Can the world avoid stagflation?

The metaverse

Robin Pomeroy: Technology is something we cover regularly on Radio Davos. Don't miss the Top 10 Emerging Technologies of the Year episode from December. It's the second year we've done that.

But it also came up in Davos, where the metaverse seemed to be popping up everywhere. Here's a clip of my interview with Nick Clegg, former UK deputy prime minister and now president for global affairs at Meta, the parent company of Facebook, explaining what the metaverse is.

Nick Clegg, President for Global Affairs at Meta: It sounds a bit like science fiction, but it's also actually a fairly, almost logical evolution in the trajectory of the internet.

If you think, you know, we used to have desktops and then we had laptops and we migrated from laptops and we all walk around clutching a phone in our clammy hands. And then we went from text to photographs and photographs to videos. And now video is now by far - short form videos, in particular - a hugely popular way by which people communicate and share things. About 50% of the content on Facebook is video already.

And all of that is a move towards greater, almost lifelike, embodiment. And the metaverse is the sort of natural extrapolation of that where over time, you and I would be able to put something on the bridge of our nose - not heavy goggles - there'll be glasses then, maybe even something around your wrist to provide more computing power. And we'd be able to talk to each other as holograms, really feeling that we are sitting in the same space even though we're not physically there. So this real sense of embodied presence.

And it's remarkable. It sounds very futuristic, but it's remarkable how much progress has already been made in filling out this dream. I for instance, for several months now, I've been holding my weekly team meetings with my team around the world in the metaverse. Now, we don't look like holograms. We look like, we have a sort of slightly cartoon avatar representations of ourselves. I look suspiciously slimmer and younger, and that's the avatar I've chosen for myself. So you can provide quite a flattering description of yourself. But it nonetheless provides a remarkably lifelike experience because particularly the audio technology's so great, you really do feel that you don't need to raise your voice like people do when they're speaking at a flat screen full of people on Zoom or other technologies presented to you in those passport squares.

So the idea is of an embodied presence. And if you can imagine what can be done with that technology in the future, it would obviate the need for mass commuting into offices, because we'd be able to work together as if we were offices together without having to commute physically.

It would allow teachers to take a class of 12-year-olds to walk around ancient Rome. It would allow a surgeon to educate a group of budding medical students on how to do surgery as if they're right there in the lab.

I think the applications really are very exciting. But you ask in one, five, 10 years. This is a long journey. This is not going to happen overnight. And I think the exciting thing certainly for people like me is that we can have the ethical, moral, societal, regulatory debates now rather than bolting them on as an afterthought, which is what we've done, if you like, with the first kind of wave of the internet, I think we can have those debates, the technological engineering and the kind of ethical, regulatory debates in parallel that will bode well for the future.

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Robin Pomeroy: Nick Clegg of Meta. speaking to me in Davos, the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting.

Radio Davos in space

Robin Pomeroy: So much for cyberspace - Radio Davos also took you to outer space. At that Davos meeting, the Forum linked up with the International Space Station to talk live to astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti. Here she is, in space, talking to New York Times journalist Andrew Sorkin, on the ground in Davos

Andrew Sorkin, journalist: I've never, by the way, interviewed an astronaut in space before, so I want to know what it's been like and what's it like the second time up there? Is it different? Did you bring different things with you? Are you getting better sleep? Just tell us about what what the experience is like.

Samantha Cristoforetti, astronaut: The second time is very different. Not worse or better, but different. I would say that the first time I came to the Space Station as a rookie, it was quite overwhelming, you know, all the way from from launch. It was this influx of new experiences, new physical sensations, new skills that I had to learn, you know, like floating in zero-G and handling this rather complex environment of Space Station and handling the work up there - or up here.

And, and I think if I look back at those, especially the first days and weeks, it was all a little bit of a blur. I didn't have very clear memories. So I was really looking forward to come up here a second time as a veteran astronaut this time and have a little bit more of both cognitive and emotional buffer, to experience this a little bit more in slow motion, and it's definitely been the case. I mean, you know, I didn't have to learn everything from scratch. It came back to me fairly quickly, like riding a bicycle, I guess. And so I had that space in, you know, in my heart and in my mind, to observe the experience and really take note of details and and hopefully also remember it better for for the future.

Andrew Sorkin: Given the challenges that we're clearly facing about inequality and climate change. And we talked about that a little bit down here before we got to you. Can you tell everybody about the purpose of your mission and how you would tell everybody on Earth how you think it's going to ultimately help resolve some of these issues?

Samantha Cristoforetti: Yeah, I think that global big challenges like, obviously, climate change and inequality, are best faced when societies have at their disposal powerful tools. And those tools are knowledge, technologies and ... strong economies.

And so I think that there's two ways of answering your questions. I mean, of course, I could go and go off and tell you about all the space-based assets that monitor the Earth on a daily basis. And some of those are free flowing assets, but some of those are here installed on the external platforms of the International Space Station. Because they benefit from the fact that they have this platform and all the power that is available and the data transfer. And so it was possible to install them here.

So I could go off and tell you that. But I think that one should also have a more holistic perspective and understand that space is really part of our lives, of our technological development, of our scientific advancements, ultimately of our economic resources and the technological and scientific resources that we overall have at our disposal to tackle challenges, especially like climate change.

So as we develop space capabilities and the space economy, that becomes a multiplier of all the technological tools that we have at our disposal to tackle climate change and all the great challenges that face humanity.

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AI: Artificial intelligence

Robin Pomeroy: Earlier in the year, we heard from Stuart Russell, one of the world's leading experts on artificial intelligence. It's one of my favourite episodes already at Davos over the last 12 months, as the professor of computer science at the University of California, Berkeley looks at what are the differences between humans and machines, even as that distinction becomes more and more blurred.

Stuart Russell, Professor of Computer Science and Director of the Center for Human-Compatible AI: If technology could make a twin of every person on Earth and the twin was more cheerful and less hungover and willing to work for nothing, well how many of us would still have our jobs? I think the answer is zero.

And so you have to think, well are there areas where we aren't going to be automating, either because we don't want to, or because humans are just intrinsically better. So this is one, I think, optimistic view, and I think you could argue that Keynes had this view. He called it 'perfecting the art of life'. We will be faced with man's permanent problem, which is how to live agreeably and wisely and well. And those people who cultivate better the art of life will be much more successful in this future.

And so cultivating the art of life is something that humans understand. We understand what life is, and we can do that for each other because we are so similar. We have the same nervous systems. I often use the example of hitting your thumb with a hammer. If you've ever done that, then you know what it's like and you can empathise with someone else who does it.

You don't need a PhD in neuroscience to know what it's like to hit your thumb with a hammer, and if you haven't done it well, you can just do it. And now you know what it's like, right? So there's this intrinsic advantage that we have for knowing what it's like, knowing what it's like to be jilted by the love of your life, knowing what it's like to lose a parent, knowing what it's like to come bottom in your class at school and so on. So we have this extra comparative advantage over machines. That means that those kinds of professions - interpersonal professions - are likely to be ones that humans will have a real advantage. Actually more and more people, I think, will be moving into those areas.

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Robin Pomeroy: Stuart Russell on the Promises and Perils of AI. That's a Radio Davos episode from January.

The Gender Gap

On Radio Davos we have the privilege of working alongside people at the World Economic Forum who are producing world class research on some of the biggest issues. One of those is the Global Gender Gap Report, an annual survey of the inequalities between men and women across sectors and around the world.

This is Saadia Zahidi, head of the World Economic Forum's Centre for the New Economy and Society, which publishes the report, on why gender equality is important for business.

Saadia Zahidi, head of the World Economic Forum’s Centre for the New Economy and Society: Of course, gender parity is good for business. Businesses rely on one of their greatest assets, which is human capital. And if that human capital is diverse, it is likely to be more creative and more productive. If you have very homogenous teams, that's not likely to lead to creativity, and especially now when a lot of businesses are struggling against a difficult economic environment, this is a moment where creativity is needed. And so if this is the moment that businesses start rolling back on gender parity, they cannot hope to grow their way out of this crisis.

And a very similar principle applies to economies as a whole. If you look at the entire makeup of the human capital of an economy, it is very clear that men and women have to be equally integrated into the workforce. And in most parts of the world, the graduate degrees are being obtained in much higher numbers by women than by men. And so especially when it comes to the higher-skilled white-collar workforce, it's very clear that women make up the base of that talent, and so many more of them have to be integrated by employers. And governments then need to work on making that much easier for women and men, for all families, anyone with caregiving responsibility, to be able to join the workforce and to be able to join a workforce that welcomes all of their talent and does not discriminate.

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Meet the Leader

Robin Pomeroy: As well as Radio Davos, the World Economic Forum has a regular podcast called Meet the Leader. On that, my colleague Linda Lacina sits down with leaders of business, politics and wider society to find out what makes them who they are. It's a great listen and often has pearls of wisdom or advice. Here, for example, is Linda talking to Vicki Hollub, the chief executive of Occidental Petroleum, a woman leader of an oil and gas company.

Linda Lacina, host of Meet the Leader: Is there a piece of advice that you've always valued that you thought, ‘I'm so glad I heard that, that's been great for me.’

Vicki Hollub, CEO of Occidental Petroleum: I have a long list of advice. I've had some people who who've really helped me along the way, given me advice. I think that the one that kind of stuck with me for a while was, I was at this women's conference giving a presentation, and when I came off the stage, there was a lady standing there. She came over to me and she said: ‘Vicki, that was great. I enjoyed it. But please don't ever become a man.’

It wasn't to be offensive to the men, but the way I interpreted it was - what got you here, don't lose those skillsets. Don't think you have to adapt. Don't think you have to do things the way men do it just because it's been mostly men that have been CEOs. You don't have to do it their way. You have to do it your way. You have to do it the way that makes sense for you and the way you've been able to get to where you are. Some things you have to leave behind, but always be who you are, no matter what the situation.

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Robin Pomeroy: Vicki Hollub, the CEO of Occidental Petroleum on Meet the Leader, where she also talks about how she sees oil and gas companies' role in the energy transition urgently needed to combat climate change.

The World Economic Forum Book Club Podcast

Robin Pomeroy: During the last 12 months, we actually launched a brand new podcast, the World Economic Forum Book Club Podcast came out of the Book Club on Facebook, which has 200,000 members who discuss books and suggest questions for interviews with the world's leading authors. The Book Club Podcast covers all kinds of books, from business and economy to psychology and fiction. Here, for example, is Turkish-British novelist Elif Shafak, the author of The Bastard of Istanbul and The 40 rules of Love, on why we need to read all kinds of books.

Elif Shafak, author: Sometimes when readers, usually it's male readers, say: 'I'm sorry, I don't read fiction because so much is happening in the world, I want to understand so I follow finance and technology and the latest developments, maybe in neuroscience or politics, in the refugee crisis - what's going on? I need to understand - and therefore, I don't have time for fiction. My wife reads fiction, my girlfriend reads fiction'. And when I hear that, I really feel sad.

The way we compartmentalise knowledge is quite problematic and it doesn't help us. It doesn't do us any good. Inside fiction, there is everything. Inside a novel, there is politics, there's technology, there's psychology, philosophy, there's neuroscience, and there's so much more. But perhaps most importantly, there's emotional intelligence and there's empathy. And I don't know a single person in this world who doesn't need emotional intelligence.

You might be very good at what you're doing, but if you don't nurture your emotional intelligence, you will run into lots of problems when it comes to expressing your own emotions or making connections with the people around you - you know, healthy relationships. Also, I don't know a single person in this world who doesn't need empathy, whether we are dentists, working in the world of technology, students, teachers, artists: we all need emotional intelligence. We all need empathy.

So fiction, particularly, opens up a different part of our brain, and it helps us to put ourselves in the shoes of another person for a few hours, for a few days. That is a very good humbling exercise for the human mind and the human soul. It's good because it gives us a cognitive flexibility that we might not otherwise get.

So all I'm trying to say is: I think it's healthier to read across the board. Let's read fiction and non-fiction, but let's not read always from within our comfort zone, the same type of books again and again, rather than that, I think, multidisciplinary reading, eclectic reading lists, that cover both fiction and non-fiction, that is when we learn the best.

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Robin Pomeroy: Elif Shafak, one of the brilliant writers on the new World Economic Forum Book Club Podcast, find that on all of our podcasts at wef.ch/podcasts and on whichever app you use to hear podcasts. You also heard clips from Meet the Leader and Agenda Dialogues. While Radio Davos takes a few weeks off, why don't you dip into all of those podcasts and listen back to the Radio Davos episodes from the last 12 months and back before then?

Please subscribe to Radio Davos wherever you get your podcasts, please leave us a rating and review and join the conversation on the World Economic Forum Podcast Club on Facebook.

Radio Davos is presented by me, Robin Pomeroy. Studio production is by Gareth Nolan. We'll be back in a few weeks time with plenty more stories about the world's biggest challenges and how we might solve them. But for now, thanks to you for listening and goodbye.

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Related topics:
Climate CrisisGeo-economicsGeopoliticsEmerging TechnologiesGender InequalityArtificial IntelligenceArts and Culture
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