'Future world' art exhibition at the ArtScience Museum in Singapore.
Emerging Technologies

Davos 2023: What you need to know about technology

Deep dive

The pace of technological change has increased in recent years, here's everything you need to know. Image: Unsplash/Robynne Hu

Forum Agenda
Writer, World Economic Forum
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  • Collaboration is key to unlocking the promise of emerging technologies for solving the world’s problems, and tackling the perils of cyberthreats.
  • Leaders at the World Economic Forum’s 2023 Annual Meeting discussed how 4IR technologies can build resilience and drive innovation in a fragmented world.
  • Here's what you need to know about the sessions on technology for good at Davos and the Forum's impact.

"Metaverse" was one of the Oxford words of the year 2022, although it’s been in the Oxford English Dictionary for 30 years, from its inception in the 1992 sci-fi novel Snow Crash.

Its use has quadrupled over the past 12 months and Neal Stephenson, who coined the term, appeared in Davos at a session on Building the Metaverse.

At the 53rd Annual Meeting from 16-20 January 2023, the World Economic Forum demonstrated the second prototype of its purpose-driven "home" in the metaverse: the Global Collaboration Village.

Agenda

A vision for a Global Collaboration Village

It's designed to provide immersive spaces for leaders to come together and take action to solve some of the world’s biggest challenges. Participants were transported into the ocean to learn about the power of mangroves to protect coastlines and people.

Watch the press conference with the Forum's partners, Microsoft and Accenture, here.

Such collaboration is key to making good on the promise of emerging technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) to help reach the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and create a more equitable and inclusive future.

It will also be crucial to overcome the perils posed by cyberthreats as well as gaps in technology governance and digital skills.

Key sessions on Tech for Good at the Annual Meeting 2023 in Davos

The Forum's Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (C4IR) held more than 100 tech-focused sessions during Davos, across AI, biotech, the metaverse, quantum computing and other areas.

Here are some of the key sessions and takeaways.

In the face of a challenging decade, technology can be a critical tool in the transition to a cleaner, safer and more inclusive world. How should leaders be thinking about the strategic opportunities for technology to be an accelerator of progress in this new context?

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In the face of global shocks and fragmented systems, collaboration is essential to unlock the value of data for society.

This session considered how examples of data collaboration for public good can be scaled internationally and applied across domains.

As artificial intelligence moves from analyzing existing data to creating new text, images and videos, how will these improvements shift the augmentation versus automation debate and what implications will it have for industries?

For me generative AI has a major potential to extend the human mind ... I think we have an opportunity to tackle the largest questions that we have not been able to answer yet.

There's a lot of room for creativity and fear.

Refik Anadol, Media Artist

The confluence of rising cyberattacks and a complex geopolitical backdrop creates an increasingly challenging environment for decision-makers to predict, prioritize and respond to cyber risks. How can leaders foster a more secure and resilient digital ecosystem to prepare for future cyber shocks?

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Discover

How is the Forum tackling global cybersecurity challenges?

Quantum technologies have massive potential in a wide array of domains, from finance to energy. With these technologies holding the promise of unleashing new discoveries, security and performance, how close are we from a true quantum revolution of industries?

According to Amy Webb, CEO of Future Today Institute, the tipping point is some way away - this is a long term technology, and there are three drivers to acceleration:

- the first is technology advancement and components that are still maturing. There will be no single day when quantum happens, it's a transition to get there

- the second driver is adoption. This is a critical emerging new technology, but a large part of what will drive adoption is cost effectiveness.

- the third driver is commercialisation: it's not enough just to have a mature technology, says Webb, but you need an eco-system to support it. Executives need more familiarity and understanding before it trickles down to the organisation.

As energy systems undergo once-in-a-lifetime transformations, what solutions are needed to unlock high-priority applications for digital technologies at scale?

If and when we want to maximize our decarbonization, we have to electrify significant manufacturing processes... This is not going to be possible without significant digitization of the entire energy system.

It becomes an increasingly difficult challenge to maintain stability of the grid, and that's a digital challenge.

Pekka Lundmark, President & CEO, Nokia

Over 100 nations are exploring central bank digital currency (CBDC) and each has a different motive for implementation, now exacerbated by geopolitical fragility and financial instability. Panelists discussed what we can learn from countries that have implemented CBDC solutions and how they can provide resiliency in the face of global risks and the high-inflation, low-growth, high-debt economy.

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Read why Nadella thinks the golden age of AI is good for humanity here.

While the metaverse is still in its infancy, investment in its development has accelerated with top global players investing an estimated $180 billion in the past few years. The technology's development is dependent on research, innovation, investment and policy. How can a safe, accessible and economically viable metaverse be operationalized?

Is it going to be the decentralized, bottom-up organic growth model versus the top-down approach? Each has its advantages. In my way of thinking, it doesn't happen unless you create an open system that's analogous to the early web - where anyone who's interested can latch onto a shared protocol and begin to build what they want to build in that world.

Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash author

As the biotech revolution continues to unfold, there is a landscape of potential for these technologies in medicine, food and materials. What are the most investable technologies for industry deployment in the next decade?

We are not bad when it comes to the technology [in Europe] but we do need to give the regulatory framework a real overhaul, sooner or later. In this area there is a huge opportunity for collaboration. We need the marriage between the tech providers, the academics and major companies that need to change.

Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen, Chief Executive Officer, Novo Nordisk Foundation

The deepening climate crisis calls for urgent action on climate adaption and climate mitigation. AI can be leveraged for adaptation use cases such as wildfire prediction, modelling climate threats for businesses, or migration due to extreme weather. This session asked what are the most promising AI applications to drive action on climate adaptation?

The global energy mix remains highly carbonated despite efforts to date and the existence of key energy solutions that can make a difference in addressing the energy and climate crises. How can we best leverage established and emerging energy technologies to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050?

New technologies to generate insights without exposing
the underlying data is ushering in a new era for value
creation in the digital economy. From mapping the
genome to reducing the carbon footprint, how can
business leaders unlock value from data collaboration at
scale?

Technology in numbers

7.7bn

The number of people who will have a smartphone by 2027

35.5bn

The amount of US dollars invested into quantum computing by governments and businesses globally

2.7bn

The number of people who are still offline.

20%

The emissions reduction potential of new technologies.

Reports, initiatives and announcements on tech for good at Davos 2023

The Global Cybersecurity Outlook 2023 examines the cybersecurity trends that will impact our economies and societies in 2023. The report includes the results of new research on how leaders are responding to cyber threats now and provides recommendations on what leaders can do to secure their organizations in the year to come.

  • Cybersecurity is increasingly influencing how and where businesses invest with half re-evaluating the countries they do business
  • 93% of cybersecurity experts and 86% of business leaders believe global geopolitical instability is likely to lead to a catastrophic cyberattack in the next two years
  • Lack of skilled cyber experts is a threat to business and societies with key sectors such as energy utilities reporting a 25% gap in critical skills.

Watch the press conference here.

The first outputs of the Forum's Defining and Building the Metaverse Initiative were presented, with briefing papers on Interoperability in the Metaverse from the governance track of the project, and Demystifying the Consumer Metaverse from the value creation track.

Watch the How to Build a Metaverse for All press conference here.

The EDISON Alliance shared its first impact report highlighting the number and nature of lives improved across 90 countries through the 1 Billion Lives Challenge.

Watch the EDISON Alliance: From Promise to Progress press conference here

A snapshot of technology in 2023

The rapidly emerging technologies of the 4IR have the potential to reduce emissions by up to 20% of the net-zero goals and allow billions of individuals to enjoy access to health, education or financial services for the first time.

But with a recession widely forecast in 2023, this potential will only be realized with continued investment.

It’s predicted that, by 2027, 7.6 billion people will have a smartphone. But 2.7 billion people are still offline today, according to the UN - and this digital infrastructure also needs investment.

"Ultimately, digital technology is the key enabler for the broad set of challenges business and governments face. It is one of our most important toolkits for future success," says Derek O’Halloran, Head of Shaping the Future of Digital Economy and New Value Creation in the Forum's Digital Transition Framework white paper.

It identifies six key pillars of private-public collaboration that are critical to maximize the speed of a responsible digital transition:

1. Digital and sustainable transformation of industries

2. Strategic development of new technologies

3. Universal adoption of digital services

4. Digital skills and human capital

5. Trust, security and protection

6. Cross-border trade and cooperation

However, trust in digital technology used by businesses and governments has hit an all-time low, despite the adoption of internet-connected devices accelerating in recent years, spurred by an uptick in digitalization during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Data Free Flow with Trust: Overcoming Barriers
    to Cross-Border Data Flows
  • Decentralized Autonomous Organizations Toolkit
  • State of Connected World Report 2023 Edition
  • The Next Frontier in Fighting Wildfires: FireAId
    Pilot and Scaling
A graphic showing a framework for digital trust.
How to rebuild digital trust. Image: World Economic Forum

Meanwhile, artificial intelligence (AI) adoption has plateaued in the past few years, despite doubling since 2017, according to McKinsey’s Global Survey on AI, published in December 2022.

Among other insights, McKinsey finds that those companies adopting AI are still gaining a competitive advantage; a shortage of tech talent is still a pressing issue for companies, so half of them are reskilling existing employees instead.

And although AI usage has grown, there have been “no substantial increases in reported mitigation of any AI-related risks” since 2019.

A chart showing the range of AI risks that organizations are working to mitigate.
These are the AI risks organizations are working to mitigate against. Image: McKinsey & Company

The Forum's Global AI Action Alliance (GAIA), is bringing together more than 100 companies, governments, civil society organizations and academic institutions to accelerate the adoption of responsible AI in the global public interest.

With children and young people increasingly exposed to AI that is shaping their world, the Forum has built a toolkit to help companies, designers, parents, guardians, children and youth make sure that AI respects the rights of children and has a positive impact in their lives.

Must-reads about technology and the Forum’s impact

A graphic showing how quantum computing is superior to classical computing.
How quantum computing differs from classical computing. Image: World Economic Forum

This report makes the case digital technology is the key enabler for the broad set of challenges businesses and governments face and should be a strategic priority for policymakers and industry leaders.

Quantum computing could be a gamechanger for our ability to tackle climate issues, hunger and disease. Government and business investment has reached $35.5 billion globally, but the technology is undermined by cybersecurity concerns and unrealistic business expectations. The Forum’s State of Quantum Computing: Building a Quantum Economy gives advice for leaders and policy makers on how to prepare for the technology once it matures.

The Network supports the Forum’s climate and industry initiatives and communities to scale digital solutions for low carbon, circular and sustainable industries. The Digital Solutions Explorer offers a starter guide on 30+ digital solutions to accelerate industry climate action.

The Alliance brings together around 50 leaders with the aim of enabling everyone to participate in the digital economy. Through the 1 Billion Lives Challenge, the Alliance is bringing together digital inclusion commitments from governments, companies, and other organizations across the globe - to improve 1 billion lives through affordable and accessible digital solutions across health, finance, and education by 2025.

The internet needs to be a safe and secure space for all. The Forum’s Global Coalition for Digital Safety is bringing together a diverse group of leaders to accelerate public–private cooperation to tackle harmful content and conduct online. The Global Principles on Digital Safety intend to answer the fundamental question: “How should human rights translate in the digital world?”.

Digital twin cities, such as the one created by Singapore, promise to create safer, more efficient, sustainable environments. But the technology is still being developed. The Forum’s Digital Twin Cities report provides policy recommendations based on effective practices around the world.

In collaboration with Accenture, PwC and KPMG, the report sets out a framework and roadmap to rebuild trust by ensuring technology serves individuals and society by addressing everything from safety and transparency to interoperability.

During Davos, the Forum launched the Centre for Trustworthy Technology in Texas.

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Contents
Key sessions on Tech for Good at the Annual Meeting 2023 in DavosTechnology in numbers Reports, initiatives and announcements on tech for good at Davos 2023 A snapshot of technology in 2023 Must-reads about technology and the Forum’s impactMore technology stories on AgendaTechnology videos to watchTake our technology poll

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