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A year in podcasts: the best of Radio Davos in 2023

Four Radio Davos episode thumbnails

In 2023, Radio Davos - the flagship weekly podcast from the World Economic Forum - covered technology, the future of jobs, gender equality and, of course, Davos itself. Image: wef.ch/podcasts

Robin Pomeroy
Podcast Editor, World Economic Forum
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  • Radio Davos is the flagship weekly podcast from the World Economic Forum.
  • It explores 'the world's biggest challenges and how we might solve them'.
  • The final episode of 2023 is a 'best of' compilation of the year.
  • Find all our podcasts at wef.ch/podcasts; Subscribe on any podcast app via this link.
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Radio Davos is a podcast that is as wide-ranging and thought-provoking as the World Economic Forum itself. Rather than being restricted to any one topic, each week, it focuses on a particular issue of global importance, such as macroeconomics, the environment, technology, health, social inequalities, and much more - always seeking solutions to the big problems.

On this final episode of the year, we have a digest of some of the best episodes of 2023:

Davos 2023 Day 5: Inflation, AI, and women of influence

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In January 2023, we were reporting from Davos itself, the town high in the Swiss Alps that hosts the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting.

If you’ve never been to a Davos meeting, and want to get a feel for what it’s like ahead of the next one, you could do worse than listen back to the daily Radio Davos shows. Our Day 5 episode was interrupted by an impromptu musical performance by singer Angelique Kidjo and cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

Welcome to the age of the polycrisis: the Global Risks Report 2023

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Ahead of the Annual Meeting, the Forum published its Global Risks Report, an important survey of what are seen as the biggest risks in the short and long terms. In this episode we discussed the trending word "polycrisis".

Peter Giger, Group Chief Risk Officer at Zurich Insurance, said that, rather than entering a world of unusual volatility, we were, in fact, returning to instability-as-usual:

If you look at human history, what we experience today seems not so out of the norm when basically stability is something that was not observed in history for very long periods of time.

Peter Giger, Group Chief Risk Officer, Zurich Insurance

"First of all, it seems to be the time where we invent a word for everything we haven't seen. And maybe the perception is a bit flawed because more likely we're coming out of an era of almost unnatural stability that we saw for maybe 15, 20 years. Because if you look at human history, what we experience today seems not so out of the norm when basically stability is something that was not observed in history for very long periods of time.

"Having said that, we've built a world that that produced a lot of wealth for a lot of people through connecting, through trade, through openness, and now all of a sudden we realise that the foundation for all of that wasn't strong enough to really secure the benefits that we thought we had. And we are confronted with the fact that we may lose some of the benefits that globalisation has produced over the last 20 years."

The rise of AI and the green transition will transform the way we work: Future of Jobs Report 2023

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Another big report from the Forum is on the Future of Jobs, and, in 2023, everyone was wondering what impact artificial intelligence would have on that.

Forum Managing Director Saadia Zahidi had this to say about the impact of AI and of the green transition on the world of work:

"When it comes to some of those macro trends. There are some very positive ones. So it's clear that the investments in the green transition will be very positive for jobs. It's clear that ESG standards and their widespread application across different companies and industries is again likely to add to a growth in jobs.

"And then when it comes to the subject of the day, which is really technological change and how fast companies are adopting technologies, I think that's where the picture is a bit more mixed. For about half of companies, they expect the outlook for jobs to be very positive, but a quarter of companies expect the outlook for jobs to be quite negative.

"Now, that's a combination. It really depends very much on very specific technologies, but it's not quite as positive as the green transition and not quite as negative as some of the economic trends we see."

I don't think there's any job that's not going to be impacted by some form of technology in the next 3 to 5 years.

Jeff Maggioncalda, CEO, Coursera

Jeff Maggioncalda, CEO of Coursera, said it would be hard to overstate the potential impact of AI on jobs:

"I don't think there's any job that's not going to be impacted by some form of technology in the next 3 to 5 years.

"So now we're pretty much all in the same boat here, whether you are a factory worker or on the front lines or whether you're a knowledge worker sitting behind a desk, technology is shifting the way almost every job task will be performed.

"I think the ones that are estimated to not have a big impact are like stone workers, slaughterhouses, certain nurses and care aides. I mean, things where you physically have to be touching things in a non repetitive way. But really there's a very, very wide range of jobs that will be redefined by this technology."

AI: Why everyone's talking about the promise and risks of this 'powerful wild beast'

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AI was everywhere in 2023, following the release of ChatGPT a few weeks before the start of the year. The World Economic Forum convened two summits on the governance of artificial intelligence and created the AI Governance Alliance. Radio Davos published a five-part series on generative AI, speaking to experts in the industry, academia and in policymaking.

Pascale Fung, Professor at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, coined the expression that we used in the title of the first episode, calling AI a "powerful wild beast".

"Today, these large language models there are like these powerful wild beasts, right? We need to have algorithms and methods to tame such beasts and then to use them for the benefit of humanity.

"I am worried that the deployment is going too fast because we're deploying systems that we don't understand 100% the ramification of. We don't necessarily have to explain the AI system that we deploy in minute detail to everybody who's going to use it. But we need to have the confidence that we can mitigate the harm before we release the system into the wild."

Beyond AI: the top-10 tech of 2023 set to change our lives

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Artificial intelligence wasn’t the only technology that caught our attention in 2023. In July we published an episode called Beyond AI: the top-10 tech of 2023 set to change our lives, looking at the Forum’s annual report highlighting the Top 10 Emerging Technologies that will change our lives in the next 3-5 years.

Mariette DiChristina, Dean and Professor of Journalism at Boston University College of Communication, told us about "wearable plant sensors":

"The idea is you get a non-invasive sensor that can monitor resistance in the plant and by doing so and tell folks who are watching it, does it have adequate nutrition, how is its water supply and is it getting enough sun.

"And the difference here is going from being able to take very low-quality satellite pictures of a field down to exactly what's happening, one plant to the next.

"This will enable us to help feed the world."

Disease X - how the world can stop the next pandemic

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One emerging technology highlighted in a previous edition of that report was something called genomic vaccines or mRNA vaccines. A promising idea at the time, it went on to underpin the majority of vaccines created to defeat the COVID pandemic.

In July, we spoke to Kate Kelland, author of a book on how we might prepare for the next novel disease.

If we do that kind of homework on every one of the 25 or so viral families that we already know have the potential to cause disease in humans ... then we can actually gain a lot of knowledge ahead of time about something that doesn't exist yet.

Kate Kelland, author, 'Disease X'

"Of course, COVID-19 was a disease X before it got its own name. You're right, it was a novel disease. We had never seen it in humans before. But the truth is it came from a family of viruses and that family of viruses included Sars, the original Sars, Mers, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, which emerged in 2012 and also includes a number of viruses that cause the common cold.

"So in fact what we had done before COVID emerged was we'd actually done quite a lot of work on finding out about a virus that didn't exist yet.

"And so essentially what this book is saying is that if we do that kind of homework on every one of the 25 or so viral families that we already know have the potential to cause disease in humans - so each one of those families has already produced a virus that can can jump into humans and has jumped into humans - then we can actually gain a lot of knowledge ahead of time about something that doesn't exist yet."

Below the Belt: the movie that lifts the taboo on endometriosis

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Far from being a 'novel' illness, endometriosis has been around pretty much forever and affects many millions of women around the world, but it usually goes undetected and untreated.

Filmmaker Shannon Cohn, who suffered from the condition herself, told us that whenever she screens her documentary 'Below the Belt', 100% of women in the audience say they have, at least once, been disbelieved when seeking medical help:

"I can guarantee you every woman listening to this podcast right now, if if you were to ask her, 'Hey, have you ever gone to the doctor and somehow felt discounted in what you said about your body, about your symptoms?' Almost 100%, if not 100% would say, yes. It is a universal experience as a woman to somehow be doubted directly or indirectly about symptoms that you have when you go into a health care provider's office.

"We have screened this film every continent except for Antarctica, they're holding out on us so far. And I ask audience members, who has not been believed? Without fail everybody raises their hand and smiles because it's you know, it's a common understanding, even though it's not funny. But yes, it's a universal situation."

For more on gender inequality, check out the Forum's Global Gender Gap Report 2023, and our podcast episode, How COVID and cost of living hit progress on equality: the Global Gender Gap Report 2023.

Quality over quantity: why the time has come for 'value based health care'

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One way of improving health care, argues Meni Styliadou, Founder and Co-lead of the Health Outcomes Observatory, is to shift from systems that value procedures to ones that measure and improve patient outcomes. So-called "value based health care" is not a new idea, but its time might be only coming now, Styliadou said:

"It's a huge change of the system. And it is a really big change of the way hospitals operate, of the way health care professionals are being rewarded. to a certain extent.

"So it is a massive change. And governments decide to do these big changes, where there is a big opportunity or a big threat of some sort.

"And in that case, we may actually be reaching that tipping point because we are, as a society, we are ageing, the health care expenditure continues rising, and as a society, we can't quite afford the same type of health care.

"But it needs a crisis because such a big change often requires some type of crisis, or some type of huge innovation. In the case of health care, I actually believe that we are approaching this tipping point because we have a bit of both.

"So on one hand, we have the crisis. The crisis is emerging everywhere. On the other hand, we also have the technology innovation which comes through digital technologies."

For more on that, visit the Forum's Global Coalition for Value in Healthcare.

"Not just sticks of carbon" - how growing trees for the climate must also benefit biodiversity

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Climate change is one of the main topics covered on Radio Davos, an issue that certainly fits the bill as one of the world's greatest challenges, in search of a range of solutions.

In this episode, environmental scientist Tom Crowther explained why, as we tackle the immense threat posed by climate change, biodiversity must not be overlooked. His own research into the potential of trees to store more carbon, he said, must not be interpreted as a manifesto to plant unnatural monocultures - something that would be counterproductive.

"This idea of mass tree planting really just exploded. And it led to a huge amount of controversy because obviously academics and scientists and NGOs all across the planet were outraged: mass tree planting has nothing to do with global restoration and the recovery of ecosystems.

"And yet there's this really dangerous idea that companies are just going to go, okay, we'll carry on emitting our carbon, bang a few trees in the ground and everything's done.

"Not only would that probably damage the ecosystems that they're planting in, it would be devastating because ongoing greenhouse gas emissions would continue to limit the sustainability of those ecosystems in the long term ... This threat of greenwashing is an insidious threat, and it has undermined the entire environmental movement."

For more on climate and nature, visit the Forum's Centre for Nature and Climate.

Check out all our podcasts

In addition to Radio Davos, we have a range of other podcasts, find them all at: wef.ch/podcasts

In particular, don't miss Meet the Leader, about the practical experience of leading an organisation to make big impacts. Subscribe on any podcast app via this link.

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Related topics:
Forum InstitutionalEmerging TechnologiesHealth and Healthcare SystemsNature and BiodiversityJobs and the Future of WorkGeo-Economics and Politics
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