Global Cooperation

7 experts attending Davos share what’s on the horizon for 2024

The 2024 Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum takes place from 15 - 19 January in Davos, Switzerland.

The 2024 Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum takes place from 15 - 19 January in Davos, Switzerland. Image: World Economic Forum/ Benedikt von Loebell

Abhinav Chugh
Content and Partnerships Lead, World Economic Forum
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Global Cooperation

This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting
  • The 2024 Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum takes place from 15 - 19 January in Davos, Switzerland.
  • In 2023, the word “polycrisis” was on everybody's mind as leaders deliberated the cascading and connected challenges of the moment. Today, these crises persist, but new challenges are also beginning to emerge on the horizon for 2024.
  • Top experts from various backgrounds attending Davos provide their horizon scans to identify potential threats, promising opportunities and emerging trends to guide decision-making.

The programme for the 54th Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum embodies a “back to basics” spirit of open and constructive dialogue between leaders of government, business and civil society. The goal is to help connect the dots in an increasingly complex environment and provide foresight by introducing the latest advances in science, industry and society.

We’ve asked leading authorities coming to Davos about the challenges and opportunities in their domains of expertise. They’ve shared insights on the incoming disruptions and emerging trends transforming their worlds in the form of horizon scans using the World Economic Forum’s Strategic Intelligence. These experts will dig deeper into these horizon scans during dedicated briefings at the meeting; readers can use the virtual programme to find out more.

Andrew Ng, Founder, DeepLearning.AI

It’s essential to regulate applications, not the technology itself.

“Sensationalist statements about hypothetical harm related to artificial intelligence (AI) tend to get amplified, while relatively little attention is paid to thoughtful, balanced statements about actual AI risks. There are likely problems lurking in many applications – for example, systems that can emotionally manipulate people for profit.

It’s important to differentiate between regulating applications (which we need) versus regulating the technology (which is ill-advised), however. Regulations that impose burdensome requirements on open-source software or on AI technology development can hamper innovation, have anti-competitive effects that favour big tech, and slow our ability to bring benefits to everyone.

We should take a tiered approach to regulating AI applications, according to their degree of risk. Doing this effectively requires clear identification of what is actually risky (medical devices, for example, or chat systems potentially spewing disinformation). Some regulatory proposals use an AI model’s size, or the amount of computation used to develop the model that determines related risk. But this is a flawed approach. Both small and large AI models are capable of doing things like providing bad medical advice or generating disinformation.”

World Economic Forum horizon scan transformation map for Andrew Ng, DeepLearning.AI; showing AI challenges.

Joyeeta Gupta, Professor of Environment and Development in the Global South, University of Amsterdam

Governments have signed international treaties protecting investors’ rights at the expense of the environment.

“Phasing out fossil fuels has different implications for different countries. Governments in developing countries have a strong economic incentive to exploit these resources. These countries are also disproportionately impacted by climate change, however, so this could exacerbate their predicament.

Relentless exploration, extraction and export, coupled with extensive infrastructure development, not only intensifies climate impacts for these places, but also exposes them to spiralling debt and the risk of stranded assets. In “least developed” countries, new fossil fuel discoveries present particularly tempting economic prospects. The resulting revenue streams remain elusive, however.

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Developing countries have the potential to leapfrog, by replacing fossil fuel supply with renewable energy sources. But merely adding renewables to the energy mix is inadequate. A comprehensive transition is needed – one that is just, equitable, and inclusive. So, developing countries need more financing, debt relief (or restructuring) and instruments such as debt-for-climate swaps.

For decades, governments have signed international treaties protecting investors’ rights at the expense of the environment. This is particularly true for the Energy Charter Treaty – an international agreement for energy cooperation, which enables investors to sue countries over related losses. Governments must therefore exit the Energy Charter Treaty and modernize all agreements that exist to protect investments in fossil fuels.”

World Economic Forum horizon scan transformation map by Joyeeta Gupta, University of Amsterdam; fossil fuels, climate change

Iqbal Dhaliwal, Global Executive Director, Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL)

Proven interventions can improve election integrity, fight misinformation and strengthen democracy.

“2024 will be a record year in terms of the number of people going to the polls around the world, including in the US, India, South Africa and Indonesia. These elections must be fair and inclusive, and voters should be able to make informed choices. There is rigorous evidence available to guide this process. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have found that increasing transparency, including via technologies used for election monitoring, can improve perceptions of an election’s legitimacy.

Traditionally marginalized groups must be brought into the political process as full participants; civic education programmes, women’s self-help groups, gender quotas and social protection programmes can help achieve this. Providing people with access to information about candidates’ policy positions and politicians’ past performance can increase turnout for less corrupt, more qualified and better-performing officials. Voters must be able to weed out competing misinformation.

Researchers are using RCTs to test a range of approaches – from fact checking to media literacy training, to adjusting online algorithms. Emerging evidence, combined with what we know from RCTs of voter education programmes, suggests that prior beliefs and social identities make it challenging to correct misinformation — but that accurate information can be impactful when widely disseminated from a credible source.”

World Economic Forum horizon scan transformation map by Iqbal Dhaliwal, J-PAL; AI, misinformation, climate change, refugees.

Nita Farahany, Robinson O. Everett Professor of Law and Philosophy, Duke University

Public education about the pros and cons of cognitive constructs should be actively promoted.

“Generative AI and neurotechnology can create and manipulate cognitive constructs – images, sounds, text, or emotions – that can affect our perception, attention span, memory and judgment. These constructs can be designed to exploit our cognitive biases and vulnerabilities and induce addictive or compulsive behaviour.

Public awareness and education about the positive potential and possible pitfalls of cognitive constructs and addictive design should be actively promoted. Meanwhile, ethical and legal norms and standards should be developed and enforced. This should be coupled with incentives to nudge legacy tech companies towards design that enhances cognitive liberty.

All of this should form part of the aims of public-private partnerships designed to protect the integrity and autonomy of human thinking and behaviour.”

World Economic Forum horizon scan transformation map by Nita Farahany, Duke University; AI, diversity & inclusion, misinformation, technology regulation.

David Victor, Professor of Innovation and Public Policy, University of California, San Diego (UCSD), USA

An emerging approach to propelling the energy transition: effectively sidestepping legacy institutions.

“Meaningful action on climate change requires at least a measure of international coordination and governance. But traditional global governance, dominated by massive institutions like the UN and the WTO, is no longer viable. Meanwhile the G7, and even the broader G20, face their own mounting challenges when it comes to effectively addressing global issues.

A new approach, championed by a small group of forward-thinking governments and companies, is gaining traction. It focuses on pioneering innovative technologies and ideas, testing them at limited scale, then disseminating them globally. This new approach is already evident in many industrial sectors, including aviation, shipping, steel and nuclear power.

As it increasingly demonstrates an ability to hasten the energy transition, this approach shows how the world can address other global governance challenges without relying on the legacy institutions that have not been up to the task of late.”

World Economic Forum horizon scan transformation map by David Victor, USCD; global governance, climate change, big government.

Cecilia Malmström, Non-Resident Senior Fellow, Peterson Institute for International Economics & Former Commissioner for Trade, European Commission

De-risk, compete, cooperate?

“Global dependence on rare earth and critical minerals is poised to increase dramatically as the energy transition picks up speed. Materials including lithium, nickel, copper and cobalt are necessary for the green transition – specifically for things like powering wind turbines and the batteries at the heart of electric vehicles.

A choice has emerged between global competition in this arena, or global cooperation – but, how to cooperate? China dominates the processing and extraction of rare earths and owns many mines and facilities both domestically and abroad. Establishing new mines in Europe and US has provoked some scepticism, as it is likely to be expensive and environmentally messy.

Conceivably, raw material alliances could form, and cooperation could develop on more sustainable extraction. It is likely that additional export controls (and resulting retaliation) are possible, not just when it comes to rare earths but also for some of the vital technologies they are used in, like semiconductors.”

World Economic Forum horizon scan transformation map by Cecilia Malmström, Peterson Institute for International Economics; global trade, rare earths, China, climate change.

Shaktikanta Das, Governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI)

Against an unsettled global economic backdrop, the Indian economy has been a picture of relative resilience and momentum.

“Rebounding from a COVID-induced contraction of 5.8% in 2020-21, to 9.1% growth in 2021-22, 7.2% growth in 2022-23, and expected growth of 7.3% in 2023-24 and 6.5% during 2024-25, India’s economy is the world’s fastest growing. Its fundamentals remain strong: fiscal consolidation is on course, external balance is eminently manageable and foreign exchange reserves will provide a cushion against further external shocks.

Investment activity remains strong, with unparalleled opportunities for both foreign and domestic investors as India is poised to become the new growth engine of the world. India’s contribution to world growth is currently around 15% and is expected to rise further.

It’s currently the 5th largest economy in the world by GDP, but in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms (using a common currency or basket of goods to compare countries) India is already the third largest economy. At the heart of India’s potential lies a demographic advantage unlike any other: a vast and growing young population. This translates into a readily available pool of skilled people, primed to fuel innovation and growth across various sectors in years ahead.”

World Economic Forum infographic of horizon scan by Shaktikanta Das, RBI; Indian economy, inflation, fintech.
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Related topics:
Global CooperationDavos AgendaClimate ChangeArtificial IntelligenceEnergy TransitionTrade and InvestmentFinancial and Monetary Systems
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