Artificial Intelligence

AI, leadership, and the art of persuasion – Forum  podcasts you should hear this month

Radio Davos podcast booth at Davos 2024

The Radio Davos podcast booth at Davos 2024 Image: Robin Pomeroy

Robin Pomeroy
Podcast Editor, World Economic Forum
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Artificial Intelligence

  • The World Economic Forum has three weekly podcasts.
  • Here are highlights from Radio Davos, Meet the Leader, and Agenda Dialogues.
  • AI and leadership were among the top issues we covered over the last month.

What do world leaders ask Sam Altman when they meet one of the biggest names in the generative AI revolution?

What practical advice does the CEO of recruitment firm Randstad have that could help us all work better and smarter?

Why has Jane Goodall taken a toy monkey around the world to meet millions of people?

All three questions – and so much more – were answered on the World Economic Forum’s podcasts over the last month. Here are some highlights from our three weekly shows, with links so you can subscribe wherever you like to listen.

Radio Davos – the podcast that looks at the world’s biggest challenges and what we can do to solve them

Over two episodes, we looked at the future for generative AI, as described by three pioneers in the industry, Meta’s Chief AI Scientist Yann LeCun, Mustafa Suleyman, co-founder of DeepMind, and Aidan Gomez, CEO of Cohere.

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Here's Yann LeCun on how the science fiction notion of a super-human virtual assistant with us every moment of the day will soon be reality:

Currently [when] we we want to access information, we have to choose which service we use. We go to a search engine, we go on various social media, or, you know, Wikipedia or whatever.

But you'll just have an assistant with you at all times. An assistant that knows you, is your best digital friend, if you want, your personal assistant, which at some point will have the intelligence level of a human, so [it] will basically behave like a human assistant or something close to this. This is not for tomorrow. It's going to take a while.

It won't be like having an assistant, it would be like having a staff of really smart people working with you, and empower you and amplify human intelligence.

Yann LeCun on Radio Davos

You'll be able to talk to it. It will be able to either answer by voice or through a display.

If you've seen the movie Her, the ten-year-old movie from Spike Jonze, kind of not a bad depiction of what this idea of an assistant will be.

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And then eventually those systems will become smarter than us. So it won't be like having an assistant, it would be like having a staff of really smart people working with you, and empower you and amplify human intelligence.

So this may cause everyone to become smarter as a whole. You know, the combination of them and their staff of virtual assistants, if you want. And this this may be a new renaissance for humanity.

The prospect of such a massively powerful technology, widely available, is something that poses some very big challenges. In another Radio Davos episode we asked: AI: Is 2024 the year that governance catches up with the tech?

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One of the guests was Anna Makanju, Vice President of Global Affairs at OpenAI, the company that brought us ChatGPT. Time magazine said this about her: “There’s a good chance that whatever AI regulations emerge across the world in the next few years, Anna Makanju will have left her fingerprints on them.”

Along with OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, she has travelled the world meeting government leaders desperate to know what this new technology would mean for them. We asked Anna Makanju: what kinds of questions do they ask?

A lot of people want to know what the future will look like, which we sort of, we have a glimpse, that's about five months ahead because we sort of know where the research is leading, what kinds of things AI will be able to do that we can't do currently. But at the same time, we are not able to anticipate the exact way that this technology is going to be incorporated, because now that it is out in the world, people are doing things with it that we didn't anticipate, that are often really incredible and creative. And also it's just becoming more and more integrated in society.

But basically every world leader wants to understand how to harness this technology for the benefit of their country, while putting in place guardrails. And people are on different ends of the spectrum about which one they prioritize and put more weight on. But this is kind of the same theme in all of these conversations.

A lot more people are going to be using AI tools. AI is going to be integrated into a lot more workflows at every company. There are going to be AI tools that interact with each other. The proliferation, the novel use and the increase in use is going to lead to some dramatic changes.

Anna Makanju on Radio Davos

We also asked Anna Makanju what we could expect in the coming year:

It's quite likely we will see more capable models that can do more coming out this year. But that's not even what will transform the world the most. It's the fact that... I think I saw some statistic that ChatGPT, even though it's on the front page of every paper on earth every single day, the number of people actually using it is quite low, people who have engaged with it or tried it.

And I think that's going to change this year. A lot more people are going to be using AI tools. AI is going to be integrated into a lot more workflows at every company. There are going to be AI tools that interact with each other. So I think just the proliferation, the novel use and the increase in use is going to lead to some dramatic changes.

Meet the Leader - lessons in leadership

Every week, Meet the Leader asks leaders from business, government and civil society about their thoughts on leadership, and in a special compilation episode, not one, but 12 leaders share what to prioritize in 2024.

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One of them was Sander van't Noordende, CEO of recruitment firm Randstad. Podcast host Linda Lacina asked him for tips on setting priorities:

Sander van't Noordende, CEO of recruitment firm Randstad
Randstad CEO Sander van't Noordende was on Meet the Leader

A very important habit that I have, and it really works well for me, is taking a time out. Taking some time for myself. Taking a blank sheet of paper: what do we need to do as an organization in the next three, six, nine months? Or maybe in the next 3 years sometimes, and I write that down for myself and then socialize with my team to see what's the next agenda that we now need to execute.

These days, there is no strategic plan for five or ten years anymore. So yes, you have to set that aspirational goal.

Sander van't Noordende on Meet the Leader

So taking some time off, not always be in the meeting, not always be out there at the clients' or talking to investors. Those are all very important things. But, you know, take some thinking time, and draft the actions or the agenda for the next couple of months or a couple of quarters or a couple of years, I think is really important.

And he had this to say about goal setting:

You need to know who you want to be 5-10 years down the line. And in these days, there is no strategic plan for five or ten years anymore. So yes, you have to set that aspirational goal.

Agenda Dialogues - the full audio from some of the best Forum events

Every week since the Annual Meeting in Davos, you can download the full audio from one of the panel discussion held there, covering some meaty subjects including macroeconomics, global inequalities, and, yes, AI.

In Earth's Wisdom Keepers, veteran naturalist Jane Goodall said it was possible to persuade people to your way of thinking:

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How do we change the minds of the decision makers of today? I found it's really hard to understand that when people change, it isn't because fingers are pointed at them. It isn't because people shout at them. It isn't because people tell them they're bad and wicked. You've got to reach their heart.

When people change, it isn't because fingers are pointed at them. It isn't because people shout at them. It isn't because people tell them they're bad and wicked. You've got to reach their heart.

Jane Goodall on Agenda Dialogues

They must change from within. For me telling stories, and if you tell the right story, that means you've got to spend a few moments finding out who you're talking to, who are they, do you have anything in common? Maybe you both love dogs or something like that? And, then try and find a way to reach into the heart.

Jane Goodall also explained why she carries her toy monkey wherever she goes:

In case some of you are wondering, that's why I carry around [the toy monkey], he's called Mr H. because he was given to me by a man called Gary Horn. Gary went blind when he was 21. He decided to become a magician. He was told, well, how can you be a magician if you're blind? He said, well, I can try.

If he was standing here, if it was a normal audience of young people, you probably wouldn't notice he was blind. And then he will tell the children, if things go wrong in your life, don't give up. There's always a way forward.

Jane Goodall, Founder, Jane Goodall Institute; United Nations Messenger of Peace, USA, speaking in the Earth's Wisdom Keepers session at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2024 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, 19 January. Congress Centre - Aula. Copyright: World Economic Forum/Mattias Nutt
Jane Goodall and her monkey, Mr H Image: World Economic Forum / Mattias N

He taught himself to paint. He never painted before. He painted a picture of Mr H. He gave me Mr H 32 years ago for my birthday, thinking he was a chimpanzee. But of course, I made him hold the tail. Chimpanzees don't have tails. He said never mind, take him with you where you go, you know I'm with you in spirit.

So he's been with me to 62 countries, and he's probably been touched by, I don't know, millions of people, because I say, when you touch him that this amazing spirit of determination rubs off on you.

Please take a look back through all our podcasts of the last month, and before - there is bound to be something you will enjoy.

Check out all our podcasts on wef.ch/podcasts:

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