Davos Agenda

Building trust amid uncertainty – 3 risk experts on the state of the world in 2024

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Three experts told Radio Davos that 2024 will be a year of uncertainty. Image: Unsplash/Evangeline Shaw

Andrea Willige
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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Davos Agenda

  • 2024 will be a year of uncertainty and more trust is needed to overcome the challenges ahead of us, three experts tell Radio Davos.
  • 2024 is shaping up to be a seminal year in world history, against a backdrop of geopolitical tension, technological advances and elections involving more than half the world’s population.
  • While crises can mobilise political and social action, they can also lead to disenchantment and crumbling trust – challenges that need to be overcome to turn the challenges of 2024 around.

2024 will be a year of uncertainty, and more trust is needed to overcome the challenges ahead of us and turn them into opportunities. This was the starting point of a Radio Davos podcast featuring experts discussing the state of the world and how seminal 2024 is shaping up to be.

Several factors contribute to this: around half of the world’s population will vote in national elections. While some will have fairly certain outcomes – such as in Russia – others, like the US presidential elections, are less predictable. Meanwhile, the impacts of war are felt around the globe and technologies such as artificial intelligence are reshaping our lives in ways we can’t fully grasp yet, as Radio Davos host Robin Pomeroy pointed out.

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2024 could be, in the words of the founder of global political risk consulting firm, Eurasia Group, Ian Bremmer, “the Voldemort of years; the annus horribilis; the year that must not be named”.

But where there is risk, there are also opportunities, as Pomeroy’s interviewees pointed out.

World Uncertainty Index
Uncertainty is set to continue shaping the state of the world. Image: IMF 2023/Ahir, Bloom and Furceri 2022
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Living in exponential times – Azeem Azhar

Azeem Azhar
Azeem Azhar, Chief Executive Officer, Exponential View, United Kingdom, speaking in the Generative AI session at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2023 in Davos Image: World Economic Forum/Walter Duerst

“They say it's darkest before dawn. I think we're quite far away from it being the darkest,” said Azeem Azhar, technology expert and WEF Co-Chair, Global Futures Council on Complex Risks.“The political and geopolitical situation is really difficult, challenging and straining capacity.”

But there is a silver lining Azher believes: “We're living in exponential times. There's huge cognitive expansion in every type of economy that puts us in a really great position.”

Azhar is confident that an “incredible decade” is coming up, pointing to trends such as the drop in the prices of lithium-ion batteries and solar electricity, advances in the life sciences such as new vaccines and genetic medicines as well as the exponential trajectory of AI.

“All of these things are going to continue to deliver over the next decade,” he stressed.

Uncertainty drivers
The pandemic and the war in Ukraine were among the chief drivers of uncertainty in recent years. Image: IMF 2023/Ahir, Bloom and Furceri 2022

Taking advantage of crises - Ian Bremmer

Ian Bremmer
Ian Bremmer, President, Eurasia Group, US speaking in the De-Globalization or Re-Globalization session at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2023 in Davos. Image: World Economic Forum/ Greg Beadl

Bremmer took this argument one step further. Asked how we can turn the prevailing atmosphere of “doom and gloom” into something positive, he said:

“At the global level, it is taking advantage of crises that are in front of you.

The reason we have global governance moving on climate, and we can look forward – and our kids can look forward – to a world of sustainable, inexpensive, decentralised energy that is not based on carbon, is because we took advantage of crisis.”

In other words, we need crises to motivate us to act.

However, Bremmer also pointed out that large swathes of individuals do not share his upbeat view.

“There are a lot of people in this environment…getting trapped in disinformation. They're getting disintermediated as human beings,” he said.

“And we need to reach out to those people. We need to connect with those people face-to-face, in long-form and engage.”

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Regaining trust - Rachel Botsman

Rachel Botsman
Rachel Botsman, Visiting Academic and Lecturer, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, United Kingdom. Image: World Economic Forum / Faruk Pinjo

A major factor in realising the economic potential highlighted by Azhar and allaying the social risks Bremmer set out, is trust.

Rachel Botsman, Associate Fellow at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, and an expert on technology and trust, shared her definition of trust with Radio Davos listeners:

“The way I define trust is as a confident relationship with the unknown. So when you see trust through this lens, you start to realise why it's the social glue of relationships, why it enables collaboration and organisations, and why you can't have innovation without trust.”

“You also start to realise that the greater the uncertainty, the more trust you need in your life.”

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She stressed that uncertainty in the world was growing in both scale and complexity, driving a need for more trust at a time when trust in traditional authorities – from government and business leaders to media – is crumbling.

Botsman advocates moving from the traditional but increasingly tattered trust in leadership and individuals to creating trustworthy systems that can be relied on instead.

“Very robust, trustworthy systems can withhold untrustworthy people,” she pointed out.

This applies to society and politics as much as in the world of work, she concluded.

Based on the experts’ views, it seems that, while 2024 may be a year of continued uncertainty, there are also many opportunities to grasp to turn things for the better.

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Davos AgendaSustainable DevelopmentEconomic ProgressSocial Innovation
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