Arts and Culture

Robot rock stars, pocket forests, and the battle for chips - Forum podcasts you should hear this month

Hilde Schwab, Chairperson and Co-Founder, Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship,Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum  Francis Kéré, Architect, KereArchitecture, Germany, Nile Rodgers, Chairman and Co-Founder, We Are Family Foundation, USA; Cultural LeaderMichelle Yeoh, Actress, Producer, United Nations Development Programme Goodwill Ambassador; Cultural Leader The Crystal Awards 2024 session at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2024 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, 15 January. Congress Centre - Congress Hall. Copyright: World Economic Forum / Benedikt von Loebell

Hilde Schwab, Chairperson and Co-Founder, Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship,Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum Francis Kéré, Architect, KereArchitecture, Germany, Nile Rodgers, Chairman and Co-Founder, We Are Family Foundation, USA; Cultural LeaderMichelle Yeoh, Actress, Producer, United Nations Development Programme Goodwill Ambassador; Cultural Leader The Crystal Awards 2024 session at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2024 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, 15 January. Image: World Economic Forum / Benedikt von Loebell

Robin Pomeroy
Podcast Editor, World Economic Forum
Linda Lacina
Digital Editor, World Economic Forum
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Horizon Scan: Nita Farahany

  • The World Economic Forum has three weekly podcasts.
  • Here are highlights from Radio Davos, Meet the Leader, and Agenda Dialogues.
  • Pop legend Nile Rodgers on what makes a hit song; pocket forests; and the quest for chips - among the theme of our programmes over the last month

"A hit record speaks to the souls of a million strangers."

Nile Rodgers should know. The funky guitarist and songwriter has made some of the best known pop music of the last half-century - and if you think you don't know his music, think again. He is the power behind countless disco and R&B megahits and some of the biggest tunes by David Bowie, Madonna, Pharrell Williams and Beyonce.

But what if an AI bot could produce music as good as humans can make? What if AI can write and star in movies? Is AI a threat to art itself, one of the things that makes us human? Or will it prove to be an invaluable tool that helps us express our humanity? All questions discussed by Nile Rodgers and other people in the creative arts on Radio Davos.

Other questions discussed on Forum podcasts in the last month include:

- What are 'pocket forests' and can they transform lives for city dwellers?

- What are 'middle powers' and can they help us end and prevent conflict?

- Why is there a global 'battle for chips?

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

When, as a young journeyman musician he complained to his jazz teacher about having to play what he considered "lame" pop songs of the day like Sugar, Sugar by cartoon band The Archies, his teacher told him not top be so sniffy

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"He says, 'Nile, don't you realise that they're all hit records? Why would you call them lame?' Sugar Sugar has been number one for about six weeks now'. And I said, 'What has that got to do with it?'

He says, 'Sugar Sugar is a great composition'. I said, 'How can you call Honey do do do do do do. Oh, sugar, sugar. How could you call that a great composition?'

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"Here's the greatest lesson in my life. He says, 'Because it speaks to the souls of a million strangers.' And I went, 'Oh my God. He just described an artist.'

"That's what my teacher taught me. A hit record speaks to the souls of a million strangers. That's what an artist does."

But what if AI is used to create music that can touch millions of people? Nile Rodgers is, perhaps surprisingly, open to using AI as a tool to create music, not least the ability to translate vocals into other languages.

"We translate operas into other languages when the producer finds it necessary ... So if you have a tool that can do it faster and more efficient, is that any less artistic than spending the time to learn that stuff and you just really reciting it by rote?"

In the same episode, the head of the Hollywood actors' union, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, explains how filmmakers are learning to live with AI, and visual artist Refik Anadol on how AI is a mirror on humanity.

Also on Radio Davos in the last month:

Meet the Leader - lessons in leadership

'Pocket forests' - an idea pioneered in Japan - are where a diversity of tree species are planted on a very small parcel of land, usually in cities. On Meet the Leader, the founder and CEO of an organisation planting them around the world, Elise Van Middelem, explained their benefits

"Human health. You know, it's that nature deficit order. It's joy. It's cleaner air. It's cooler air, reduction of temperatures. But then it's also that whole biodiversity ecosystem level ... the biodiversity, the birdsong, through that creation of dense pocket forest, we have migratory birds that come back. It's the web of life, all that comes together."

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"The pocket forest for us is that idea of, like, urban acupuncture. So today, our cities, nature is an integral part of it. It is not some sort of like oh yeah, add on. We all need that nature. And the services they provide, they can really be translated within these pocket forests, we can create urban acupuncture, meaning small spaces can immediately become wild, lush place of habitat. So for pollinators: a bee can travel 1.3 miles. So if you create all these kind of touch points within a city, you can actually, really help that biodiversity come back."

Also on Meet the Leader in the last month:

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

He returns on this episode of Agenda Dialogues.

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"What we learned during the pandemic was that it's not just smartphones that require chips. It's everything. It's cars, it's dishwashers, it's coffee makers. It's refrigerators.

"And I think that the auto industry is the best case study of this. There were car companies that had 999 of the chips they needed for their car. They didn't have the last one and they couldn't produce the cars as a result. And so the car industry alone lost half a trillion dollars worth of sales during the pandemic, despite the fact that during the pandemic the world produced more chips each year, we just had a deficit of certain types of chips."

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Also on Agenda Dialogues in the last month:

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