I have been participating in the activities of the World Economic Forum since I was named a Young Global Leader (YGL) in 2002, and have attended their annual conference in Davos many times since then. I have had the privilege of being part of the transformative YGL program with several hundred other YGLs. While Davos is a gathering that is criticized by some as elitist, I have always found it inspiring to meet, discuss and hear from thoughtful people there, and 2018 was no different.
Here are my reflections based on my weeklong journey:
- Indians@Davos was ubiquitous: From the opening plenary by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, through the fireside chat with Bollywood superstar and Crystal award winner Shahrukh Khan, to CEOs like Satya Nadella of Microsoft, Sundar Pichai from Google, and healthcare pioneers like Dr. Atul Gawande, leaders from India and the Indian diaspora featured prominently on the agenda;
- The conscience moment around technology was evident: From sessions like In Technology we Trust?, Ethical by Design: Embedding Values in Technology, and A Search for Unicorns and the Building of Society 5.0, a Reuters panel I participated in, attendees were thoughtfully & passionately examining the responsibility of the technology industry;
- AI and Blockchain dominated the discussion: When it came to transformative technology trends, there were two main topics – AI and Blockchain. Sessions like Putting Jobs out of Work and The Future of Work: Automation or Augmentation examined both sides of the labor equation, while Generation AI and AI and Diagnosis explored the mainstream impact of AI. Sessions like Blockchain: A New Operating System for Society and The Crypto-Asset Bubble explored both the enduring role as well as the hype manifestation of the Internet’s new trust protocol;
- Futurists got their time in the limelight: Attendees were treated to a peek at the future at sessions like From Flying Cars to Drone Delivery, The Space Economy Takes Off, Paving the Way for Autonomous Transport, and Tasting the Future of Food;
- We left with ideas on how to become better leaders: Through the insights shared by speakers on The Science of Empathy, Unlocking your Creative Edge, The Evolution of Consciousness, The Mindful Leader, Zero-Sum Parenting, and Secrets to a Long and Happy Life, attendees were able to challenge their assumptions and get tips to living a richer life.
After my week in Davos, I’m back to reality as an early-stage venture capitalist in Silicon Valley (without having slipped once in the snow, quite an achievement in itself), convinced that Mahatma Gandhi’s motto of be the change you want to see in the world is relevant more than ever today. For venture capitalists that means being true to their people-first view of innovation and having the courage to look around the corner and for entrepreneurs it means continuing to dream big.