Pepe EscobarMasters of the Universe, vaguely real or totally fake, who want to play savior all flocked to Switzerland this week. In Montreux, one may “save” Syria at the very un-jazzy Geneva II charade, which I have dealt with here. In the interminable business meeting known as Davos, one has the possibility to save no less than the whole world.In Davos, as an extra bonus, one may even play savior of Syria. A 75-minute simulation session is on offer, where global suits may experience how it feels to be a Syrian refugee. The menu includes detention, being chased by a replica gun-toting militia, and being shouted at by aid workers. Luckily for the attendees, it does not include a meeting with Bandar Bush-sponsored beheading jihadis. The insufferable Bono is rumored to be participating.
London mayor Boris Johnson, duly accredited as one of the 2,500 delegates at the World Economic Forum, alongside the “financial elite”, “world leaders”, corporate honchos, and sundry royalty (mostly Hollywoodish), has defined Davos as “a constellation of egos involved in massive mutual orgies of adulation”.
Sessions avidly disputed by the ego constellation are routinely announced by cowbells ringing across the Congress Center. Each cowbell ringing until Saturday will be ultimately striking a tone matching the theme of the 2014 meeting; the quite modest “The Reshaping of the World: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business”. This “reshaping” is being brought to you by many of the people who caused (or profited from) the 2007-2008 financial crisis.
Stuck in the middle with Jesus
Pope Francis – the new Jesus? – decided not to eschew his now trendy Franciscan abandon at the Vatican for the glitzy ski slopes, but sent a cardinal, Peter Turkson, to remind the Masters of the Universe of “a new, profound, sense of responsibility”, which in thesis means they should care about inequality, the poor and the unemployed. That was the gist of the “Big Francis is watching you” message.
Davos Day One opened with a session on the digital future. The Masters of the Universe were asked to name a gadget that changed their lives (credit default swaps don’t qualify). Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer praised her smartphone. She also said that by the end of 2014 Yahoo! will be handling more traffic from mobile devices than from desktops; “2014 will be a tipping point … it will change everyone’s daily routines very fundamentally”.
Then there’s the pesky matter of the NSA-centric Orwellian/Panopticon complex. Mayer said, “What’s murky about some of what is happening today is people don’t necessary[sic] know what data is being collected and about what is being used.” Cisco’s John Chambers for his part said there must be “cooperation” between the tech universe and the NSA.
It was up to the father of the web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, to talk from the floor, and stress, “When you are operating at this level, you have no idea if these people are American citizens or been suspected of committing some sort of crime.” He insisted on a “discussion” about what all this information is used for.
Economist Nouriel Roubini cut to the chase, preferring to identify the immediate future trend: “In the third manufacturing revolution, we will have robotics, automation, 3D printing, nanotechnologies. But only skilled jobs will be created.” Including inside the NSA.
Clowns to the left, jokers to the right