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ChatIRL: Not All of Davos Was Live-Streamed

Mark Kollar  Follow

By now we have all read and heard what was discussed at Davos, and I was lucky enough to experience the headlines firsthand on the ground: slightly better economic mood, big hopes for Biden’s IRA and climate-change innovation, post-Covid China consumer spending, and AI moving fast in all parts of the world. To be part of the ecosystem of big ideas was memorable and certainly exhilarating.

But for me, as a first timer at the World Economic Forum, some of my big takeaways came from conversations with participants in the hotel lobbies (best people watching), waiting for coffee (best gossip) or taking a break in a lounge to catch up on emails from back home (best deep chats). It quickly became clear to me that the spirit of Davos was sharing ideas, live and unscripted. 

There was the woman from Malaysia, who worked at the UN and was once the first female-elected mayor in her country, who talked about how her big leadership lessons came from helping one of her constituents rid his property of a monkey that was destroying his fruit crop and in turn, endangering his livelihood. That small local solution had a big impact on a family and community for a lifetime and taught her to take time to listen to everyone, and that no issue should seem too small to address.

There was an entrepreneur from Mongolia, who was determined to figure out how to label consumer products with ESG ratings so everyone in her country (and beyond) could make better decisions about sustainability in their everyday life, with energy herself that should have been harnessed for good.

There was the investor from Switzerland, by way of America, who discussed how the big problems of global cities can be solved by studying successful small cities, along the lines of “Too Small to Fail,” the name of his book that is now awaiting me when I get home.

And there was the climate expert/wine connoisseur, who explained how grapes were the “canary in the coal mine” of climate change and can detect weather disruptions, serving as early-warning signs for agriculture, adding a new complexity to wine tasting.

I keep reflecting on these conversations and many more last week as I read how ChatGPT is quickly changing how the world researches, drafts and edits content. No doubt, lots of good uses, but nothing will replace the spontaneous and unrehearsed conversations that I experienced at Davos, which add color and meaning to the big-stage thinking and make the WEF an experience for everyone.

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