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Davos' Biggest Irony


Davos' Biggest Irony

Thais Alencar

The Daily Beast


It’s not just the bumper-to-bumper

Mercedes-Benzes at an event preaching

energy efficiency, writes John Kao from the

World Economic Forum’s annual meeting—

it’s the elites hell-bent on social innovation.

Davos is where the utopian and the dystopian come

together to produce an experience unlike any other.

And this year is certainly no exception.

The mission of the World Economic Forum, and its

Annual Meeting in Davos, is to improve the state of the

world. This is where political elites rub elbows with

business elites who rub elbows with techno-elites who

rub elbows with entertainment elites. Even the social

innovation and economic development communities

are represented by their elites. And the aura of

exclusivity flows everywhere. Sorry, you can’t come in

right now, the prime minister of (pick your country) is

just leaving. You didn’t hear about the (fill in the

blank) party? Sorry, we have to wait for the

motorcade to pass. Sorry, this is a private meeting.

You mean you didn’t know where the Google party


Davos is fun! The parties and perks are too numerous

to mention. In my own modest corner, I got an iPod,

boxes of chocolate, technical winter gear, a coffee table

book of photographs of India, and every imaginable

form of information goodie, from a memory stick

infused with CEO monographs to white papers whose

graphic design rivaled that of any luxury product


At the Forum, it is possible to party and network from

morning until dawn. If the stack of business cards

you’ve acquired in the process doesn’t at least match

your shoe size, then you’re simply not trying hard


It’s not just high school with more money; it’s high

school with countries, governments, corporations, and

big sectors of the innovation economy.

And there are ironies, if your eyes are open. At a

meeting concerned with the green economy, gourmet

food fills the tables. In a world concerned with energy

efficiency, the quaint little streets of this Alpine town

are clogged with late-model Audis and MercedesBenzes

sitting bumper-to-bumper in heavy traffic. And

in a world that is trying to conserve trees, there are

overflowing stacks of every imaginable newspaper,

magazine, print report, and monograph, as countries

and companies vie for mindshare in perhaps the

ultimate environment of high-quality information glut.

There are ironies, if your eyes are open. At a meeting

concerned with the green economy, gourmet food fills

the tables.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for the conversations,

understandings, and agreements that come out of

Davos, which is perhaps the ultimate platform for

business oriented global connections. Nothing else

comes close. Business and government need a certain

amount of theater to enable the kind of strategic

discussion that makes things happen. I’m simply

observing that Davos also mirrors some of the

contradictions that characterize our world as we all

work toward a better one.