By Alan Steel
To me, the World Economic Forum is like an annual Swiss Alps-inspired navel-gazing Lollapalooza.
The amplifier is set to “eleven.”
The crowds are massive and star struck.
And every prediction is an instant headline, each treated with a Poet Laureate style license that reads: “Surely a leading industrialist, President, Minister or CEO must know better than all you whelps stuck in the Open Forum cheap seats of this Swiss Alpine Middle-School called Davos.”
Well, maybes yes and maybes no.
Yet, each year the future mandates from all these right honourable gentlemen and women, nestled snuggly in that cosy Alpine neutrality, pile up everywhere you look; like great dollops of statuesque excrement fortified and chiselled by some of the finest and best fed bowels in the world, to wit:
- Silicon Valley pharma bosses talking impending medical revolutions moving at “warp speed” – mapping the human immune system with “precision medicine” supported by “5G connected ambulances.”
- Global IT platforms driving a new definition of the “political economy” that might now chafe with every state’s own sovereignty.
- Artificial Intelligence giving us more reason to argue over intellectual property, privacy, data and the license to operate it – which in turn gives the lawyers something to do once Blockchain smart contracts eliminate their eye-watering per hour partner rates.
Are they right?
Well, ask a hairdresser if you need a haircut and they’ll at very least suggest a trim.
And they gawk and sit in turn in the Davos barber’s chair, each another’s audience inside that gilded cage – all committing to progress in the form of blurred acronyms and the nomenclature of niche industry sectors that few beyond the podium could possibly have a bluidy clue about.
As for the dud forecasts? The litter that made headlines? The absence of retractions?
Hey, didn’t the Bank of Japan’s chief Haruhiko Kuroda declare the situation in his country was “completely changed” back in 2014?
Did World Economic Forum attendees foresee Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the rise of Islamic State or oil at $50 a barrel?
How about that pesky US sub-prime mortgage crisis in 2008?
And which mega-brain was it that saw fit to stick 1.7 million paragraphs in MiFID 11 to make costs more transparent for ordinary investors when 300 words constituted The Ten Commandments and 272 for Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address?
Now, please don’t take this as a petty perspective or some opaque irreverence to the dazzling minds that take to the stages of Davos. Many are responsible for incredible entrepreneurial feats, job creation and pushing back the boundaries of science, technology, medicine, finance and many such other crafty things.
But have we yet learned to separate the aspirational pontification-isms from the coal-face achievable, the ruminations and crypto belly-rubbing from the absence of reality; the fly shit from the pepper?
So long as the headlines bleed ignorance for commercial gain, methinks most ain’t.
And it’s a lesson for every investor that, regardless from how high up or finely named a pedestal a stock market prediction or other financial guidance falls, you should not just accept it as truth before you check their track record and the facts.
Like headline writers and bear market enthusiasts, the World Economic Forum doesn’t issue apologies.
And we can’t blame our own bad decisions on Davos.