More and more information is fuelling our brains. We use all this information to ask more questions, to try to think beyond the next turn in the road, and the next, and the one after that. We believe we can envisage the whole journey. We try to make the world more predictable. Unfortunately, the last twelve months have again demonstrated that we are still not very good at predicting the future. Let’s briefly reflect on the past year, on some of the factors that have impacted on the life in a free and democratic world that so many of us take for granted. Ask yourself how many you saw coming.
The first shock to me came when Russian troops invaded Crimea and then moved on to create a destabilising ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine. For the first time in more than a decade, people in Europe became seriously worried that the peaceful relationship between the Western World and Russia could falter. The next big issue emerged from Iraq and Syria with a group called ISIS using force to take control of parts of both countries while spreading fear and instability over a much wider population. The world had to rapidly adjust to the knowledge that a group most people had never heard of before 2014 suddenly appeared strong enough to fight an international coalition of nations. Meanwhile, another group – Boco Haram – continued to spread terror and inflict atrocities through parts of north-east Nigeria and surrounding areas. Then, in the opening days of 2015, Al-Qaeda returned as an active terror threat on the streets of Europe, directly attacking free speech and the liberty of people of all beliefs and backgrounds by killing a group of journalists at work in their office, police on the streets and shoppers in a Jewish supermarket.
In each case, the result is death, desperation and widespread fear. You might accuse me of dwelling on the negatives, but as the World Economic Forum annual meeting opens here in Davos, I suggest there is an absolute imperative to work harder, fuelling our brains, asking the right questions, trying to find good answers.
Davos is certainly one of the key places where lots of wisdom gathers together to think through coming issues, to plan for the next turns in the road. More importantly, Davos is also a place where diversity is a reality. Different perspectives from all around the world coming together to create new insights and solutions. Here you will find business leaders, politicians, NGOs, cultural figures, journalists, you name it. All talking to each other – and we need to keep on talking and asking questions so that we all understand each other better.
Let me bring this blog back to business. The Euro crisis is also back on the plate. This year, Europe is facing numerous elections, which may have a significant impact on the Euro or the EU going forward. This week in Davos, we will all try to predict the outcome of all this once again – maybe we will get better at doing so, though I doubt it. We are in Switzerland where even the Swiss themselves seem completely surprised by last week’s move by the country’s national bank to release the Swiss Franc from its ties to the Euro.
The world continues to behave differently to expectations. Maybe that is sometimes a positive, it keeps us on the front foot. Regardless of all our thinking, questioning and predicting, sometimes we all also need optimism – to think positively and to be lucky. Just as I was with my hotel here in Davos which requested prepayment before the Swiss Franc appreciated by more than 20% to the Euro.