My brother sent me an article about this year's World Economic Forum, and here are some quotes from some attendees that interest me.
"I do not see much hope in the political domain, but a lot of hope in the technological domain," said [former Israeli Prime Minister] Shimon Peres....This seems to be a common meme, but it's entirely baseless. Technology itself is a tool, and politics will always determine how that tool is wielded. No matter how advanced your hammer, if your building plans are flawed your house will turn our poorly. Likewise, technology alone does nothing to guarantee the future prosperity of mankind. Only those who worship technology as a religion can think otherwise.
Peres was one of many speakers who made the very Davosian point that in a world of six billion people, 80 percent of the economic activity is coming from a mere one billion, while another billion lives on less than $1 a day.That's a meaningless statistic. There certainly are desperately poor people in the world, but $1 can buy a lot more in Zimbabwe than it can in America.
And there was energetic interest among many in Davos about using technology to improve the lot of the poor.The thing holding poor nations down isn't a lack of technology, it's a lack of democratic institutions. As I said above, technology won't save people if they're still oppressed by politics. Actually, there is one technological advance that could be of assistance: guns. Give every person in the world an M16 and a thousand rounds and I bet things would change pretty quick.
Giving poor nations money and technology is like giving them fish, whereas giving them a democratic government is like teaching them to fish.
Another prediction: "Life expectancy will go to 150 in the next half-century."I think that's conservative. We'll see.
There is some attention paid to the political aspect of technology, but unsurprisingly it takes the wrong tack.
Scary though it sounds, over time we will have a hard time keeping the most powerful weapons and tools out of the hands of anyone. We have to somehow create a world where that is not a threat. ...The reason we need national borders seems blatantly obvious to me, but let me explain anyway. Despite Mr. Gate's praise for the "breakthtaking" economic situation in China ("it's capitalism at full speed"), that nation is still a Communist dictatorship, and its people are still horribly repressed. As long as the Communists want to maintain power (i.e., forever) they're never going to open their borders or allow truly free trade. Likewise, America can't afford to open its borders because the oppression in the rest of the world keeps most people poor and uneducated and unable to contribute to our modern society except as manual labor (and thugs). Until there's economic and political similarity -- even if not equality -- opening borders would be suicide.
Microsoft chief Bill Gates spoke privately to the press late Friday night, and he was full of notable thoughts that were generally as optimistic as those of Peres. ...
He also made a statement of the kind one doesn't hear often enough from global leaders: "If you ask what's the greatest divide in terms of rights and equities," he said, "it's national borders. That doesn't seem to bother people as much as I think it will."
What Gates and many at Davos realize is that it's not only charity to help the world's poor improve their lot. It's an issue of security. As Peres put it at breakfast, "Terror is the war of poor people, and suicide bombs are the weapons of poor people."Absurd. Terror is the war of Islamic fascists. The September 11th hijackers all came from wealthy families. Most Palestinian bombers are poor, but then almost everyone in Palestine is poor because of Arafat and his cronies. Further, there are plenty of poor people in the world who don't go around committing terrorism. Basically, the only terrorists are Islamic fascists. (Some people will then point out the Irish Republican Army, but they seem to have quit, and they aren't poor; name another non-Islamofascist terrorist group.)
And then the World Economic Forum turned to more serious issues, like fighting spam.