Log out
My profile and settings
My bookmarks
Comment history
Please complete your account verification. Resend verification email.
today
This verification token has expired.
today
Your email address has been verified. Update my profile.
today
Your account has been deactivated. Sign in to re-activate your account.
today
View all newsletters in the newsletter archive
today
You are now unsubscribed from receiving emails.
today
Sorry, we were unable to unsubscribe you at this time.
today
0
0
Back to profile
Comment Items
You have not left any comments yet.
title
you replied to a comment:
name
description
Saved Posts
You haven’t bookmarked any posts yet.
“It’s easy to be overwhelmed by climate change and what to do about it.”
read more
Become a Gates Notes Insider
Sign up
Log out
Personal Information
Title
Mr
Mrs
Ms
Miss
Mx
Dr
Cancel
Save
This email is already registered
Cancel
Save
Please verify email address. Click verification link sent to this email address or resend verification email.
Cancel
Save
Address
Cancel
Save
Email and Notification Settings
Send me updates from Bill Gates
You must provide an email
On
Off
Send me Gates Notes survey emails
On
Off
Send me the weekly Top of Mind newsletter
On
Off
Email me comment notifications
On
Off
On-screen comment notifications
On
Off
Interests
Select interests to personalize your profile and experience on Gates Notes.
Saving Lives
Energy Innovation
Improving Education
Alzheimer's
Philanthropy
Book Reviews
About Bill Gates
Account Deactivation
Click the link below to begin the account deactivation process.
If you would like to permanently delete your Gates Notes account and remove it’s content, please send us a request here.
Uncertainty
The mood at Davos
I've been attending the World Economic Forum at Davos since the 1990s. This year, the focus was on climate change and on issues raised by the aftermath of the economic crisis, including questions about who should profit from investment and financial risk.
|
0

At the World Economic Forum in Davos this year there was a lot of uncertainty due to unanswered questions about the financial crisis: What caused it? Who is to blame? What do we change?

I have been going to Davos for 15 years. It is a gathering of powerful business people and politicians discussing important issues, but it is viewed with some suspicion by those not present.

When I started going in the 1990s the focus was on the wonders of technology and the hot panels were the ones where engineers like myself would discuss how things would improve using technology.

There is some focus every year on reducing the inequities between the rich and the poor which is why the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has found it a good place to discuss new health initiatives. This year we announced our $10 billion commitment to vaccines over the next 10 years.

The focus this year was the huge hangover of unemployment and budget deficits caused by the financial crisis.

There was a mood of uncertainty I hadn’t seen before. I believe it was the combination of doubts created by the economic downturn along with the rise of countries with different economic and political models, particularly China, plus the challenge of aging populations and unaffordable medical costs.

A much-discussed topic this year was climate change—perhaps partly because you can criticize people who clearly have it wrong and it is an issue that requires a global solution unlike anything else except a pandemic or world war.

I had a very interesting Q&A session with a group of leaders under 40 who were at the conference. One person asked whether the crisis would lead to reduced risk taking and wondered if that would be a bad thing.

I tried to separate out the risk from financial instruments like collateralized debt obligations where the benefits accrue only to the few from the risk taken by a company working on a new drug or a better way of growing food or making energy.

There has always been some discomfort at how much more of the profits seem to stay with rich financiers compared to inventors of new medicines or companies that build new things. This discomfort is now quite acute.

The value to society from inventions is far greater than the financial reward that the inventors themselves receive. This is the opposite of most financial innovations.

The questioner asked if I knew how to avoid the financial excesses without reducing funding for good risks. I said that is hard and I would think about it but most likely the new idea will come from someone under 40, just like the personal computer did—maybe even from someone in the room.

Read this next
NEXT