I am deeply interested in Economics, for many years now I have been researching and thinking about a Networked Theory of Economics, a goal of mine for 2008 is to write and publish my book on that topic (ideally selling it as well so it reaches a wide audience).
So at this time I am very interested in what is happening this week in Davos, Switzerland. This year, in a fairly radical move towards openness, The World Economic Forum has a YouTube channel where they are posting many videos from the press events as well as interviews with attendees and leaders at Davos. Davos has also given a number of leading bloggers full access (though some sessions are off the record, quite a few portions of the conference are on the record). Robert Scoble is wandering through Davos with his cameraphone, frequently streaming live to the web via Qik. Jeff Jarvis and Michael Arrington among others are also in attendance and posting about their experiences as they happen.
As I wrote this, Robert streamed live, I jumped into the live chat. Yup, we live in science fictional times.
I am up late here in San Francisco, as I go to sleep soon, the 2300+ participants at Davos will go on about their day, when I wake up they will likely be almost about to eat dinner and heading to parties (apparently tomorrow Google is having a big party). And I know that because minutes ago I watched live video from and of my friends at the forum, streamed live across the Internet. Of course that same video started by Robert observing the President of Israel recording two videos for YouTube, which are also now likely live on the web as I write this.
Truly this is amazing stuff. When I was growing up, in the 80’s and 90’s CNN and cable news was just getting started, though my family didn’t even own a TV, the impact of live news around the clock was just starting to have an impact on the globe. But the rest of the world was still fairly far away, phone calls cost money – especially overseas calls, and data rates were measured in baud (and computers showed mostly only text and very simple graphics – though that changed rapidly as I was in high school in the late 80’s and early 90’s.
Now Robert’s cell phone on which he was recording and streaming live video has more computational power, I’m fairly sure, than the computers I used throughout high school and even into college. He almost certainly has multiple GB’s of storage and very rapid data connections to the web (3G I assume), a screen on his phone that is far denser than the screens we used then – and a camera that records at resolutions unheard of back then – heck nearly unheard of not all that many years ago.
And though Robert notes that not that many bloggers are at Davos this year, the impact of YouTube and bloggers is to help crack open in a fairly major way a gathering that had for years been shrouded mostly in secrecy into a far more open event. Still with a lot of secrecy and I’m sure a lot of security – but also impressively interested in engaging with the world.
In watching the video which I have embedded above, I was also struck by how interesting the group of co-chairs of the forum are – world leaders past and (near)present along side business leaders from across the globe – leaders who were not just white, anglo saxon males – but leaders of large and yes powerful companies from across the globe.
All speaking, at least in this press conference in English, and all seemingly comfortable with their roles, with each other, and for the most part with the press (though the press were for the most part mostly interested in talking to Tony Blair). Personally I was most interested in everyone else on the panel except Tony Blair and Henry Kissinger. I am encouraged by the engagement of the leaders of some of the largest companies in the world in the issues which face us as a globe.
My views on Economics, in the most simple form, is that all economics can be modeled as a network over time. What this means is that value is not fixed, not inherent but deeply and tightly embedded in the economic networks we create and participate within. I have to do more and deeper research and modeling, but in general I would thus be deeply opposed to protectionist steps – and also deeply suspicious of attempts to economically isolate countries (or other entities).
At MeshForum we talk about many types of networks and especially about interdisciplinary approaches to networks. The World Economic Forum at Davos is a prime example of the power of social networks – and the vital importance, even for the very “important and/or famous” of face-to-face interactions, of shared meals and joint experiences. But the spectacle of and around Davos also highlights that there is much more going on, there are other factors – new media old and new, political networks both within countries and globally such as the UN, economic networks both within corporations and between corporations, and newer, creative networks such as the Project(red) campaign which connects individual customers, brands, an NGO of the UN, and millions of HIV patients thoughout the world. $57 million dollars is, perhaps, a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of AIDS to Africa and the world, or to the revenues of the corporate sponsors of the project, but it is also enough to have had a very real and dramatic impact on tens of thousands of our fellow humans who were suffering and now have some measure of hope.
As I live and work here in the US, in this very expensive and deeply futuristic place called Silicon Valley, even here in San Francisco which has at least a small measure of history and culture as well, it is well worth remembering how large and diverse and complex our planet is.
And to recall how small are the links which connect us all. My friends are now there at Davos hanging out, meeting, and sharing meals with some of the people who quite literally lead this world – the leaders of large corporations, the organizers of major efforts to save lives (as well as, less fortunately some of the leaders whose decisions cost lives), and the leaders of many governments (or past leaders).
They say that we, all humans, are connected by just a few steps, but also at far too many times it seems that even in our own countries, within our own cities we exist and live in different worlds. In 2008, however, I see many signs that our common links, our common, global interests are starting to be made clearer and that technology is, in part, helping more people reach out to each other – and to engage and perhaps see the “other” as also human, also worthy of respect and engagement with – even and perhaps particularly when we do not entirely agree.