Bloomberg Global Business Forum 2017: Designing A Future For Tomorrow

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My mind is still racing, and I am not quite sure that I want it to stop. Yesterday I witnessed the power of true leadership. I was surrounded by a unified force of individuals who are actively moving this planet in the right direction; who are using their unmatched intellectual capacities, political platforms, and economic resources for good, and only for good. Individuals who are committed to positive changes, progressive changes, and sustainable changes. There are those who carry titles and there are those who lead, and despite how things may feel, I am confident that the force of those who are leading is stronger.

 

The Purpose of the Forum

The Bloomberg Global Business Forum hosts the world’s most significant leaders and their plans to solve today’s most pressing economic issues. This year's conference was centered around merging public and private sector forces to multiply power. From climate change to healthcare, governments are not equipped with all of the resources needed to overcome the obstacles in these industries and drive a sustainable future. Businesses can help where governments can’t do it alone, and by aligning forces the whole world seeks to prosper.

Here are my key takeaways from a selection of today’s leaders:

Bill Clinton (opening speaker):

Partnerships are undeniably more successful then governments acting alone.The future of this world will depend on whether we believe that social strength, economic performance, and political power flow from division or multiplication, subtraction or addition. 

President Macron:

President Macron is pushing an entire transformative agenda. He wants to rebuild France around the digital future. A future that includes A.I., inclusive finance, and climate change. He believes that we need to equip our workforce and education with tools that will prepare individuals for a future that includes advanced A.I. and technology (don’t waste time training people for roles that will be replaced by robots).  

When asked about the future of the European Union he stated that it comes down to whether we can develop a 10 year vision for the EU or not. The Europe Union lacks a unified ambition; there is no clear place for the middle classes. There is no way to progress when your middle classes don’t have a direction. 

Finally, when it comes to climate change he stated that it is the role of the private sector to be faster than the public sector; revising the financial models to include reduced emissions, because they have the capital to do so. But a big focus we all must have is on ensuring that our climate change actions are present in every agenda, both locally and abroad. When investing in Africa and other emerging markets, we don’t bring them the old business models, we bring them the new, climate change-inclusive ones. Up until now we have been taking advantage of how we make investments in developing countries, and not bringing them our green initiatives- that needs to change. 

Jack Ma:

Governments need to be working with businesses to create more jobs for the future, and not against businesses to help jobs of the past. For example, when cars were first made and used in England people protested the British government in an uproar because of the potential job loss, so the government put in a stipulation that “no car could drive faster than a horse.” The government was designing policies for the jobs of yesterday. A lot of government’s today still operate this way.

We need to pay more attention to small businesses and help them grow, as small businesses solve the problems and worries we have about the future. Small businesses see these problems as opportunities. 

Finally, governments need to revise our education systems. What we teach today will make the kids lose jobs in the next 30 years, because everything we are teaching them machines will take over. We have to re-arrange our education system because of A.I. and machine learning, we have to teach our kids to be innovative, creative, and operate with EQ, (emotional intelligence) that machines don’t have.

Tim Cook (Apple CEO):

People have values and companies are no more than an extension of people, so as a company you have to decide what those values are. There are many companies that want to give back and help solve some of society's greatest problems, but governments need to be open to working with them.

Apple runs 100% of its operations in China on renewable energy, and is now working to try and solve China’s human rights issues. Businesses want to work on societal problems.

When it comes to education, there is an incredible desire to bring coding to the masses. This is the key for the middle classes, as coding has become fundamental to all our businesses. Kids are so engaged and want to learn about the digital economy; they are growing up digital. There has been a lack of development dollars spent on schools, so Apple has stepped in and is training teachers right now to equip our next generation with skills for the future.

Finally, when it comes to DACA and immigration, Apple is forcefully pushing against the administration to reverse its recent policy, and will continue to fight for DACA children. Apple has a voice that can be heard by the administration, as do many of the world’s big businesses, and is using it for good. There is an incredible opportunity to work with everyone throughout the world on issues- the future is optimistic. 

Michael Bloomberg

Businesses and governments need to be in the same the discussion room, as businesses can fix problems that government can’t, and visa versa. Case in point, natural disasters. Governments work slow and cumbersome because they have to protect the public sector's money. Private businesses can operate faster. Private businesses have incredible power to lobby for things like better education, and companies like Apple have done incredible things to solve world issues. Imagine they could focus even more on societal problems. As soon as we let businesses in the discussion rooms, they will. 

When it comes to climate change the focus should be on the reputable scientists. Anyone who isn’t listening to the science is playing with fire. Businesses will work hard to set green goals, regardless of what administrations are doing or believe is or isn’t true. Businesses and progressive organizations will take climate change into their own hands. The World Bank and UN are creating a new platform called Invest for Climate. This is what came out of The Paris Agreement. The goal will be to create a place where countries can bring their greatest aspirations for low carbon development, and where investors can come in and get a better return from these projects. Financing is one of the key issues to execute the goals, and this platform will turn this obstacle into an opportunity.

We need to continue to invest in the United Nations, as it is the largest de-risking system in the world. When a country has political instability, terrorism, poverty, it makes investment in that country too risky. The UN works to fix the infrastructure of countries, which in turn reduces their investment risks and drives economic growth.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

There are a lot of movements right now against trade and globalization, pushing countries towards unilateral policies. But we need to be doing the opposite. Trade needs to grow, that is the story of our world. Canada has finalized its most recent trade deal with the European Union, and will continue to put forth progressive agreements with other countries. We also need to expand our view of trade, its not just about tariffs and finance, but about opportunities to succeed in all lanes. We have included sections about gender equality in recent trade deals, and will continue to make that a priority. Trading and working with other countries is a good thing.

President of the Republic of Ghana

When we talk about global outcomes, if they are to succeed it means that they have to succeed in Africa. Africa sits on the greatest resources in the world, but also has some of the poorest people. We need to fix this and it needs to be a part of how we view our global goals. Ghana will be focusing on education of African children. Working towards a goal to provide all African children with access to good education by 2030; the impact will be enormous.

Artificial Intelligence

From Jack Ma to President Macron to Bill Gates, the unanimous view is that Artificial Intelligence will be a part of our reality, very soon. But we must not fear or think of it as a competitor, we need to use it to solve our problems. “For the past 30 years we have made people like machine, now for the next 30 years we have to make machines like people.” - Jack Ma.

When we fear A.I. we are forgetting the incredible impact tech has had on our world to date, and it will continue to do so. It has solved unsolvable diseases and found solutions to problems our planet has been stuck on for years. A.I. will become a problem for the countries that don’t adjust their infrastructures for it. Industries like manufacturing will become obsolete for the human workforce, things won’t say made in China they will say made in the internet. Our entire education system across the globe needs to shift to focus on training people in fields that human skills will be valued. But the leaders are confident in A.I., and believe the problems will be nominal, and the benefits far outweigh the risks. We need to stop thinking about A.I. in terms of robots, but instead a shift in the state of technology and the philosophy of how we use it. We have to always remember to design our future for tomorrow, not for yesterday.

Closing remarks

Overall, every leader had an extremely optimistic view of the world. From North Korea to natural disasters, these leaders are aware of the state of the world, but believe in very optimistic outcomes. They are working on the problems we fear and discuss everyday. Our future is in good hands.

BusinessSINEAD BOVELL