Davos 2017: As the great and the good descend on the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting, are we seeing the death or the dawn of the global elite?

Alex Deane and Dan Tara
View of the village of Davos  24 January
The theme at this year's Annual Meeting is "responsive and responsible leadership" (Source: Getty)

Alex Deane, managing director of FTI Consulting and common councilman in the City of London, says "death".

It is all too easy to bash the so-called “global elite” and mock their gatherings. Those seeking to do good at Davos are at least trying; if there are real villains, then they’re to be found among those who never engage in such things as they feel no wider responsibility to their fellow man.

But, whether Davosians or not, the hegemony of the global elite is slipping. Technology is enabling greater decentralisation, and facilitating social conversations that are lateral rather than top down – and this will only grow as time passes. Want proof of this trend? If it had been up to the “elite”, we’d have voted to stay in the European Union; Donald Trump wouldn’t be heading for the White House. In the past, without disseminatory routes like the internet helping an anti-elite person to find like minds, those disagreeing with what they were told would have found it far harder to cooperate and collaborate. We are more likely to say “no” when we think that we are not alone.

Dan Tara, executive vice-president of Positive Technologies, says "dawn".

This is a dawn of a new type of global elite. Social networks and enterprise technology companies now have a place at the table alongside policymakers and central bankers. The question is, what does this addition to the elite mean for the world? For starters, it’s an indicator that technology is now not just a “sector”. Rather, it is beginning to become a facet of life which underpins everything humans now do, in the same way money or law does. Given that the leading minds and thinkers featured are largely in some way tied to commercial entities, it will be interesting to see how they apply this position of influence.

In addition, people like this tend to be innately wedded to the idea of speeding up the pace of change in a way that the traditional global elite might not have. Mark Zuckerberg is a good example of the tech elite transcending perceived roles to shape everything from politics to quality of life. How this agenda shapes the pace of the world and the impact it has on society, will be fascinating to watch.

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