The weeklong conference, bringing together most of the folks who rule the world, is a singular event--as much for its reflection of the prevailing zeitgeist as for its A-list of attendees. For Silicon Valley's best and brightest, who are there to wave company flags and collect business cards, it's naturally a prime schmooze venue. But in years past, it's also provided a bully platform from which they could lecture benighted European, Asian and African counterparts on why they needed to become more--well, more like us.
During the go-go days, this all got to be a bit much.
The high-water mark of hubris came when Andy Grove browbeat a plenary session at the 1997 Davos summit, warning how they were consigning future generations to second-class status by failing to get on board the tech revolution fast enough. Talk about overstating the obvious. But Grove was no more full of himself than any of the other Yanks on parade that year.
An African attendee sitting next to me groaned in disbelief, "Does he think we're all clueless?" I just shrugged.
However, a funny thing happened on the expressway to the postindustrial future. The bubble burst, the economy fell into
However, a funny thing happened on the expressway to the postindustrial future.
Now after eating more than a few helpings of humble pie, the technology business is recovering from the after-effects of excess. Things are getting back to normal with IT--itself now so commonplace in the corporate world that some say it no longer offers strategic advantage to companies.
Meanwhile, the rest of the world has since closed much--though not all--of the technology gap. Some regions have actually outstripped the United States. To wit: Compared with the extent and variety of mobile cell use in Europe and Asia, we inhabit a veritable backwater. Korea can boast broadband penetration that American providers can only dream about.
That's not to say Davos Man (and Woman) can't still use a lot of advice figuring how to connect the other half (or more) of the world on the losing side of the digital divide. Some interesting ideas on the subject have percolated around the Valley in the last year and a forum like the World Economic Forum is just the place to give them an airing.
And after living through the roller-coaster highs and the lows marking the first years of the 21st century, Silicon Man (and Woman) may finally have the perspective and humility to point the way.