Procrustes in Davos

 

The website for the World Economic Forum is polished, professionally done, oddly uninformative, and really boring.  A steady stream of middle-brow pap in which climate change is simply assumed is the current predominant content. There are no white papers or links to substantive articles and data sources. The most recent article on inflation could leave you knowing less than when you started. The WEF purports to be the home of cutting-edge futurist thinking and planning, yet its website and formal output are plebian at best.

Maybe this is a reflection of WEF’s founder, Klaus Schwab, who has made an art form out of pontificating about change without saying anything substantive or innovative. Consider this slogging passage from the opening chapter in his The Fourth Industrial Revolution:

First, I feel that the required levels of leadership and understanding of the changes under way, across all sectors, are low when contrasted with the need to rethink our economic, social and political systems to respond to the fourth industrial revolution. As a result, both at the national and global levels, the requisite institutional framework to govern the diffusion of innovation and mitigate the disruption is inadequate at best and, at worst, absent altogether.

Second, the world lacks a consistent, positive and common narrative that outlines the opportunities and challenges of the fourth industrial revolution, a narrative that is essential if we are to empower a diverse set of individuals and communities and avoid a popular backlash against the fundamental changes under way.

In other words, while he can’t articulate what will be required to address the changes he cannot really predict with any specificity, he is pretty sure that the world is not ready to deal with those changes unless it can all be packaged into a tidy narrative to be used by a new set of leaders. Presumably, this great insight qualifies Klaus to help select and advise these leaders and write that tidy narrative.

Raise your hand if you were ever somehow roped into or required to attend a conference/meeting/lecture where some “futurist” was slated to speak about the future of [insert name of industry here] and he/she had absolutely nothing surprising or insightful to say.  Actually, I grudgingly admire guys with the chutzpah to sell themselves as professional futurist speakers with absolutely no real insights about how [technology/demographics/other changes] will [transform/reshape] how we [practice/sell/manufacture] whatever.  All I ask is that they not be boring.  Klaus Schwab is boring and really presumptuous.

As for the boring part, consider this brutal review of Schwab’s Shaping The Future of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a sequel to The Fourth Industrial Revolution.

There were times reading this book when your reviewer wondered whether it might have been written by a robot, such was the clunking lifelessness of the prose. All this blinking automaton would have needed to do was to machine-read the World Economic Forum’s back catalogue and churn out a 274-page text of the buzziest phrases and most common clichés. Such an exercise would certainly have validated the book’s central contention that technology is fast usurping a bewildering array of human capabilities and that this should force us all to stop and think about the future. But, sadly, I suspect this book really was written by humans — ones who inhabit a strange twilight world of stakeholders, externalities, inflection points and “developtory sandboxes”.

Try this for a sentence: “Considering the economic pressures can also highlight where incentives problematise an entire class of technologies.” Translated into human, I think that means that the market can result in bad outcomes.

Schwab is the grand high poobah of the annual Davos gatherings of the anointed.  Their fundamental working premise is that even though human beings have adapted to change and produced leaders as needed since, well, forever, that is no longer possible.  The species has suddenly become static and stupid, so we must accept guidance from Davos even though those guys have absolutely no unique insight, vision, expertise (or even writing skills), just an undeserved presumption of intellectual heft.  (“An undeserved presumption of intellectual heft” sounds like a good working title for a biography of the president’s own Davos rep, John Kerry.) 

If a bunch of rich guys wants to waste time and money on hucksters and congratulate themselves for their newly acquired deep insights, who cares?  But when the hucksters actually intrude on real-world policy-making, there is a problem because they will begin trying to reshape the world to fit within their own significant limitations.  Great visionaries like Stalin, Hitler, Paul Ehrlich, Margaret Sanger, Mao, and Nancy Pelosi always wind up trying to implement programs to reduce freedoms and the human population itself because they cannot design a world that can accommodate all those diverse, disobedient individuals and all that change. It always comes down to some procrustean nonsense in which human beings must lose freedoms (and maybe their lives) so that humanity can be forced to fit into some sterile vision imposed from on high.

It is diagnostic that the Davos guys always seem to be proposing limitations, shortages, and messages of economic and climate despair.  People who cheered lockdowns, information control mandates, and loss of freedoms in response to COVID-19  are unambiguously members of some anti-humanity procrustean sect.  It is bad enough to be so ill-informed as to believe any of that was medically justified but to see it as a wondrous path to a Great Reset is sheer perversion.

You would expect that real futurists would start with humility, hope, and respect not merely for the creative power of the species but for the value, dignity, and wonder of personhood.  Preserving our moral compass and freedoms while welcoming beneficial change and accepting challenges does not appear to be the Davos vision.

Published in General
This post was promoted to the Main Feed by a Ricochet Editor at the recommendation of Ricochet members. Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Join Ricochet for Free.

There are 9 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    In the first passage you quoted, the operative three words mean you should not need to read any further.  “First, I feel”.

    That’s all you need to know.

    • #1
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Old Bathos: “Considering the economic pressures can also highlight where incentives problematise an entire class of technologies.”

    Seriously? Problematise? Hey, I invent words all the time, but that’s pathetic.

    Besides, behind all that boring nonsense a totalitarian is hiding who doesn’t trust the rest of mankind. Get lost, Klaus.

    • #2
  3. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    This is funny.  I actually just woke up and wondered about “embiggens” and thought that it was really a pretty good word.  Humble, concise, immediately understandable.  Cromulent actually.  And then I wondered if I would dare write a post which asks the readers to answer question: What are the actual, legal, philosophical, cosmological, and psychological considerations behind Satan’s Big Lie in the Garden of Eden?

    This article seems to touch on both.  Inflatable language, deliberate confusion, pomposity, and hidden emblanketed motives.

    • #3
  4. Steven Seward Member
    Steven Seward
    @StevenSeward

    A really good post!  I absolutely hate claptrap talk and non-specific vagaries.   You mentioned John Kerry.  He is really good at that.

    • #4
  5. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    Steven Seward (View Comment):

    A really good post! I absolutely hate claptrap talk and non-specific vagaries. You mentioned John Kerry. He is really good at that.

    John Kerry is good at that because that is where his brain operates.  Smart people are reluctant to opine in areas they know they don’t know well.  Some not-so-smart people are not smart enough to understand how much they are missing and thus deliver utter nonsense with great confidence.

    • #5
  6. Phil Turmel Coolidge
    Phil Turmel
    @PhilTurmel

    TIL: procrustean.

    (:

    • #6
  7. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    I read the first book and his comment that there must be a “common narrative” to empower a diverse set of individuals also sums it up. Don’t take this book or that weirdo Klaus lightly. He sounds like a robot, but they mean business.  There are powerful people in this group and they are going forward full tilt.  The fact that their language is vague, boring and un-meaningful is a smokescreen.

    The elimination of fossil fuels, the pandemics(s), skyrocketing costs of everything, from food, rent, is on target under the guise of “going green”.  You will own nothing and be happy is not a joke. You will rent everything – whatever you need you will order and it will be delivered.  

    He wrote the first book in 2016, and much of his predictions have and are still unfolding.  These massive and bizarre changes are here and coming……prepare accordingly.

    • #7
  8. Suspira Member
    Suspira
    @Suspira

    Old Bathos: Second, the world lacks a consistent, positive and common narrative

    Shocking that the entire world doesn’t think alike. I LOL’d at that line. Although, possibly, Schwab didn’t mean it as comedy. Still, you take your laughs where you can find them.

    • #8
  9. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):

    I read the first book and his comment that there must be a “common narrative” to empower a diverse set of individuals also sums it up. Don’t take this book or that weirdo Klaus lightly. He sounds like a robot, but they mean business. There are powerful people in this group and they are going forward full tilt. The fact that their language is vague, boring and un-meaningful is a smokescreen.

    The elimination of fossil fuels, the pandemics(s), skyrocketing costs of everything, from food, rent, is on target under the guise of “going green”. You will own nothing and be happy is not a joke. You will rent everything – whatever you need you will order and it will be delivered.

    He wrote the first book in 2016, and much of his predictions have and are still unfolding. These massive and bizarre changes are here and coming……prepare accordingly.

    I take seriously the fact that rich, powerful people are sharing a mindset suitable for second-rate James Bond movie villains. 

    Predicting that the US will not be as dominant, that a virtual and service economy will expand, etc does not make one Nostradamus.  Commonplace op-ed assumptions repackaged as visionary predictions is more of a marketing achievement than substantive policy analysis.

    The self-regarding rich of an earlier era thought Mussolini had it right about the need for technocratic rule, that Hitler was right about the need for eugenics and that the League of Nations ought to have authority to override national governments. (Woodrow Wilson seemed to think it would be peachy if the President and Congress could not overrule a League command to mobilize and use US troops for international missions–Bush ’41 might have tacitly agreed but only if the US had de facto control of the said international body.)

    A few thousand Western Europeans freezing to death this winter and an economic collapse that cancels globalization efforts might cause the spoiled rich to look for a new toy if WEF suddenly goes out of fashion.  

    • #9
Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.