Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, JP Morgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon, and Alibaba’s Jack Ma will share the spotlight with a prize-winning South Korean robot called Hubo at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum this week in the Swiss ski resort.
It is a presence they’ll have to get used to.
The adult-sized automaton, which can climb stairs and enter and exit a car, will be a major attraction at the conference.
It illustrates a looming challenge for the 2,500 elite delegates: How to protect their companies and jobs by harnessing advances, without exacerbating the economic frustration and populist discord around the globe.
“If some of the predictions about tech and employment come true, then we should all be worried,” said Alan Winfield, a professor specialising in robotics at the University of the West of England, who will speak at Davos.
“There need to be solutions.”
Jostling with robots for the attention of the assembled executives, bankers, politicians, and economists will be the slowdown in China and resulting tremors in financial markets, the renewed burst of geopolitical tensions from North Korea to Saudi Arabia, Europe’s migration crisis, and the US presidential ambitions of Donald Trump.
All will shape conversations in the fabled Belvedere Hotel and other venues, which have become the focal point for the world economy one week every January.
About 20 sessions during the four-day conference are devoted to the official theme of ‘the Fourth Industrial Revolution’, a term for rapid technological progress.
Ms Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, will join Microsoft chief executive officer Satya Nadella in debating how it will “transform industries and societies”.
Blackstone Group chairman Stephen Schwarzman and Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan will address the technological challenges facing finance.
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