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Global Remix

Alf Rehn, Mona Hammami Hijazi, Alexander Betts

The new context, part 1. How do you make sense of a colliding world? From migration to a new populism, a new machine age with a social purpose, the rapid growth of robotics and biotech, the fusion of geographies and sectors, cultures and religions, what are the consequences and opportunities for business? This “debate-style” session brings together three experts to explore what matters most, and what business should do next.

Irreverent Finn, Alf Rehn, reflected on these challenges, saying that innovation needs to refocus in order that business can have more impact:

  • Together we spend around $3 trillion each year on innovation. That’s about 22 “moonshots” (the Apollo mission cost $137bn). Most of it is misused.
  • Most innovation is frivolous, wasted on things like smart socks, rather a positive force for progress. Instead it should focus on the big challenges in our world.
  • Time to use your brain, to reclaim innovation with ambition, get serious about exponential technologies, and unleash our cognitive surplus.

Alf Rehn is a Finnish academic with a lifelong love of trashy popular culture. Based at the Åbo Akademi University in Turku, he is author of Dangerous Minds and Trendspotting. He is also the funniest and most outrageous thinker you will ever meet, exploring issues of new technologies, power, exclusion, creativity and innovation, using counter-intuitive analyses of core assumptions within business.

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Mona Hammami, from Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince’s Court, gave a global perspective on the biggest challenge for business:

  • Global change is accelerating in speed and scale. More crowded, older, migrant and urban, putting huge demand on scarce resources.
  • Public and private sector need to collaborate to find the $2.5 trillion investment required to fund the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals.
  • How can we all act as global citizens to solve these problems? In particular, how can business contribute to society in smarter, more strategic ways?

Mona Hammami Hijazi is director at the Office of Strategic Affairs, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Court. Her new book The Giving World offers a new approach to the many significant social and economic challenges faced by the developing world. These include tackling poverty and disease, reducing crime, and creating the infrastructure and security to foster economic prosperity.

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Alexander Betts, leading thinker on refugees and migration, sees the fault in our progress, and the problem with globalisation:

  • Globalisation is fundamentally undemocratic. Citizens lose influence, decisions are compromises, the strongest nations dominate.
  • We need to rethink the nature of work, including the important role of migration in this, as well as the fast emerging role of AI and robotics.
  • Social impacts should be a major discussion in the boardroom. CSR is not a peripheral issue. It should be core to the business model.

Alexander Betts achieved fame with his TED talk “Our refugee system is failing; here’s how we can fix it” and became a leading commentator on the rise of populism across Europe, and offers new solutions to a global problem. He is Professor of Forced Migration and International Affairs at Oxford University, and a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.

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