Posts about davos07

Davos07: Terrorism

At a session on terrorism at Davos. Liveblogging a few notes….

Shaukat Aziz, prime minister of Pakistan, issues all the usual cant on terrorism: not died to a religion… no borders… root causes…. all that. He complains about profiling and says it “adds to heartburn.”

Michael Chertoff, head of Homeland Security in the U.S., tries to put a yardstick up to terrorism response, saying that rational people would agree to actions to stop a nuclear bomb that they would not agree to to stop one person from being shot. He focuses on what he calls “high-consequence events.” Stopping these requires inconvenience, some economic impact, and “some adjustment in even how we conceive of some of our liberties — but the key is not to go overboard.” What is high-consequence? what is overboard?

David Cameron, Conservative leader in the U.K., tries a similar act of measurement. “We’ve got to get right the hard-nosed defense of liberty rather than ineffective authoritarianism.” He says that there is a “quantum difference” in terrorism, worse than the days of the IRA and Baader-Meinhof. As a result, he says, “there are some big changes we have to make. It is vital that we get the balance right.”

Carefully countering Aziz on root causes, Cameron says that there is not “a list of demand that will stop Osama bin Laden from doing what he is going to do.” As a result, he says, the first reaction to terrorism must be security. Then one can “drain the swamp” that creates it. He also says that there is an “ideological cause” in the root of terrorism: “a perversion of Islam.” Aziz is shaking his head.

Cameron also says that he is against creating a separate ministry for counter-terrorism but instead wants two ministers in the Home Office, one devoted to police activities and the other devoted to counter-terrorism. Criticizing Blair, he says that “there has been too much focus on law and not enough focus on good administration.”

A Harvard professor asks Cameron whether he agrees with the UK Foreign Office’s advise that government officials should not use the term “war on terrorism” as it “plays into the narrative” of the terrorists and turns them into “martyrs in a holy war.” Cameron says he agrees. Chertoff says he wants to work with moderate members of the Islamic community to understand how they want to describe what is happening. Gijs M. de Vries of the EU attacks the phrase “Islamic terrorism” and says “there is no such thing…. Whether we call this a war or not, let us fight this fight within the bounds of human rights.” Aziz says the average terrorist is sitting in some remote location getting brainwashed and is not reading Foreign Office papers. He emphasizes the rhetoric of recruitment: deprivation, rights, and so on: “Let’s get reality.”

If rhetoric could kill…

Chertoff is asked by an Islamic organization official in the audience whether things are better five years on in the war/struggle/fight on terror and whether the day will come when we will sit down with a terrorist group, as the UK did with the IRA. Chertoff says let’s “get reality,” like Aziz, and recognize that bin Laden’s demand is for us to go back to the 12th century and there is no discussion with that. Cameron says “that is the big difference between the IRA and al Qaeda…. I’m not in any way belitting the IRA and what it did…. But to get this debate right we have to recognize the difference between IRA terrorism and suicide bombing… That is a different sort of terrorism and we would be betraying our populations if we did not recognize that and act on it. ”

The head of Amnesty International now also wants to look at reality and says that the U.S., U.K., and Pakistan have eroded human rights with torture and more. She asks to what extent undermining human rights “feeds the flames of terrorism.” Chertoff says he agrees we should not sacrifice human rights but also not treat every departure from normal process as a catastrophic betrayal of what we believe in. Aziz talks about the checks of having a free press and independent judiciary. Cameron says that of course we must defend freedom but also says that “in order to defeat terrorism, we have to maintain a balance,” citing, for example, how long the government may keep a suspect in jail when “you are trying to break up a complicated plot.”

Davos07: Media notes

I spent much of the first day at Davos in a session of the International Media Council, a gathering of leading lights. A few moments and quotes:

* Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, told what he called a random story — it’s a perfect tale for the medium and the age — about empowering collaboration. His sophomore year at Harvard, while starting his company, he failed to study at all for one of his courses; he didn’t even go to class. So days before the final, he pulled all the pictures he needed to analyze off the web and put them up on a page online with boxes underneath. He emailed the class and said he’d put up a study guide. Sure enough, in moments, the students filled in their essential knowledge on the art. Zuckerberg got an A. And the prof told him that the grades in the class improved 10 percent over previous years.

It’s a magnificent lesson in everybody winning with cooperation: exactly the lesson big media must learn.

Zuckerberg is the country’s best panelist (and I’ll apologize to him if this lands him on more panels) because he is unfailingly direct and honest: politely blunt. He was asked about newspaper and magazine efforts to establish social communities around the the nation into reporters, armed with camera phones; they get thousands of photos from news events and beat all competitors — thanks to this cooperation — and pay for these photos. Nick Kristof from The New York Times is doing some of the most amazing work in journalism to both present his stories across all appropriate media and also to involve his public in the story (see his recent effort to have people remix his raw reporting). (Arianna Huffington called Kristof’s “obsessiveness” on Drafur “unbelievably bloggy”). I heard from a TV anchor who breaks news in his blog and sees the line between his time in front of a camera or a keyboard to be merging into one. I talked with editors around the world who are inviting bloggers into the newsroom to meet and doing things with them.

[Note that this session, like others at Davos, was off-the-record under the Chatham House rule: one may not quote someone by name without permission. They say they do this to encourage more open discussion. In a prior Davos meeting, of course, then-CNN-President Eason Jordan created a storm when he talked about journalists hurt by military fire, which was blogged and w hich lead to his departure from CNN. The rules about what was on- or off-the-record apparently weren’t so clear but now they are clearer. We can write about any session held in the main hall; all others operate under the Chatham House rule.]

Davos07: Iraq

I am at a Davos session on the future of Iraq. Live-blogging….

Richard Haass, ex of the State Department, asks whether there is something in the Iraqi culture that made the violence inevitable or whether it was the result of mistakes.

Ali Abd Al-Mahdi, vice-president of Iraq says that the Iraqi government and American government made mistakes. “Some people say that we are in a civil war. I don’t agree with that. We are in a war against civilians, a war that really targets the whole society and it started as such. Terrorism took place in Iraq and then the insurgency took place…. And then later on… sectarian violence took place….”

Well, what’s worse: civil war or three wars?

Haass asks Adnan Pachachi, former president of Iraq, whether Iraqis see themselves as Iraqi. He replies: “We have inherited from the previous regime a really terrible legacy: the culture of violence, the culture of corruption, and also the culture of dependence on the government…. When I went back to Baghdad in 2003 everyone is telling me we want a government that will tell us what to do.” He says the years of sanctions destroyed the middle class and the social fabric of the country. He says that most Iraqis have an allegiance to Iraq.

“If because of domestic pressures in the United States and they cannot continue taking on this burden,” Pachaci says, then they should consider internationalizing the effort with the U.N.

Haass asked Abd Al-Mahdi whether the U.S. troop surge is welcomed by the Iraqi government. He says they believe they need more Iraqi forces in Baghdad. “So it’s up to the international forces to decide whether we need more troops or not. This is, to me, a technical question.” Well, not to those troops.

He says they are “reasonably optimistic” about their latest security plan for Baghdad because “it has some new features.” Later, asked why the latest addition to troops should have any different results from prior additions, he talks about how access to Baghdad will be restricted, how there is a commander for this effort, how neighborhoods will be cleared of insurgents and then patrolled. “I don’t think we will end violence but I think we can change some of the course of events, we can have a more peaceful capital, which is our goal.”

Haass says to the vice-president that people have lost confidence in the Iraqi government and that it is more sectarian than truly national. Words saying nothing follow: “Anyone can say what’s right or what’s wrong and what we need in Iraq…. About the government being sectarian, he says, that the prior regime was imbalanced and so “deprived people” now come to the fore to get involved and to others this may look imbalanced.

It’s striking what a politician he is, saying nothing at all.

Haass asks Pachachi about the execution of Saddam. He replies that he is against the death penalty: “This is a barbarous relic of dark ages.” He adds that the trial was flawed. But he says the event will be forgotten.

On democracy, he says it is about more than governing the nation but is about protecting the rights of minorities. He says that there are some ministries that are restricted to one ethnic group. “There is no democracy without adequate protection of the political minorities.”

A Davos minute

Just some quick scenes from my arrival at Davos.

Davos07: Bloggers’ nightcap

Last night, Davos played host to a nightcap (that’s what they call drinking here) for bloggers. Here are some clips of Claudia Gonzales of the World Economic Forum and Arianna Huffington of Huffington Post talking. Note that the video is awful; the only way I got light was by having them hold up a candle (insert ironic note here). I’m sparing you my comments; I thanked particularly Daylife for producing the Davos Conversation and they got a big hand.

Davos07: Beyond Web 2.0

So what’s beyond Web 2.0? It’s not Web 3.0 John Markoff of the NY Times, who wrote a kerfuffled piece about Web 3.0, said he just checked on Wikipedia and found the term banned in perpetuity. He also says that “one of the good things about about being a reporter not a visionary is that you don’t have to guess… the visionaries get it wrong.” So he says Web 3.0 is what he sees happening in companies he covers.

This comes at a Davos session on what’s next, with John Battelle of Federated Media questioning Markoff, John Gage of Sun and Jim Goodnight of SAS.

They are looking at this from the perspective of the machine, real and virtual: the building blocks people can put together; the view that the web is a vast data base that can have sense brought to it; the ability to bring a conversational interface to this; the fears and opportunities around the fact that everything is saved now.

I say we should look at this from the human perspective: what happens when you enable people to do what they want to do?

And we should look at this from a distributed perspective: The lesson of Yahoo and Google is that owning something is less desirable than enabling a network you don’t own.

Looking at specifics of what’s next, Markoff points to IBM’s web fountain with complex queries on that large data base. Battelle talks about TellMe’s advancing voice technology. Markoff says one of the few interesting things he saw at CES was a refrigerator magnet that will hear and print out your shopping list: “Why you would want this thing?” he shrugs, “but if it costs nothing — $150…” Gage talks about the coming together of voice recognition (when we don’t care about screen interface) and the ability of machines to talk to each other. Markoff talks about upod (and another company I can’t recall) that are better YouTubes.

Markoff, fresh from Burda’s DLD conference in Munich, says he’s also interesting in where the next innovations are coming from. Being in Munich showed him “that I don’t get out of the Silicon Valley often enough.” He also said that “Silicon Valley’s advantage is going away very, very rapidly… and that’s because of Web 2.0.” Amen.

Decentralization, that’s where it’s at.

Uh-oh: Second life comes up. SAS brags about putting videos on YouTube (“why not, it’s free”) and Sun about opening a store on Second Life. Ah, Second Life. The Davos Conversation page, on which this appears, links to Davos on Second Life. On the bus yesterday with Loic LeMeur, we talked about the French candidates on Second Life. Last night, I got into a good-natured head-shaking session with David Kirkpatrick of Fortune; he was pushing Second Life in a story he put up today and I was poo-poing. I think it’s overhyped, myself. At this morning’s session, John Markoff admits that he hasn’t gotten past the opening and I admit I have not either. It’s small. They have 334,000 “regular visitors,” Kirkpatrick says – though that’s only people who come back after a month while 2.6 million have come and most, like Markoff and me, give up. But Gage makes an eloquent case for the virtual-world interface making a big difference in the future architecture, medicine, education, entertainment. “The moment that the haptic interface works in Second Life, it is going to double and double again…” Mitch Kapor, chairman of the Second Life parent, says that a haptic interface — that is, the ability to feel something virtual in the real world — is months away.

The floor opens and Vint Cerf stands to talk about what he sees coming up, including geographic indexing, mobility, permanence of data; the virtualization of data. He also asks that next year, 13-year-old sit up front. He also talks about the fundamental architectural change that comes in a world where all create; the asymmetrical web doesn’t work as well. He lusts after Kyoto, where one gets a billion bits a second for $89 a month: “almost made me want to move there.” Battelle says there are rumors Google will supply that. Cerf says that Google is not trying to build physical structures but it encourages symmetrical business models.

Battelle brings together talk about identity and the cultural change there: young people spending hours on their MySpace pages, the need to have a presence in the world, the need to connect (and, I’ll argue, that changes our views of privacy, for you cannot connect with people until you give up something of yourself).

From the floor, there is talk about spam — broadly defined as ill-intentioned use of good things — and Markoff says that when he covered botnets he realized that bad guys have supercomputers too. He says he came to this as an internet optimist but he realizes that the world we’ve build mirrors the real world. But Battelle says that, indeed, there is spam but he feels as if he has read that cautionary tale every two years for the last 20.

Media Channel’s message to the mountain

Danny Schechter and Rory O’Connor at create a wonderful video to join in the Davos Conversation. They talk about being at Davos a few years ago and about learning that the machers there are “not evil.” They say it’s time to get past partisanship in America and around the world. It’s time to look for common ground and solve problems. They applaud the effort to start a conversation out of Davos and say the people on the mountain have a lot to learn from the people in the valley. Amen to it all. Watch their message:

Questions for Davos

Davos Conversation notes…

: John Robb asks: ‘Is Davos relevant?’

With global economy running itself (where it is going, nobody has a clue), bottoms up organizations are forming to solve local and global needs, and states being pushed to margins, you can’t help but get the sense that Davos is hideously anachronistic — from a seemingly long ago time when big ideas, big people, and big states ruled the world.

: Antonio Gould says the Davos Conversation is what the web was made for:

Traditionally a fairly closed event, the WEF have decided to get communicating with the wider public. . . . Nice to see the world’s great and the good actually making an effort to listen to people for once (it doesn’t seem to happen very often, especially in the UK nowadays). Whether they actually will or not remains to be seen.

: Andrew Keen wonders whether opening up is the best thing to do:

Is nothing sacred from the digital democratizers? The Davos Conference (aka: The World Economic Forum), historically the private networking event (a so-called “closed session”) of the rich, powerful and famous, has been invaded by the Web 2.0 crowd. . . .

Time magazine’s YOU is now headlining at Davos. The closed session has been blown open to gaze of anyone with a broadband connection. Nosey parkers on the internet can now watch the historically closed panels live from their computers. We will all be able to post our comments in “real-time” to Davos participants like Angela Merkel, John McCain, King Abdullah of Jordan and Tony Blair. We can give them our view of the environment, of the Iraq War, of the global economy, on the afterlife and the pre-life. We can lecture Bill Gates about computers, Rupert Murdoch about media, Bono about celebrity, Mohammed El Baradei about atomic power and Gordon Brown about economics.

The problem, however, is that if Tony Blair, King Abdullah, John McCain, Angela Merkel et al know that we are watching them, then they will say what we want them to say (meaning that they will say nothing different from what they always say on television). The whole raison d’etre of Davos — of powerful people getting together to talk in private about the world’s problems — will be undermined. By democratizing Davos, by turning it into an always-on event, the Web 2.0 crowd are transforming a historically important date on the calendar into a self-celebratory media circus. At Davos 2.0, everyone will feel great about their horizontal networks and nothing of any political sustance will get done. . . .

: Seamus McCauley puzzles over the optimism gap he sees in the survey data released by the WEF, which leads to a fascinating argument about the falling fortunes of newspapers:

But back to the 53% of Western Europeans who think that the world will be less prosperous in the next generation. What is is that inclines us to so fear the future? I’ve mentioned before Michael Chabon’s article The Omega Glory, in which his notes that,

“If you ask my eight-year-old about the Future, he pretty much thinks the world is going to end, and that’s it. Most likely global warming, he says–floods, storms, desertification–but the possibility of viral pandemic, meteor impact, or some kind of nuclear exchange is not alien to his view of the days to come. Maybe not tomorrow, or a year from now.”

There’s nothing new in a pessimistic view of the future. Christianity is at heart an apocalypse cult and much of the fundamentalist revival in the US focuses on an allegedly imminent rapture. The late C20th lived in the shadow of the bomb. Different armaggedons seemingly haunt every generation. Only last week conversation with friends over dinner turned to survivalism and contingency plans for the collapse of civilisation (remote, fortified Greek islands featured prominently).

I’ve posited before that our culture’s future-pessimism might explain the decline of the newspaper industry. An interest in current affairs is indissolubly bound up with the connection the reader feels with an imagined future to which those affairs might relate, and newsprint is suffering particularly from the evaporation of that connection. Chris Charron recently asked the LinkedIn community about the future for newspapers:

“When does the circulation drop below a point where the editorial, classifieds, and advertising models collapse and our vehicle news needs radical innovation?”

Vidar Hokstad gave, for my money, the most interesting answer – that newspapers face “not just a technological challenge, but a cultural challenge”. Indeed. The cultural challenge for newspapers is to present a vision of the present, and therefore a vision of the future, that resonates with their readers and inspires them to engage with the news every day. Western media owners have the hardest job in the world – 53% of their audience think that the future will be poorer than the present. Chinese media owners have the easiest – a massive 86% are optimistic about their future prosperity. Getting people who think that every day is a little bit better than yesterday to enthuse about the news that is taking them there should be shooting fish in a barrel.

: Which causes Ron Davison to riff:

Until the West has shifted its economies to more directly go after improvements in quality of life, this sense of pessimism in the West may only get worse.

: Comment is Free readers are sending lots of questions and comments to Davos. Please do join in, in comments or in video. Here‘s a video from Lithuania and another from Scotland.