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The Davos Dashboard: Crafting a Thought Experiment - Part 1

POSTED IN: Cognitive Wingman

Lofty Goals from the Mountaintop


Every year, the World Economic Forum (WEF) hosts a meeting of global political and business leaders at a very posh ski resort in Switzerland. 




The World Economic Forum is a nonprofit foundation with the mission of "improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic, and other leaders of society to shape global, regional, and industry agendas"



In the crisp mountain air, lofty goals are discussed by the nearly 3000 men and women that make up this group of global elites.  Their ranks include heads of state, CEOs, academics, financiers, non-profits, scientists, and other big thinkers.  The typical attendee is well educated, industrious, global-minded, and well-connected.


But the “Davos Man” has his skeptics – like Samuel Huntington, a US academic and political advisor (himself a member of the group); and Steve Bannon, who lamented that “the middle class, the working men. . . are just tired of being dictated to by what we call the party of Davos”.  There is a full spectrum of Davos skeptics, some wary of conspiracy, while others are simply uncomfortable with an “elitist” organization that seems to epitomize wealth gaps and rising Gini coefficients.  



However, for this thought experiment I will play the role of an optimistic Canadian.  I will assume that most members of the Davos collective are a force-for-good with altruistic intentions.  Powerful people trying to “do good while doing well”, and in general, using their positions of influence to be good stewards of the planet. The Davos participants I’ve had the opportunity to know are good people who have worked hard for their successes.  Many are parents and grandparents, who like the rest of us, hope to leave the world in decent shape for the generations to come.


Which brings us to our thought experiment….




By emerging technologies I mean the full alphabet soup of AI (Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Intelligence); ML (Machine Learning); DL (Deep Learning); AR (Augmented Reality); UI/UX(User Interface /Experience novel methods); BCI (Brain Computer Interface); and Cognitive Extenders.


To leverage technology to help global leaders access knowledge and wisdom, in order to make better decisions and be better stewards. To leverage a rapidly expanding, increasingly heterogeneous data universe, and knowledge base, to “improve the state of the world.. and shape global, regional, and industry agendas"

A technical tar ball with some awesome sauce.


So where do we start?


Step 1 - Exploring the Current Tools


To understand best-fit future tools, we first explore the current WEF toolkit, including:


  1. Public Domain Information – This is information available to the general public – e.g. Newspapers, Magazines (e.g. Economist, Foreign Affairs), Social Media, Traditional Media (CSPAN, CNN, BBC), and other organizations (OECD, UN).
  2. WEF Reports – such as “Inclusive Growth and Development Report 2017” (focused on socially inclusive economic growth); “Global Risks Report 2017” (highlighting the most significant long-term global risks); and “The New Plastics Economy” on plastics life cycle.  The reports are nutrient rich, but are static snapshots and information silos.
  3. Libraries – like the Digital Transformation Initiative Library: the initiative offers insights into the impact of digital technologies over the next decade. Its purpose is to support public-private collaboration that unlocks value for both industry and society.
  4. Frameworks / White Papers – Mental models and frameworks to shape conversations.  For example, “Encouraging Futureproofing” provides “A Conceptual Framework for Measuring Country Performance” – in this case, a framework to motivate decision-makers to engage in long-term thinking by enabling them to benchmark their societies’ preparations for the future.
  5. Forums & Networks – Human connections.  Forums like Davos help people connect to share and test ideas (cross pollination).  Participants do networking & relationship building; explore new issues, and build trust.  Many connections persist after the events.


So reflecting on the tools above and the Davos mission of "improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic, and other leaders of society to shape global, regional, and industry agendas"


We’ll want to baseline our toolkit with the following attributes:

  • Data Distillation – to digest and distil out the massive wall of global data
  • Data Discovery – a tool for the navigation of data, knowledge & ideas
  • Connection Making – to create Eureka moments from idea intersections
  • Network Building (people) – to connect thinkers/doers for shared ideas
  • Perspective Enhancing – to expand and constructively challenge thinking
  • Decision Support – to provide robust and reliable information for decisions
  • Action Supporting – to help execution with KPIs/monitoring.  Enablement
  • User Interface – built so it actually gets used.  Repeatedly.  By all users.


Unsurprisingly, there's quite a bit of overlap with the meta-use cases we're seeing for Enterprise:

https://dreamtolearn.com/ryan/r_journey_to_watson/57 and  https://dreamtolearn.com/ryan/cognitivewingman/4



Step 2 – Understand The User


User Experience and User Interface will be essential.


The Davos attendees are a large and very diverse group with a wide range of skills.  Indeed, the diversity is a fundamental strength of the group – with diverse perspectives and experiences.   Perfect for idea cross pollination and vigorous debate.


Some participants are old-school technophobes.   Others are among the most technically sophisticated on the planet – on the bleeding edge and already writing the next chapters in technology.

The solution needs to work for everyone, so will require


  • Personalization – a system that can ‘gauge’ the user and automatically adjust and adapt.
  • Learning – a system that can learn and adjust both through observing actions, but also from explicit commands.  Both granular and aggregate.
  • Evolving – the system will not be perfect at launch, so needs a feedback mechanism for evolution and improvement.
  • Flexible – the system will need to be very flexible – which will likely translate into a modular, componentized architecture.
  • Cognitive – a system designed to optimally communicate with humans should present knowledge that is consumable in the ways people think, explore and communicate.   Natural language (spoken word), imagery, metaphors.


Step 3 – Gap Analysis


Knowing the mission, the current state of tools and the diverse set of users, we can now perform an initial Gap Analysis. 


There’s no technical magic here.  Just some good old fashioned interviews with people – talking with a representative sample of the users to understand What’s working well?  What’s not?

Gaps may include a few of the following:

  • Buried insights: WEF Libraries, Reports, Models are nutrient-rich, but not easily accessible to busy leaders with other priorities the other 51 weeks of year
  • Missed Opportunities: Failing to connect with the right people in the group –people outside immediate network can be the best ones to expand thinking
  • Continuity and Momentum:  Electricity and ideas may fill the air atop the mountain, but momentum can fizzle with time and distance.
  • Information Overload:  With an abundance of knowledge and information, and only 24 hours in the day, current methods of curation and knowledge delivery are not ideal
  • Etc…


Step 4 – Strong Foundation: Trust and Security


Any system being considered that touches so many people in influential positions will be a tantalizing target for “bad actors”.  Individuals who may be profit motivated; Nation-States with geo-political agendas; and potentially some among the number who may not be 100% altruistic.


Doing good does not mean being naïve.


The system must, at its core, be Trusted, Secure and Discrete


TRUSTED – The users must trust the system’s source data, algorithms, and usage confidentiality; Faith in architects and architectures. 


  • Reputation and Personal Brand
  • Company or Country reputation and regulations
  • Street smart – designed, built, operated and monitored in a manner that acknowledges the existence of bad actors with
  • The role of Blockchain



Step 5 – Begin Innovation and Be Agile


Davos Dashboard: Brainstorming on the Bus



Dashboard Panel Candidates

  1. CONFIDENCE – consumer confidence, VIX
  2. GDP – productivity globally, by nation, by subgroup
  3. TRADE – internationalism, bilateral agreements, cargo rates
  4. MONEY SUPPLY & INTEREST RATES – financial foundations, bond rates,
  5. EMPLOYMENT – levels and quality of employment, flexibility of labor
  6. FAITH – fiat currency robustness, optimism, corruption index
  7. STABILITY & SUSTAINABILITY- wealth distribution, power structures, judiciary
  8. GOVERNANCE & TRANSPARENCY – transparency, accounting boards, audit
  9. INDUSTRY – industrial strength, diversity, energy blend
  10. EDUCATION – vocational training, 2 year programs, PTeck, tertiary
  11. INVESTMENT – inflows and outflows, risk premiums, VC markets,
  12. FOOD & AGRICULTURE – domestic production, exports, ag science
  13. WATER – availability, cleanliness, monitoring, irrigation, water tables, oceans
  14. INNOVATION – technological and disruption, basic research funding
  15. HEALTH & WELFARE – OECD, UN Development Index
  16. DISEASE & MORTALITY – infant mortality, tropical diseases, malaria
  17. CLIMATE – global, long term, warming oceans, CO2, pollution
  18. WEATHER – crops and weather, commodities, hurricanes,  
  19. DATA & PRIVACY – personal security, identity theft, data protections,
  20. HUMAN RIGHTS & SAFETY – human trafficking
  21. GLOBAL & NATIONAL SECURITY – nuclear non proliferation
  22. ETC...



Cognitive Wingmen: Digital Humans

We are currently passing through the era of Siri, Cortana and Alexa - and evolving to the next generation of Cognitive/AI powered assistants.  These more advanced assistants will serve their human companions to help them navigate all aspects of personal and professional life.


The Cognitive Wingman is a more sophisticated, emotionally intelligent and socially aware, highly personalized cognitive assistant to help the Davos attendee.



The Digital Humans can act as Cognitive Extenders


  • Decision Support:  Help humans summon and engage data to help with decisions.   Consumer: high-value feature rich options (home decorating, automobile) helps buyers compare & understand (see) options.  ERP / Strategic:  Executives with data-on-demand, verbal command & control BI ERP integrations. Shared visualizations


  • Cognitive Extenders: Help executives and innovators reduce cognitive load and extend cognitive range.  Better reasoning, recall, decision support, social navigation & connection making. Context aware information augmentation.  Instant context-aware data recall and visualization for decision support.  Collaboration catalyst.


  • Cognitive Wingman: Jarvis, KITT, HAL.  Sensemaking systems understand context, to help. Use cases include autism, eldercare, Alzheimer’s & PTSD.  Cognitive Wingman is a human assistive AI/ADA buddy embedded inside AR headset – microphones & camera enable sensemaking & AR projection & audio to guide - or to guard


  • Knowledge Map & Recall:  Dark Data and Data Exhaust. People and Organizations are drowning in data.  Knowledge & expertise fuels continuing innovation and digital transformation. AR enables knowledge capture & recall across time/space. Verbal command/control, visual delivery. Leveraging spatial memory.


Summary: Crafting the Thought Experiments

  1. BLUE SKY:  If given a $100m budget to build a "Davos Dashboard" using the most advanced AI/Cognitive/ML/Deep Learning technologies, what would you architect?  How would you approach your 'sprints'?
  2. USE CASES:  Exactly what are the use cases?  What is a storyboard for a solution that would be relevant to at least 2/3 of WEF attendees?  Why would they want to use it?  What's the unmet need?
  3. AUTOMATION: To what extent would the final deliverable, or intermediate validation (sprint) use a HUMAN "man in the middle" - e.g. how/why would any system be better than having one of the worlds best networked Polymath as a personal assistant?
  4. SUCCESS METRICS:  What is a win?  Success Criteria & Key Performance Indicators (KPIs):  KPIs - As we explore mission, and success – we require success metrics – similar to KPI’s at a Fortune 500 company.  If successful in 5 or 50 years, what yardsticks can we use to measure success?
  5. ACTIONABLE INSIGHTS:  What are some examples of them?  What are 10 plausible scenarios where the solution could enable a new perspective; connections and ultimately actionable insights to serve the mission?  Which one is most impactful - or most realistic near term?
  6. LENSES & BENCHMARKS  – Compare and contrast populations, countries, economies, sectors, knowledge.  What are the yardsticks and how can the similarities and differences (and distances) be represented visually – or conveyed as ideas?
  7. NATIONAL STEWARDSHIP:  If an OECD Prime Minister wants to know how their departments are doing today, and 3 weeks/months/years from now – and relative to others, how might this happen?  How could semi-sensitive data be accessed and safely shared with controls?
  8. ASTRAL NETWORKING:  What might a Davos Digital Human look like, flying above all in the “Astral plane”?  Could Digital Proxies find each other, establish a relationship, and perhaps encourage their masters to engage with each other, where they otherwise might not?
  9. WHITE HAT / RED TEAMS:  How can we design robust systems to withstand attacks from bad actors?  Should White Hats be used for penetration testing? Red team simulations?
  10. HOPE FOR BEST, PLAN FOR WORST:  How to design for fault tolerance?  An Alternet with fundamentally different low level communications protocols (incompatible)?  Should there be a kill switch?
  11. INFORMATION QUALITY & ASYMMETRY:  How can we measure Information Asymmetry?  Score mental models?  Grade data quality and assumptions?  How can this be communicated to users?


In closing, there are a number of emerging technologies that can be combined to help world leaders access knowledge, wisdom, and each other - in order to make better decisions and be better stewards of the planet - to “improve the state of the world.. and shape global, regional, and industry agendas"

By identifying the current state, performing a gap analysis, and then using an Agile approach to test hypotheses - technologists can explore how to best support the mission.

Key questions include how to personalize; and understanding why and how a more automated and speculative technology solution, is better than current state.  Cost / benefit.






Nov 10th, 2017 - Several weeks after I posted blog I found this - looks like the've started to build one!




  1. https://www.weforum.org/events/world-economic-forum-annual-meeting-2017
  2. http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_AM17_Report.pdf
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gini_coefficient
  4. https://economic-policy-forum.org/global-news/wef-annual-meeting-2017-digital-transformation-initiative/
  5. http://reports.weforum.org/digital-transformation/wp-content/blogs.dir/94/mp/files/pages/files/170328-dti-executive-summary-slideshare.pdf
  6. https://dreamtolearn.com/ryan/cognitivewingman
  7. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vVkSC1mMIU - Soul Machines Digital Humans
  8. IBM Design Thinking Field Guide



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About the Author

Ryan Anderson

Ryan Anderson

Hi! I like to play with data, analytics and hack around with robots and gadgets in my garage. Lately I've been learning about machine learning.

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Created: December 20, 2016


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