Eben bayer shares his expectations for the Annual Meeting 2013

I’d like to share a few of my expectations for the upcoming week at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, as well as some of aspirations:

Expectations

First and foremost, I expect cold feet. I was born and raised in the snowy hills of Vermont, but the Swiss version is steeper and colder. The Forum has provided crampons this year that are extra nice, which I hope is not due to some insight into the week’s upcoming weather.

I also expect to make great connections, and not necessarily conventional ones. Of course, the Annual Meeting is about business connections, and I’m fortunate to have made some great ones here. For example, Ecovative’s packaging partnership with SealedAir was born out a hurried conversation in a drafty corner in 2011.

But the Forum has much more to offer in this respect. Participants, often portrayed as elite board room players and world leaders, are actually far more diverse.

Last year, my most rewarding discussion was not with a CEO or a world leader, but with Lawrence Krauss, a brilliant physicist, who gave a mind-bending talk on how the universe arose from “nothing”. Krauss pursues topics such as these, partially through the ASU Origins project, which explores the most fundamental questions about who we are and where we came from. If you’re lucky, you might bump into Krauss this year).

Fear of missing out (FOMO) is another crucial part of the octane that drives the Annual Meeting. Though every year I endeavour to fight FOMO, I expect at least once to trudge to the wrong side of Davos at the wrong time and become absolutely convinced that the other 2,600 participants have actually left and had a secret party in Klosters.

This brings me to my final and ever present expectation at Davos – exhaustion.

It is decidedly counter-productive that an event focused on tackling the hardest problems in our world ends up driving participants into a near comatose state, through early breakfasts, hectic schedules during the day and numerous late night parties.

Arianna Huffington made a compelling argument last year that you can be successful and restful, but so far, I haven’t seen it catching on, which probably explains the cache of strange ideas that pop up each year. For instance, machinations that suggest we must grow ourselves out of this economic mess yet do so “sustainably” is a clear contradiction of physical principles.

Aspirations

This year’s Annual Meeting theme, “Resilient Dynamism”, is particularly meme-ish and is a reasonable reflection of what people are talking about (case in point: Andrew Zolli’s excellent book, Resilience, released this year).

I’m excited about this year’s theme because it gives me an opportunity to champion one of my aspirations. That is, to redesign our economic system using a model from the most resilient and dynamic system – life.

Life is the ultimate example of this so called “Resilient Dynamism”. Arising from nothing, life conquered our planet 4 billion or so years ago, and in doing so, created a fantastically, informationally-rich habitat. Life has faced many crises along the way – from cataclysmic natural disasters, to run-a-way feedback loops (not unlike those seen in our currency markets). Yet, it has always managed to thrive.

Life has flourished because it is inherently self-correcting and is directly coupled to the physical system it occupies. Neither of these is true for our fiat currencies, and I believe both criteria must exist if our economies are to become resilient.

My aspiration for this year is that those taking part in sessions on the perils of quantitive easing and building a new economy will look beyond ways to tweak our broken finance system, and start to talk seriously about how we might redesign an economy from the ground up.

So, if anyone desires a little inspiration on the intersection of money and living systems, I’ll be pleading my case throughout the meeting, starting tomorrow at the session “The Global Design Challenge”.

And, while truly aspirational, I do wish all participants the warmest of feet this week.

Author: Eben Bayer is Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Ecovative Design and is a 2011 World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer. 

Image: A man walks past the logo of the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting REUTERS/Pascal Lauener