This is a wonderful interview with Andrea Wong. Andrea is the head of programming at the World Economic Forum for the United States. The World Economic Forum is a Swiss non profit dedicated to improving the state of the world. They put on their famous conference each year in Davos.
Andrea is in charge of programming for the United States. Her main focus is around entrepreneurship and innovation. In this interview Andrea shares how the World Economic Forum thinks about and implements their programs. It’s fascinating.
Here are some other things we talk about:
-How did consulting/accounting help you with your current role?
-How does the World Economic Forum facilitate very tough conversations? What’s the secret sauce? It’s pretty amazing.
-What topics are you talking about around AI?
-What have been some of your favorite sessions at Davos?
-How does the world see the U.S. right now?
Dave Kruse: Hey everyone. Welcome to another episode of Flyover Labs and today we are lucky enough to interview Andrea Wong. And Andrea is the Head of Programming at the World Economic Forum for the United States and you probably know about the World Economic Forum. It’s a Swiss non-profit dedicated to essentially improving the state of the world, and they put on their famous conference each year in Davos, which you would probably hear about. So as I said, Andrea is charge of programming for the United States and I’m curious what that entails. I’m also curious to hear about Andrea’s background and how the World Economic Forum facilitates change and discussion and especially how Andrea makes decisions about programming in such an important organization. So Andrea, thanks for joining us today.
Andrea Wong: Pleasure to be here.
Dave Kruse: Definitely. So before we get into what you are doing now, can you tell us a little bit about your background?
Andrea Wong: Sure. So I had like a pretty boring background in terms of – to be very honest, I came up – I kind of understand the World Economic Forum so I don’t hold it against me, but I’m [inaudible] and so I did business school, I did the whole business route and I worked at a consulting company, big name accountancy as well, Price Waterhouse Cooper and that’s where I did most of my training in my early career and it was actually an incredible training ground and background and what I do at the forum. It seems it’s not obvious, but it actually comes up a lot. So I spent about four years at Price Waterhouse Cooper in Toronto and then I had always been passionate about public policy. I did a skit when I was in school in Washington DC. I was just the stock wood [ph] member intern for the Canadian Embassy in Washington DC and I did stent in parliament in Ottawa. So I was always passionate about public policy. I decided to go to graduate school at Colombia University and that’s where I focused on political economy and so then after that it was actually a fortuitous timing I entered grad school in September 2008 and that’s when the world fell through. So 2010, you know it was really, really interesting to be in New York City in that time and I got called to really continue the – I think in many ways continue my education and learning, because I actually don’t really feel like this is a job. I feel like I’m learning all the time. So we can get into that a bit later.
Dave Kruse: Wow! That sounds like an awesome job; that sounds pretty ideal. Yeah, so before we get into what you are doing now, you mentioned how the Price Waterhouse Cooper, that was a great training for what you are doing now and can you give like an example of what you learnt then that you use now.
Andrea Wong: Yeah. I learned the power of asking the good question. So I’m a chartered accountant and I’m very proud to say that because what I did at PWC was I was trained to go to companies in all different industries, whether you were a consumer products goods or whether you were a financial service or a bank, a hedge fund, whatever industry and I was trained to ask questions to understand what’s going on underneath the financial statement; to really figure out okay, how is the performance of this company. One of the experiences that I continued to take with me was not just the analytics part of that job, but also the people parts and I remember I was auditing this one company that I will remain unnamed and it was a large consumer products goods company, based in the united sates actually and they essentially went under; and part of my role was to go in to a company that was breaking apart, interview the people on the factory floor, interview the CFO, interview the Executive. Ask them about their stock option, ask them about strategy, etcetera, and it was – this was still interesting because you really see not just on the headlines or on numbers or paper, but you actually see the impact of what happens when a business close. Every day I would walk into an environment where people were anxious. They are like, is today the day that I get my pink sheet/ pink book. It was very interesting and it’s something that I take forward today.
Dave Kruse: Interesting. How long were you on that project for, the bankruptcy?
Andrea Wong: A while. It was an ongoing project. So I was on it for probably two years.
Dave Kruse: Really, and why was that part of the like the bankruptcy. The court said this needed to be done or why – what was the purpose of it?
Andrea Wong: It was strategy. It was you know at the time aluminum prices were going up, the margins were always, very, very thin and so I think it was a combination of poor performance, also a leadership change and changes at the top which you could just see. And then that’s an interesting thing when you look at a company, you can’t just look at – it’s important to look at the CEO level and the C3, but you’ve got to look all the way through to really see what’s going on.
Dave Kruse: Interesting. Yes, I can see that’s very relevant to what do you now. Let’s get into that. So can you maybe give a brief overview if for some reason people do not know what the World Economic Forum is and I gave a brief poor description at the beginning, but if you could expand that would be great.
Andrea Wong: Yeah, no you did a great job. Yeah, so we are an international organizations, Swiss based international organization. That is, our mission is committed to improving the state of the world and so in a lot of ways we are a combination of an organization, a network of networks. We put on events and we put on – we convene with global leaders across business, government and social society, but we also throughout the year have these communities and these networks that we bring together either virtually or in person or even just we bring them together to work on issues that can manifest themselves in very practical projects or very high level kind of sense making topics. So it really runs the gamut, the way that I explain kind of back of the cocktail napkin to people, none at the bar, is that you know any issue that is of global interest, any kind of gnarly with a problem, global challenge that doesn’t – that isn’t specific to a country that’s really cuts across business government to the society, we’ll be doing something on it. So that’s pretty much my pitch.
Dave Kruse: So energy, food, water, poverty.
Andrea Wong: All the above.
Dave Kruse: All the above, healthy, yeah okay. And so – well let’s see, I have so many question now. But how do you get – all right so let’s pick maybe one of those topics and let’s say water or whatever topic you want to pick. You know how do you kind of frame the conversation and how do you actually get things to change throughout the history of the World Economic Forum. Like how – what have you guys learnt and how do you kind of facilitate that change?
Andrea Wong: Yeah, it’s actually really interesting because one thing that I always tell people is the big gnarly weight of problems of yesterday or even last year don’t really change to this year, right. You think these are gnarly issues, these are complex you know big issues for the event, and so in a lot of ways how I think about and how our organization goes about thinking about what we do is more of an evolution rather than okay, you know this is a problem, let’s fix it, then let’s move on to the next thing. We take both the signals from the world, as well as try to add our own line to it and for a pretty long time we have a position of saying you know what, we want to be a completely neutral platform and you can bring your issue through it, we don’t have a position on anything and we just provide the table that people then come to the table to discuss those issues. I think that evolution of our organization has changed in recent years, probably about three to five years, especially if we’ve got, as become more involved in projects and so one of the couples, and you have a question about how do we measure impact and how do we see really an issue evolved is this topic of agriculture. So we started a mission called New Vision for Agriculture and I can’t take credit for this, that’s the first thing that I want to say, is my colleagues, Mr. Dryr and Morgan Frese and we have a huge number of individuals in our organization working on this over a number of years. Probably I want to say about five to seven years ago there was an ongoing kind of conversation about sustainability of food and food security, right. It’s not a new topic right. This issue has been on the agenda as long as environmental sustainability has been on the agenda. But what happened was five to seven years ago a collocation of company and the government representatives said you know what, we really need to – we don’t know what it is exactly, but we need to do something. We can’t just standby. We’ve been doing projects and we have been seeing the trends and we’ve been coming to Davos and talking about how food security is a huge issue and we see the statistics. Let’s go beyond talking about it. I think we are ready to do something about it. So that’s something that we call moving from a communicative interest where you know that this is an important issue, but you are not sure what the position is. So can we do a program where you go and you say okay, this is the problem. We know that there is something that needs to done and we are ready to commit to doing something. We do know what that is exactly. And so from about a few years that community, it’s mostly a group of and it came out of food and agriculture companies, food and beverage and really a lot of government representatives from developing countries. They did a lot of research. They created a project called the New Vision for Agriculture and what they did was they created a framework of thinking about the New Vision for Agriculture and they said, first of all this has to be a multi stakeholder framework. Second of all, this has to involve not just high level public figures, ministers or type of state and big business, state agri, but it has to involve people at the farmers’ level. This has to go all the way down. And so they created that framework called the New Vision for Agriculture. Fast forward to a couple of years ago to today and that innovative started with 17 food and agro business companies. It has now grown into a network of 500 organizations that are doing things on the grant in 19 countries. I’m really happy to represent on behalf of my colleges who have done this network, together with this network and today we’ve got over $10.5 billion in private sector investments that have been committed. Of that $10.5 billion, $1.9 billion have been implemented benefiting over 96 million farmers. And these all trickle down into initiatives and projects to connect policy makers with farmers, connect farmers with easy other, connect farmers with the agri business, to really work on creating a healthy and dynamic ecosystem, to insure that we can seed our work of 9 billion people, because it’s a scary thought if you think about it in the next few years.
Dave Kruse: Wow! That’s pretty brilliant. Okay, so that’s quite a good example. And so what would be – what’s one policy that came out of that, that you are working on to or one thing that you want to change?
Andrea Wong: I think in terms of that particular issue and this is the other thing that’s interesting about programming and about the World Economic Forum, is that there is no one size that fits all. So you know I talked about the community interest coming together saying, okay we know that this is the problem, we know that food security is an issue, we know yes, that is a problem. Then we talk about the community interest that came together and said okay, we are ready to put our money where our mouth is. We are ready to do something about it, so they came up with initiative projects okay, tried a few sales, all that stuff. Then we get into a community of action and it doesn’t always mean a policy leader is needed. In this particular case, it actually wasn’t about policy, it was about networks and it was about creating an investment into the infrastructure and the ecosystem, really on the ground with stakeholders across the product chain and this food and energy agri value chain. Now another example that does have a policy leaver would be things around internet for all, for example. So we have another initiative; it’s called Internet For All and it really has gone public in the last probably three or four years, so it’s a little bit younger and its really focused on the way its described, providing internet access to everyone. There are over four billion people today that don’t have access to the internet and it’s not just limited to developing countries, there are people in the United States who do not have access to the internet and in the lead with 2014 – I could be world in that date, that the UN declared internet access to be fundamental human rights. So this one, I think this particular initiative does require a positive leaver because internet access and digital infrastructure tends to be something that requires public investment and public policy. So depending on the jurisdiction that you are in, the nation state that you are in, in the United States you know digital infrastructure is run by the Department Of Commerce; so previously under Secretary Penny Pritzker and the DIAN in that show. So some of the public policy leaders that you have there include but not as actively you know policies on neutrality, something that right now is really undergoing a new debate under the new Trump administration – and pubic private partnerships is another example. It’s not exclusively a policy lever but it is an example of kind of initiative and action that’s required in saying okay, which telecom providers who they wanted to step-up and provide free and fair and affordable access to the internet via a mobile phone and this is where companies like Facebook with zero rating programs come into play.
Dave Kruse: Got you, okay. And so with both these initiatives, how does the World Economic Forum part take. Do you guys organize, but like what they say the agriculture initiatives and that’s 500 members; that’s a huge number of people to organize and to lead and so do you bring – yeah, how does the World Economic Forum kind of facilitate that whole process and like bring up topics to talk about and then drive for a change. Yeah, how does that kind of work?
Andrea Wong: What’s the secret sauce do you mean?
Dave Kruse: Yeah? Because it sounds like – yeah, it’s impressive that you guys can pull this off, because there are very few organizations in the world that could, but…?
Andrea Wong: And I have to say that our organizations e-source is really less about – being about us and what we do and more back to the kind of our original kind of how we came about is to be neutral platform and so as we gotten more and recently more involved in saying okay, we want to really diverge and do projects and initiatives in these areas, what we always been in the seed that we came down has always been about being a platform and convening individuals and really brining the issues to the top of the agenda and so that’s what we call agenda setting. So just in general our general approach is one, is listening, and as we think through all the different stakeholders from government, from business facility, labor leaders, religious leaders, women leaders, entrepreneurs, you name it, one thing that Professor Schwab who I would remiss not to mention, who is our Founder and our Chairman, you know one thing that he was brilliant in really recognizing is that and really one – and he called these stakeholders, all of these individuals, everyone kind of had their own voice, has their own view point and world view of things and associated with that, they have their own technology and language. And so one of the first places that we start is, listening. So each of these individuals are really learning their language and so our organization actually mirrors a lot of the outside world. So we have a group that is our business oriented group and so we have teams that match up to the industry. So we have a team that is representing the ICT industry that goes and talks to and builds a community around the telecom company, the IT Company like SAT, like Sales Force like Facebook like Google or Alphabet. We have other groups that – and other teams that go to the consumer products companies and so they learn their language. Then on the government side we have a full set, a whole group of teams that are trained and come from as well to go and speak to public figure, and so they were set up by region. So we’ve got what, teams that is focused on North America, U.S., Canada, Mexico. We’ve got a team that is focused on India, the Middle East and North Africa region, a team on Asia, and China and Japan and Korea and so they know and they have built their relationship with the ministers from that region, and then we’ve got teams that match Public Society Organizations, labor leaders, religious leaders, women leaders, you name it. And so the first step is really understanding where all of these groups are coming from, listening to them, ensuring from them what the issues that are top of the minds with them are. Then what we do is we kind of bring it all together and in a series of kind of, and this is the ongoing drive to your answer, but brainstorming and ongoing conversations. It’s really interesting as forum; in a lot of ways it feels more like my job is to just talk to people and just to hear them and listen and to understand where they are coming from and understand who they are talking to. And that all comes together and from that we have a series of kind of more directive brainstorming workshops and we say okay, here is some common things that we see surfacing this year compared to last year or next year. Like we give it a little bit of a focus, we give it a theme. This year the theme for the annual meeting was responsible leadership; so all of our listening comes through that lens. We come together and we see what kind of bubbles up to the top, what is common and then from there we then take an initiative and say okay, what’s new this year; okay we know this is common. This issue about food security, this issue about Internet for all, that’s not really new. It’s still something that’s of a common interest to a lot of people. What’s our new spin and where do you want to take it and that’s where I think programming comes in and that’s where we apply some of our own learning and our own thinking and part of what I’m privileged to do you know on the forum’s programming team is to also take a little bit of my own education and I speak to a lot of academics as well, and they inform that, and we’ll say okay, this is what the stakeholders want, what is really needed? We take that as a major input. Then we say okay, how do we really push this conversation forward. We know the industry is really concerned with ensuring that artificial intelligence for example, is the new area for many industries, for startups and big business alike, okay we know that’s an issue. What’s the society angle to that? Where do we need to move that conversation? We know that AI is a huge opportunity for growth, but more than growth it’s also a huge opportunity for asking questions about the effects of AI. Why or why not? How do want to frame it, and how do we frame that question in a way that given everyone is using different language, that we use language that brings people together as opposed to zeroing in on the silos of individuals, because they are already talking to each other within their own worlds and their own silos. So that is a roundabout way.
Dave Kruse: No, that was awesome. You should write that down, because I mean you know from the surface, it’s like oh! You guys do an incredible job of like bringing people together and making change, because there is so much research and support behind that, right, that actually makes that possible. It’s not – you guys make it look easy, but there is a – like you said, you understand the interest of the stakeholders and the people who are effected, because you have people focused on all these different areas and working through all these different companies, that’s interesting, okay.
Andrea Wong: Yeah, and it’s really interesting too because our teams that are the business facing teams for example, you see they are captured by their constituents, right. They are in charge of making sure that they represent business views. So when I speak to our business teams, they are coming from that perspective. They when I go and I speak to our teams that are representing some of the society, they come with their perspective and so in some ways we kind of our have our own mirror, our own internal kind of pseudo negotiation if you will or conversation about okay, well this is a business perspective, but you know what, we need to really strike this balance for the society angle on the topic of equality in education for example. And what’s interesting is that you have a mini debate that happens internally first and you can kind of play out what you think will happen when you actually being the real CEO or the real Heads of State together and so that’s something that you know I use a lot, which is really being able to tap into that proxy of my colleagues who relay know their constituents well and you bring them together in different combinations and you use different language and you explain the question in a different way, and you kind of play out how you think the conversation is going to go in Davos or in real live with the real constituents and more or less it does play out the way that you think.
Dave Kruse: Interesting, wow! A lot of preparation, that’s good; that’s what makes the difference. And can you – so let’s talk a little bit about what you are doing now. I think you alluded to a lot of it, but can you kind of describe your role as Head of Programming for the United States does?
Andrea Wong: Yeah. So our team, so programming is – our Global Programming Group is about a team of 25 individuals. The vast majority of ours 10 to 15 of us are based in Geneva. Five of us are based in the U.S. and then we got a couple in China and really our goal is to kind of sit outside of all of those teams that I just described, the teams that are business basing or government basing or civil society basing, we sit outside of that structure and we come together. We are kind of organized like a news room. So what I imagine the New York Times or The Economist Magazine, the way that they are organize, we have different desks and so the desks are organized by topics. So we have a small cluster of my colleagues that are focused on environment and sustainability topics; another cluster that’s focused on economics and finance; another cluster that’s focused on science and technology. My cluster is focused on business innovation and entrepreneurship and so that’s my topic offline, but then on top of that I’m a part of the leadership team that thinks about the program from a big pitcher on top of all those topics. So I kind of wear two hats; one is being a little bit of a senior editor if you will and the other is doing some of the bread and butter work around bringing conversations to life around business innovation and entrepreneurship.
Dave Kruse: Got you; interesting, okay. And what are some around business in innovation entrepreneurship? What are some of the hot topics that are you are looking into now?
Andrea Wong: Some of the biggest snags that we came out of Davos with was this conversation about Artificial Intelligence; that was major, major theme. AI was everywhere and part of it is endogenous, because we put AI on to the agenda, but then why did we put AI onto the agenda is it comes from our computations with our experts and our stakeholders and so it’s a little bit of a chicken and egg. We put it on the agenda before it comes out of the major theme, but it comes out as a major theme because we put it on the agenda, right. But Artificial Intelligence was a major schematic, mostly because AI is the source of new growth for all kinds of industries that I mentioned before, everything from healthcare to manufacturing and automation to your classic IT providers and what’s really interesting here is two things; one is, there is a philosophical conversation about AI. How far do we want to go in terms of allowing Artificial Intelligence to automate and take over many of the processes today that people are responsible for? One example is data; how many do we want machines and algorithms to know about ourselves and our personal data and to be able to share that information with other machines and other algorithms and that’s the whole ecosystem of the internet of things, that’s another example, which is all connected right, how much do you want that to happen? Questions about privacy and security are involved with that. So there’s an ethical question. Then there is a very practical business question, which is a lot of people are scared about AI. They are scared about the idea that your fridge knows exactly how much you eat in a week and it’s going to send an automatic grocery list to the grocery store. And are you okay with Coal Foods knowing, you know what you are not exactly sticking to the diet that you told your fridge you wanted to and you know all those things and there is a lot of anxiety with that and that goes back, and that’s an example of privacy again. But there is also questions about jobs and a lot of people are worried that automation and Artificial Intelligence is replacing jobs, white color jobs more specifically, and so all of that is linked to this concern that AI is getting a bad rep and that consumers will be hesitant to embrace companies that have products that have AI embedded in their products and so that’s a really strong business thematic, and a question of how do we – what are some of the questions that we address to the general public? What are some ways and controls that we need to create, if we are business in order to build trust in this industry. There is AI as an industry and then there is the broader kind of applications of AI, the Internet of Things, algorithms and machine learning, all of that wraps up into something that we haven’t built that kind of forum and is called the fourth industrial revolution. And so that was an ongoing thematic as well, which is about every – as society moves into the next industrial revolution and this was informed by a magazine Erik Brynjolfsson work on The Second Machine Age; Alec Ross’s work on Industries of the Future. So it’s not really anything new. We just put our own spin on it calling it the Fourth Industrial Resolution, referring to the next big industrial wave that is going to create disruption and change in how we work with. As we go into the Fourth Industrial Revolution
in which the civil society needs to involved, businesses need to put controls on their products and their services. So that was another major things that we are thinking about and I think the particular lens through which we are looking at this going forward isn’t want is the fourth industrial revolution or even how is it going to change, how we were playing with, but more of how do we make sure that as we go into the next industrial resolution that we’ve learnt a lesson of the first industrial revolution, where we had rubber bearing of standard oil and that’s where a lot of labor unions came out of. Because you had big businesses and you had the rubber bearing really monopolizing a lot, not just what industry did, but what society, the world of society. And so how do we go into the next industrial revolution thinking about jobs and the new jobs that need to be created and to educate the work force, but also how do we go into the next industrial revolution ensuring that it, the benefit of and help the benefits of advanced healthcare techniques, advance genomics, the benefit of automation in the new industry aren’t just excluded to the 1%, but how do we actually use the industrial revolution to be a revolution for the many, for the 99%.
Dave Kruse: Because you take the stance that you take the neutral stance essentially, and so you are going to say AI is coming, so let’s try to figure out how to educate the public and to make sure that when AI does come, it helps a lot of people, not just the few. Is that kind of the perspective that you guys still have interest in?
Andrea Wong: Yeah.
Dave Kruse: That’s great.
Andrea Wong: Yeah, that’s right. That’s right and if you think about it a lot of countries have, aren’t even anywhere to what we call the third industrial revolution, which is the computer age. You know and so when we are talking about – and I’m in California right now, and you know there is all the conversations here in California and so I’m talking about self driving vehicles and you know how your fridge will be able to talk to your purchase store and how your coffee machine will be able to talk to you quick and all these things right. They all sound like a great in the future, but guess what, only 1% of the world right now can even have that future, because how many people have clean water or even access to food that is nutritious, let alone talk about how technology is going to enhance the distribution delivery of that. You know how many of us are lucky here in the United States to able to access you know Amazon delivery services and drone delivery right. So I think a lot of global conversations has to be focused on ensuring that the benefits of this technology is accessible to everyone.
Dave Kruse: Interesting! Well, and what type of – you mentioned the first industrial revolution; do you have lessons from that that you are applying to that you know that doesn’t go approved all to the 1%. How do you do that, because it seems like it could easily go that way, especially with some of these larger companies with a lot of the computing power and the data that they have.
Andrea Wong: Agreed, and especially if you look at the digital ecosystem right now, you’ve got a huge conglomerate of companies that are mapping power and market share, which is the better word. We accurate an amount, 80% of the words profit today accrued to about 10% of public companies.
Dave Kruse: Wow!
Andrea Wong: And yeah, actually the exports in dollars and we had a session on that in a conversation. They anticipate that that concentration is actually only going to become more acute, because that number is only going to go up. So what does that mean, and is that a good thing or bad thing, because it’s not necessarily a bad thing. When you have such a complex eco system and a global economy that is so dynamic and so interconnected, you know having entities that see that ecosystem and can move quickly within that use of the system that can innovate because they have that ecosystem to use, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, right.
Dave Kruse: Interesting.
Andrea Wong: But I do think that some of the lessons and getting back your question, we have some of the lessons that we learnt from earlier industrial revolutions really are around track and transporting and we’re still in that experiment, right. It wasn’t – I was just a few years ago when you had occupied Wall Street protesting and we had different kinds of programs. I think one thing that we can’t deny is that the 99% or the middle class or however it is that you want to describe it, they are in you know, they are in a precarious state right now where the job that they have enjoyed over the past thirty years are changing and actually that term, the New Precarious is actually coined by a Harvard Professor Michael, and he describes this new class of majority of individuals who are called the precarious because they don’t know where their next jobs are coming from, because they are kind of caught between this transition between the patented revolutions and the future and the next fourth industrial revolution. And so I think it’s encumbered on all of us, on entrepreneurs, especially on big business, on policy makers, on ensuring the civil society – this is a strengthening phase that civil society has a place at the table to help shape poverty and to help shape public and private initiatives to ensure that access and that distribution will really occur.
Dave Kruse: Interesting. So you do you talk about like basic income and other policies to ensure that you know people, the precarious are taken care of no matter what happens?
Andrea Wong: Yeah, we do. We actually had a debate on basic income. As you recall in 2016 there was a big board in Switzerland on Universal Base of Income and so a lot of recommended Universal Basic Income has come up. You know, to have a position on specific policies like that, we mostly want to bring to the table and surface a meaningful debate. In that we look at both the pros and the cons. We look at the short term effect and the long term effect of that as an example of Universal Basic Income being just one example of many different content policy leavers.
Dave Kruse: Got you, okay. Well we are – we still have a few minutes left I think, but I have some other questions which are a little outside of programming, but you have such an interesting job I have to ask. So bear with me and feel free to pass on a question if need be. But I was curious, you know you are in the middle of kind of the ‘how the world thinks about us,’ talking to world leaders, at least in the United States and so what is the felling of how the world is felling about the Untied States right now. I mean you have your own personal opinion of course too, but which is kind of a broad question, but just curious of what your thoughts are.
Andrea Wong: Yeah, and I think that it’s not going to be very surprising right. I think the Global Wide Community, which is really representing you know free trade globalization, you know a global economy, I think in general is a little bit you know anxious and looking at a period of uncertainty when it comes to the job administration and so far the policy that seems to be coming out the job administration around you know increasing you know barriers to trade, carriers and increasing a general stance on the protection of them in the United States. Now Trade Protectionism is not only the bad thing and sometimes it gets a bad rap in the global community right. It’s just depends on your perspective. Trade protectionism in Europe has been for a decades, right. Why? To protect local providers, local farmers, local businesses. Every country and every region uses to a certain degree Trade Protectionism, so that’s not necessarily a bad thing. What we do know though is that you know when borders go up, when trade protectionism goes up, that the global economy overall starts to detract. We know that a global free flow of trade and this is macro economics one-on-one leads to an increase in that pie, right, I mean overall. Now the distribution on that pie, that’s different and that’s when you get to issues of competitive advantage and competitive advantages and where you have different regions really benefiting from more disproportionally from that global trade and that’s where a lot of the government administration, kind of you know their concern over you know trade with China, that’s where that’s coming from right, which is the Untied States getting their fare share. It depends on who you are to define what fare share means. One thing we know is that when we have free flow of trade, the pie overall gets bigger and so some in the global community believe that it doesn’t matter how we distribute that pie in the long run. Sure in the short run we’ve got to work on that, but in the long run as long as that pie keeps getting bigger, we are okay and we need to advocate for that. That’s where some of the tension exists, because other say no, you got to focus on protecting our own country and our own domestic economy. So the global economy and the world is general is looking at the United States from an economic perspective, with a little bit of that coming as anxiety and uncertainty. Is the Global Economy going to continue to grow under new policies, because America still remains a super power, economically, militarily and I would argue culturally.
Dave Kruse: Definitely.
Andrea Wong: Then there is a whole dynamical representation, how is the world really seeing the United States from a social perspective and a cultural perspective. I don’t think I need to go into detail on that, because you know it comes down to personal perspectives on that and everyone in the world has a different perspective on it. But I can say that its probably no surprise that the whole world is looking at the United Sates and this symbolism of the rhetoric that you know the administration and the society, as it accentures off the administration under the America society is putting out to the rest of the world, does have knock on effect in so many ways with other nations and other regions. It does matter.
Dave Kruse: That’s a wonderful answer to a kind of a tricky, touchy subject these days. You did – that was well done and that was really interesting. All right, so a couple more; have you been to a lot of sessions like at Davos or other conferences?
Andrea Wong: Yeah, so one of the perks of my job is I get to go to – because we develop vendors over four hundred sessions and programs in general. So I don’t get to go to all four hundred of them, but I’m involved with it. I guess I’ll be a fly on that wall.
Dave Kruse: Yes, so I was curious, what makes – you guys have been doing this for a long time. What makes for – what was one of your favorite session? What makes for a really good session where like you come away inspired or you are like wow, you learnt a lot or…
Andrea Wong: Yeah I’m going to have to first put a caveat in that, because this is completely barrios because a lot of the sessions that I created you know, those are the topics that I’m most passionate about and you can probably tell that I am a very passionate individual when it comes to my work. So a couple of my favorite and then I’ll give – at least I’ll give at least one that is outside of my own portfolio. One is which I do and I guess it would be interesting. We had a session that we worked together with Time Magazine. The editor of time Mike Duffy in the United States is our moderator and the session was called the Great American Device. That one really stood out for me, more because of similar to my answer in the previous question, this is you know the prevailing question on everyone’s minds. You couldn’t go through the halls of Davos without hearing, overhearing some conversation about you know where is the Untied States at economically and socially and politically. So that session, it really highlights increasing the economy, the tensions in the United States, that one stood out to me. The other session that I loved attending and this one is not one of my own, so it was really, really good. It was a session called The Road to a Driver’s Future and this session is all about the future of self driving vehicles. It was really, really good, mostly because you can read a lot of reports and articles online about you know some of the questions and the issues associated with a society that embraces that main stream autonomous vehicle, but we had a couple of CEOs and the policy makers on that session, we had a lot from the European Commission to the European Commissioner for Transport. We had [inaudible] and we had Paul Jacobs and we also had Wendell Wallach who is an important perspective from academia and civil society. So we really got into it, we didn’t hold back into the issues and the questions and they admitted that they clearly need to be done and they admitted failures and issues. So I really loved that session because it was really honest conversation, something that you can’t find elsewhere online. It really kind of opened up the debate. And then our final…
Dave Kruse: What was the – was there one thing in particular where like wow! That you remember it all from, that was especially surprising and interesting.
Andrea Wong: From the Road to a Driver’s Future?
Dave Kruse: Its fun what you are doing.
Andrea Wong: Yeah, I think that the, if I recall correctly, one of the best comments that was made was the recognition that not just businesses, but businesses and policy makers are going to have to make together. If they are going to have to make a decision it’s a hard one, which is if you have to driverless car, are you going to design that car, program that car to kill the driver in order to save a crowd of pedestrians. So you kill one person who is driving that car in order to save at least five people who are walking in the cross mark. And the vast majority and the public generally said yes, you should save more people, you know quantity, save more lives, you should make that choice, but I won’t buy that car.
Dave Kruse: Oh!
Andrea Wong: So if I’m the driver, of course I’m not going to buy that car. So one of the things that is really good, that’s hard. That’s just one example, but it’s the heart of that debate. They are going to have to make hard choices and make decisions and you know some people have died already from autonomous vehicles and so there is going to be, there is going to be collateral damage as we go into that transition of the fourth industrial revolution of driverless vehicles. We are going to have to learn quickly from those lessons, but the recognition that the states are going to be made that you have to make mistakes as you are walking through, some of the gnarly issues, that was something that it was a good question to be a recognition of.
Dave Kruse: Interesting. Got you, okay.
Andrea Wong: The last session that I really wanted to highlight, which was by far something that I will take with me for the rest of my life was a session I was doing, and it was a session called Leaders Rebellion. But it was really about what happened? Intensive crises, whether you are a CEO or a human being, you know just in your personal life or you are running a country, in times of crisis you know what are the things that matter most. You know what you do and then this session featured Hamid Ouyachi, who is the Founder and CEO of Triveni; Yusra Mardini who is a Syrian refugee Olympian athlete who is right now based out of Germany. She is a swimmer; she competed in the Olympic most recently and Cheryl Sanbeck on Facebook and a session was moderated by [inaudible]. And that session was closed door, so it’s kind of I won’t be able share who said what exactly, but that was an example of very different individuals with different life perspectives and a recognition that at the end of the day no matter who you are, if you are the Head of the Country or if you are a CEO of whoever you are, you are a human being and you know for lack of a better term you know, shit is going to happen.
Dave Kruse: Very true.
Andrea Wong: When that does happen you know and this is what caused me to stay there at the forum and to be optimistic everyday and this is what helps me get up every day, is the fact that no one person has all the answers and we all have this universal experience of going through life and trying to do the best that we can. You know I general agree that people are good, and so in this mess, in this like common solution in this complex world where everyone is just trying to do their best, have to realize and accomplish something. It is when you bring people together and they share what they do know, it really could be incredible and amazing and we can get to something even better than if we’re doing it alone.
Dave Kruse: That’s true. I mean we all have the fear. It’s like you said, whether you are running a country. It’s kind of funny though, that you can say whether you are running a country and actually mean it. But you know because you are one of the only organizations that can pull those people into your conference panels, but you know you’re right, I mean everyone – someone who is running a country might have a different fear than somebody who is working on a factory line, but that fear is always kind of same no matter what and things happen like you said. Well that’s interesting, that would have been fun to see. All right, so last question and if this is a okay to ask is, you meet a lot of probably interesting people, and I was curious if there is anybody you met who is like surprisingly funny or really nice or if you don’t want to name names, that’s okay too, I can ask a different question, but I just have to ask.
Andrea Wong: Yeah, probably one of the principals of the forum is you know, that we protect the privacy of those individuals. So what I can tell you more exactly is that I am more optimistic about big business and about government leaders and about kind of leaders in general. I am more optimistic than I am technical. The thing that’s wrong there is a lot of – there is all kinds of people who have different incentive structures and become more different with world views that I may agree or disagree with. But overall in my years of the forum and having interacted and having the privilege to interact with world leaders I work more optimistic that people in general are, you know individual position are honestly trying to do right by their employees that they employ. They are trying to do right, but what is hard and this is the thing, it’s not necessarily down to one particular individual who is either doing it really well or doing it really poorly. Yes, an individual makes the difference, and yes an individual can both set a country being back a number of years or leap it forward, so don’t get me wrong there, but overall what I walk away with, it’s the system that we have be looking at. You know and we don’t have time to get into kind of issues of corporate governance and diversity on boards and on CEO pay and compensation, I could go on for days on that. But what we do have to look at is the system overall and the behaviors that that system generates as opposed to looking at individuals and so… People will surprise you. The global leaders you know, you see their persona you know online or on TV, at the end of the day what I think overall what I walk away with is I recommend that all individuals are good people, that are just caught up in this storm like we all are and so again, we have to help each other in designing a system. We all have our part to play.
Dave Kruse: Well, I think that’s a wonderful way to end. I like the optimism there, and I mean you are right. Like these people, when they have issues they are in a very public form. We all have our own issues, but no one else sees those or cares about them. So yeah, we get caught up in the things, but it’s professional to hear you say that they are doing the best they can and that’s all we can ask. So yeah, Andrea this has been great. So I really appreciate you taking the time to chat with us and like you said, you are quite passionate, you are quite articulate and so that’s been wonderful hearing your views on what you are doing and what the World Economic Forum is doing and yeah, it’s awesome. Without you guys I don’t think the world would be quite as good a place to live in now or in the future.
Dave Kruse: Thank you, thank you for this opportunity. It’s been a pleasure speaking with you Dave.
Andrea Wong: Definitely. And thanks everyone for listening to another episode of Flyover Labs. As always, I greatly appreciate it and we’ll see you next time. Thanks everyone, thanks Andrea. Bye.
Dave Kruse: Thank you. Bye.