In early December, vaccinated and rapid tested, I had the opportunity to catch up in person with Klaus Schwab, chairman of the World Economic Forum, our partner in this special issue. It was his first visit to New York since the pandemic began, and though we covered a wide range of topics, from inflation to climate policy, the theme we kept coming back to is one that has been pervasive for all of us across the past two years: the power and importance of physical connection.
Schwab, of course, is one of the world’s pre-eminent conveners, having been gathering leaders in Davos, Switzerland, and elsewhere for over 50 years. I asked what he made of the endless physical-virtual conundrum we find ourselves in. “To really establish trust in human relationships,” he said, “you need personal contact. You need to have some moments on the side of the video screen.”
With the rapid spread of the Omicron variant limiting those moments, ongoing barriers to being together are taking a deep toll, not only in global relations—including the now postponed 2022 Davos annual meeting—but in our schools, workplaces and families. As Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai has put it, we’re living on “borrowed time, in terms of working on memories of the relationships you have and the connections you have.” And yet collaboration is more crucial than ever to tackling our many collective problems.
That theme runs through this issue. Leaders in the worlds of policy, business, arts and advocacy share their most powerful partnerships—from former United Nations climate chief Christiana Figueres, who writes about a covert effort code-named Groundswell that helped pave the way for the 2015 Paris Agreement, to actor and activist Don Cheadle, who describes how his personal activism came about on the sets of the Avengers movies. Former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi makes the case that collaboration is key for creating a much-needed new balance of work and life that will ultimately lead to more productivity and profit. And Yuval Noah Harari, best-selling author of Sapiens, argues that “the price tag of preventing the apocalypse is in the low single digits of annual global GDP.” Harari asks why we aren’t willing to take that step.
TIME’s Billy Perrigo, who has been reporting on the hazardous by-products of Big Tech, profiles Timnit Gebru, one of the world’s leading thinkers on artificial intelligence who—after a fraught departure from Google—is urging restraints on the power of the companies developing it. Veteran TIME contributor Vivienne Walt has a remarkable interview with former Danone CEO Emmanuel Faber. He talks openly—rare for a CEO—about being fired by the global food giant after 24 years, and stands by the purpose-driven focus of his tenure even as some say it cost him his job. “In no way should that discourage progressive CEOs,” he says. “They have, ultimately, the backing of large shareholders.”
Our great appreciation to our partners at SOMPO, who made this special issue possible. We look forward to seeing you—in person—at our annual kickoff event in Davos once Omicron and any successors determine the date! And we wish you health and happiness in this new year.
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