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In Wednesday’s edition, following all the talk about AI, swarming security on the Promenade, an excl͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
cloudy Davos
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January 17, 2024


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Davos Today

  1. AI for real
  2. Agenda
  3. Tuesday’s top quotes
  4. Sightings
  5. Getting the lead out
  6. Free speech
  7. Carbon cost

Welcome to day 3 of Davos

We hope you’re cramming it all into a frontloaded Davos this year. Do send us tips, impressions, and feedback to davos@semafor.com.

And spread the word — forward this to someone who needs to stay in the loop on all things Davos. They can sign up here to get daily dispatches.


Talk of the town: AI

If there’s one thing bringing us all together in Davos this year, be it you, Bill Gates, Diane von Furstenberg, or Wyclef Jean, it’s that we all seem to have a lot of thoughts on AI.

I attended one panel, hosted by Salesforce, in which Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas introduced the audience to the co-host of his new radio show: An AI chat bot. Zak Brown, the CEO of McLaren’s Formula 1 team, joked the bot might learn to drive a race car. And so in a way, AI has replaced crypto as the subject of this year’s silly tech craze.

But in slightly less glamorous venues, many of AI’s biggest luminaries — people who have been pioneering the technology going back nearly 50 years — were also using the unparalleled convening power of Davos to hash out some of the field’s most vexing questions.

I moderated one panel that included two of the biggest voices on the subject of AI safety: Yann LeCun, Meta’s chief scientist for AI and Max Tegmark, president of the Future of Life Institute. These two have been going at it on X (Twitter). In person, they were more cordial, and possibly a bit more productive. “People who only know my conversations with Yann from Twitter probably don’t realize how much Yann and I actually agree on,” Tegmark said at one point. (They actually mostly disagree).

In another blockbuster panel, The Atlantic’s Nicholas Thompson interviewed some of the greatest minds in the industry about the limitations of AI today and how to break through. And in an Oxford style debate hosted by Politico, an audience was swayed in favor of closed source AI after initially supporting open source.

Davos gets deserved flack for spotting bubbles and jumping on the hype train just as they’re about to pop. But last night I watched Wyclef Jean practically lust after a generative AI tool he has used to create music. “These coders, they gotta be musicians,” he said.

Now that’s a use case.

— Reed Albergotti


What’s on today

9 am: Start your morning off with a who’s who of Eastern European leaders in the Congress Centre, including the presidents of Hungary and Poland, the Croatian PM, Ukraine’s foreign minister, and Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, and the exiled opposition leader of Belarus.

10 am: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will be in conversation with columnist Thomas L. Friedman in the Congress Centre.

3:45 pm: Argentinian President Javier Milei is speaking in the Congress Centre. For the far-right leader, the risk of angering his base by hobnobbing in Davos is outweighed by the urgency of getting Argentina out of its financial crisis and “re-insert[ing] itself in global markets,” the Miami Herald’s Andres Oppenheimer writes.

4:30 pm: Good luck getting into the conversation between Satya Nadella, Sam Altman, and Zanny Minton Beddoes, the editor-in-chief of The Economist at the Microsoft Café, Promenade 101.

5 pm: French President Emmanuel Macron is speaking in the Congress Centre, where he is expected to speak about the work his government has done to make France an attractive destination for foreign investment, Le Monde reported.

6.30pm: Nigeria is having its big night of “art, culture, and music” at the Congress Centre. The vice president, finance, arts, and tech ministers are all expected to be on hand to show Africa’s biggest economy is back, even if the president was a no-show.

7 pm: JPMorgan’s annual drinks are on Wednesday instead of Thursday this year, but still at the Kirchner, with Jamie Dimon at one end of the receiving line and much charcuterie at the other. Promenade 82. Your pregame choices include drinks with Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi or Citi CEO Jane Fraser, both at 6 pm.

Tomorrow at 3:15 pm at KaffeeKlatsch Leadership Forum 72 Promenade, Semafor’s Steve Clemons will interview Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova, followed by former Prime Minister and Australia Ambassador to to the U.S. Keven Rudd on an offshore perspective on America in the world, as well as an update on their priorities nationally and regionally. Hope to see you then!



  • “Choosing the Chinese market is not a risk but an opportunity.” — Li Qiang
  • “I don’t believe Putin is capable of changing, only humans can do that.” — Voldymyr Zelenskyy
  • “I’m Jamie Dimon from JPMorgan Chase. God bless you,” on meeting Zelenshyy
  • We should focus on the main conflict in Gaza. And as soon as it’s defused, I believe everything else will be defused.” — Qatar Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani

Seen and overheard

Not, in fact, here: Despite reports in our respected competing daily Davos newsletters, neither Saudi Crown Prince MBS nor TikTok CEO Shou Chew appear to be here. (The MBS story popped up in the Iraqi press, and was immediately circulated widely.) Sources familiar with each deny they’re here. Let us know if you spot them! Anyway, there are worse mistakes to make. To wit, we got Andrew Ross Sorkin’s first name wrong yesterday.

Security State: U.S. climate envoy John Kerry, who wandered COP unescorted, was flanked by a dozen police officers on the Promenade Tuesday afternoon.

Security State, Part Two: For over an hour yesterday evening the famous Davos Promenade was on security lockdown with helicopters hovering because Ukraine’s President Voldymyr Zelensky was on the move. There hasn’t been even half that much fuss about the Chinese premier, for example.

COVID Bust: The video-conference company Zoom took a high-profile space at Promenade 72 — then backed out a couple of months ago, we’re told. The space ended up as the Leadership Lounge from Handshake, BofA, and the Sustainable Markets Institute.

Washington Post Exclusive: New Washington Post CEO Sir Will Lewis was careful not to tip his hand on his plans for the paper in an interview with Matt Garrahan at Goals House, only going so far as to say: “​​We have a lot of very good content — I don’t think we’ve been brilliant at packaging it up.”

The Skybridge Wine Forum was its usual madhouse: Even host Anthony Scaramucci, who showed up a few minutes after 9:00 pm., had to fight his way through the crowd at the Hotel Europe.

Fighting for the stars: So many events in Davos on Tuesday night competing with one another for the stars of global NGOs and purpose-directed CEOs, Steve Clemons writes: Among the winners was Qualcomm’s nightcap, which drew top NSC and State Department staffers supporting Jake Sullivan and Antony Blinken. But the biggest fish that Qualcomm CEO Cristiano Amon reeled in was Marc Benioff, the Salesforce CEO and Time owner. Benioff stayed long enough to listen to extensive speeches from key European leaders who pushed through the EU AI Act. He may also have shared one of the week’s best-kept secrets, who the entertainment will be at the big Salesforce party. I wouldn’t be able to reveal that. But he did say: “Steve, this is music for our generation!”

Freebies: Saffron Coffee at the Emirates hut is the best we’ve found. Send us your survival tips at davos@semafor.com.


Getting the lead out

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Samantha Power, the administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, will announce new steps to reduce lead exposure among children, including a $4 million investment in programs in countries like India and South Africa, according to an announcement shared first with Semafor.

Additionally, Power will announce that USAID is joining the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint, a joint initiative from the World Health Organization and United Nations that advocates for lead paint laws. Other U.S. government agencies, like the Environmental Protection Agency, are members of the group, but USAID says it will be the first bilateral development agency to join.

— Morgan Chalfant

Read on for more details about this initiative →

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One good text

Paul Alivisatos is the president of the University of Chicago.


Carbon footprint

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