HUBOTO A much-heralded South Korean robot is stealing the show at Davos and helping ignite conversations over the role of artificial intelligence and technology in employment, productivity, and even combat. In the “What If: Robots Go to War?” panel, leading artificial intelligence scientist Stuart Russell cited his July open letter—with signatories like Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk—calling for a ban on autonomous weapons. He also apologized for taking so long to make the appeal, given the dangers and devastating humanitarian and strategic impact of a rogue robot force activated by single actors operating outside of international norms. Other panelists expressed support for campaigns seeking a new treaty, even though a truly autonomous machine with moral agency may be decades away. The US is the only country with an effective ban on using the weapons, despite being a leader in their development. Ominously, WEF polls showed that most people would prefer their own country attacking with an artificial intelligence force, even though they’d rather be invaded by humans.

STEP-BY-STEP IN AFRICA While “Africa’s Next Challenge” refers to the fourth industrial revolution, panelists sought historical context. “137 years after Edison invented the light bulb, Africa is in the dark. It makes no sense,” said African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina, who observed that electricity is an obvious precursor to industrialization. He did express optimism about Africa’s New Deal on Energy, which aims for universal access by 2025. The discussion looked to smooth growth disparities on a continent where more people have cell phones than the capacity to cook. While digitization looms, panelists agreed that with 65% of the world’s remaining arable land, Africa must produce more food in the future. It must also waste less, as a new Rockefeller Foundation initiative makes clear.

FINTECH ON TRACK Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman told the “Future-Proofing Global Finance” panel that his private equity peers are indifferent about financial technology (or fintech) potential. “We’re not disruptors,” he said. “We’re just friendly, lovable investors.” He also sparred with Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem about the dangers of regulation, claiming that limits on institutions create dangerous market gaps in times of stress, while Dijsselbloem called for innovation, new competitors, and new means of shock absorption. 

Finally, a rundown of other hot links to follow from the slopes:

Stay warm, and we’ll see you back here one more time for day three tomorrow.

This article was produced on behalf of Bank of America by the Quartz marketing team and not by the Quartz editorial staff.

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