There’s something ironic about Elon Musk’s attendance at the World Government Summit in Dubai—a four-day gathering of business and political leaders discussing global issues from climate change to the future of healthcare. After all, he has just recently mocked a similar (and arguably more high-profile) event for being “boring af.”
In December, the Tesla, SpaceX, and Twitter chief claimed he declined an invitation to attend the annual World Economic Forum (WEF) conference held in Davos, Switzerland, “not because I thought they were engaged in diabolical scheming, but because it sounded boring af lol.” And he continued to mock the event on Twitter during its run from Jan. 16 to 20. On Jan. 17, he tweeted, “How is WEF/Davos even a thing? Are they trying to be the boss of Earth!?” (Forum spokesman Yann Zopf says the Musk got an invitation “not this year and not recently—last time in 2015.”)
Musk is not a newcomer to the Dubai summit, having already attended six years ago. This year, he’s expected on Feb. 15, from 9am to 9.20am local time, for an event simply titled “A Conversation with Elon Musk 2.0.” In a repeat of sorts from his last visit in 2017, he will sit across from the World Government Summit chairperson Mohammad Al Gergawi, who is also the UAE’s minister of cabinet affairs.
World Government Summit 2023 in Dubai, by the digits
220: Sessions that’ll be hosted during the Dubai summit running from Feb. 12 to 15, focused on ideas and strategies to shape “a better future for humanity” through international cooperation
20: World leaders in attendance
250+: Ministers from around the world in attendance
150: Countries represented at the summit
10,000: International government officials, thought leaders, global experts and decision makers, attending
Throwback: Musk on Universal Basic Income at the 2017 World Government Summit
Davos’s World Economic Forum is often criticized for largely being all talk, no action—not just by Musk, but others too. But the Dubai summit falls prey to the same pitfalls. The bridge between idea and execution isn’t built overnight.
Take Musk’s own example. In 2017, he spoke of the need for states to provide citizens with “some kind of universal basic income [UBI]” to ease social inequality in the face of increasing automation. He reiterated the need for it a couple years on. Nearly six years since his last Dubai summit, UBI has been discussed, debated, and even piloted, but there is still no full-fledged programme.
A non-exhaustive list of global leaders and celebrities in Dubai who were also at the WEF in Davos
- Will.i.am, former member of the Black Eyed Peas turned investor and philanthropist. He’s part of a session discussing accelerating tech for policymaking on Feb. 13. The seven-time Grammy award-winning rapper is already in the city, performing for his fans tonight (Feb. 10).
- Idris Elba, the actor who served as celebrity endorsement calling for more investment rather than aid to help the world’s poor at Davos. Here, he’s expected to talk about the craft of storytelling in a Feb. 14 session with Jeffrey Katzenberg, who co-founded Dreamworks before starting the short-lived streaming service Quibi.
- Nick Clegg, a former deputy prime minister of the UK and now president of global affairs at Meta, will speak about AI-augmented governance.
- International Monetary Fund chief Kristalina Georgieva is on a panel discussing “Can governments build an omni-economy?”
- Klaus Schwab, WEF founder, will give a keynote address on “The State of the World.”
- Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, director-general of the World Trade Organization (WTO), who spoke of fighting growing fragmentation with strengthening multilateralism at Davos, is part of a session on what’s next for global trade.
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