Good morning Hank, it’s Tuesday. So I spent last week in Davos, Switzerland, which most of the time is a fairly standard alpine ski village. There are souvenir shops, babies in sleds, horse restaurant cults and, you know, alps. But one week a year, Davos is taken over by the World Economic Forum, a strange and wondrous throng of CEOs, world leaders, scientists and a lot of security guards who are ostensibly coming together to improve the state of the world. Much of the action happens behind closed doors where, like, EU and American diplomats try to hammer out a compromise over Internet privacy concerns, for instance, or CEOs work out business deals. But the whole town is transformed for this week into a fevered pitch for investment and growth and change. We’re told to “Think India”, but also “Think Mexico” and Kazakhstan and particular regions of India and also think Salesforce and Microsoft and Accenture and Bank of America. And on and on. There was an intensity to the whole thing I’ve never really felt before. It was a week of business and politics and activism smashing together. And everyone seemed to feel that they could actually change history. Like, increase prosperity, achieve gender parity, educate the world. And of course there’s something naive about all that, but as I heard an artist say at one point in Davos, “Perhaps naivete isn’t something to be ashamed of, but something to embrace.” The other thing Davos gets a lot of flak for is its elitism and there was a weird, wealthy provincialism about some of the people I met. For instance, they kept asking me where I was based, rather than where I lived, as if the life of a Davos man, and they are overwhelmingly male, was too international and sophisticated to just, like, live somewhere. And then when I explained that I lived in Indianapolis, people almost always asked, “Why?” I resisted the urge to say, “Partly because of people like you, asking questions like that.” In general, I found the social hierarchies of it all exhausting at times, like of all the ways the billionaire class could have organized their social order, they seemed to have chosen as a model the American middle school. And yet, it was wonderful. It was wonderful to see so many people attending concise and clear minded discussions of why climate change is happening and how it’s going to change human and nonhuman life. It was wonderful to see the global goals posted everywhere, reminding us of the commitments that we have made to ourselves. And it was wonderful to meet with representatives of Save The Children and the UN’s Refugee Agency to learn about the big challenges of improving the healthcare and education of the world’s most vulnerable people. Also, I learned tons about everything from virtual reality movies being made in refugee camps to research being done on peer learning, to the perils of economic inequality. And one particular recommendation: After I met the filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy at Davos, I watched her Oscar nominated documentary about honor killing in Pakistan and it is one of the most powerful movies I have ever seen. Right, but anyway Hank, all week long I kept think about Khurram Hussain who was a father living in the Annawadi slum in Mumbai, and at one point in her book, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Katherine Boo reports Hussain as saying, “Everybody in Annawadi talks like this – Oh, I will make my child a doctor, a lawyer, and he will make us rich. It’s vanity, nothing more. Your little boat goes west and you congratulate yourself, ‘What a navigator I am!’ and then the wind blows you east.” Again and again at Davos, I found myself up against the ancient question of whether people make history or history makes people, and how power and poverty shape our answers. Now I know this is easier to say from a privileged position up high in the Alps, but I do believe that human progress is possible, even if it isn’t inevitable. And I remain both convinced of and deeply moved by the radical hope that has defined so much human effort over the millennia. For me, this is actually typified by Sharmeen’s movie, which inspired the prime minister of Pakistan to finally, belatedly denounce honor killing, which is a small but real step toward a better world. Hank, in the coming weeks, I’m going to look at some of the big problems I left Davos thinking about: Income inequality, climate change, the refugee crisis, and the ways that gender inequality affect poverty. Nerdfighters, let me know in comments if there are other global human challenges you’d like to see us discuss. Hank, I have the jet lag, so I’m going to take a nap. I will see you on Friday.