World's elite gathers for Davos 2014

Why it’s easy, but unwise, to be cynical about Davos

The annual gathering of CEOs, politicians, economists and "thought leaders", whoever they may be, in Davos at the World Economic Forum, is easy to be snarky or hysterical about, particularly if you're not going.

Simon Dawson | Bloomberg via Getty Images

Plenty of conspiracy theorists suspect the world elite is gathering in this small Swiss town to plan the global dominance of the few over the many, or who the last people on the space shuttle will be when the planet implodes, ruined by vicious capitalists. The reality is rather more prosaic - they actually sort that kind of thing out at the Bilderberg meetings.

(Read more: The rich and famous visit Davos)

Everything from the participants' lofty goals, in earnest discussions which occasionally have worrying overtones of the beauty pageant winner's bland wish for "world peace," to the presence of celebrities like Matt Damon or Goldie Hawn to promote their pet causes, seems ripe for satire.

The way delegates wear their color-coded badges at all times, including while out to dinner in restaurants far from the conference center, is reminiscent of particularly geeky school prefects (which, let's face it, a lot of them probably were). And the irony of the world's great and good listening to debates on climate change, when the first item on the advice for travel to the conference details where to land your private jet, is apparently lost on many.

(Read more: Davos: What experts got wrong last year)

More seriously, the decline in the proportion of female delegates from 17 percent in 2011 to 15 percent – despite a quota being introduced by the organizers – this time around, demonstrates depressingly who still rules Davos, and the world. With alot of male attendees from similar backgrounds and ages, often with similar neoliberal views, it is difficult to argue that it is an accurate reflection of the most original and interesting thinking globally.

Yet, despite all the cynicism, I'm still looking forward to this week's conference. There is simply nowhere else where so many powerful and intelligent people gather (well, there might be, but they certainly aren't letting me in). And there is no more refreshing antidote to weeks of office small-talk than a few days listening to conversations about how to solve youth unemployment, whether the U.S. is in decline, or the future of the gender gap. The conference has become much more open and digitally savvy, in the post-TED era, with many sessions live streamed online.

(Read more: The big security threat at Davos: hacker attacks)

If Davos means chief executives think again about the environmental impact of their company, politicians reconsider their ideas about how to treat their people, or worthy charities get their causes heard by people who can help, then it has more than justified its existence, even to the cynics.

Catherine Boyle is a staff writer and on-air correspondent at CNBC. Follow her at: @cboylecnbc.