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Davos founder: World 'identity crisis' driven by globalization has led to Trump's election, Brexit

World citizens are going through an "identity crisis," leading to some of the political upheaval seen across the globe, World Economic Forum (WEF) founder Klaus Schwab said on Sunday, addressing the rise of the anti-globalization sentiment.

The man behind the annual gathering of elites in the Swiss mountain retreat of Davos outlined why he believed that led to events such as the election of U.S. President Donald Trump and Britain's exit from the European Union.

Schwab said that globalization has created a "new economic equation" in which labor prices have fallen while those who have capital have benefited. He said the U.S. elections highlighted the "anger of people against globalization and against the elites which they feel have benefited."

World Economic Forum (WEF) founder and executive chairman Klaus Schwab
FABRICE COFFRINI | AFP | Getty Images
World Economic Forum (WEF) founder and executive chairman Klaus Schwab

"I would argue, that many people -- with the fast change, which they cannot anymore digest and the complexity of the world – many people are going through an identity crisis," Schwab told an audience at the annual World Government Summit in Dubai.

"They ask themselves, 'what is the purpose of my life in such a world. What is the purpose if I'm a worker somewhere in mid-America and I have to be afraid of my workplace?'"

Schwab spoke about the "Fourth Industrial Revolution", a term he coined two years ago at the WEF, relating to the upcoming changes caused by technology, such as artificial intelligence. The threat to jobs has created a new class of people called the "precariat," which Schwab described as people in a "precarious situation," unsure of how they may survive as they get older.

"We do not know how the world really will look like. We know we are in a very emotionalized way; there is emotional turmoil in the world," Schwab said.

"Facts do not anymore count, fake news may become more important than reality. So how do we address those realities?"

The WEF founder outlined how he thinks the current world identity crisis can be resolved:

  • The U.S. is seeing a "revolution against the system" so governments need to be rebuilt to put "human beings at the center"
  • Nationalism and globalization don't have to be contradictory and countries can have both a national and global identity. He said countries should not shy away from globalization
  • Humankind can actually use artificial intelligence to "humanize roboticization," but the world needs to move away from the "fear of the future" and embrace new technology

"Governments have to create a balance between being responsible and accountable to their own populations … but they also have to address global challenges," Schwab said.