Not-so Secret Rulers of the World gather to talk cybersecurity, AI and, er, TalkTalk?
Annual Bilderberg jamboree kicks off in Germany
It's the conspiracy theorists' favorite time of the year, as the annual Bilderberg Meeting kicks off on June 9 at the luxurious Taschenbergpalais Hotel in Dresden.
The meetings, held since 1954, bring together around 130 business and political leaders from Europe and North America. This year ten main topics are up for discussion, including "Cyber Security" and "Technological Innovation," in talks that will last for three days.
"The conference is a forum for informal discussions about major issues facing the world," the organizers said in a canned statement.
"Thanks to the private nature of the conference, the participants are not bound by the conventions of their office or by pre-agreed positions.
"As such, they can take time to listen, reflect and gather insights. There is no desired outcome, no minutes are taken and no report is written. Furthermore, no resolutions are proposed, no votes are taken, and no policy statements are issued."
To aid in these discussions, invitees include Demis Hassabis, VP of engineering at Google and co-founder of the DeepMind AI system the Chocolate Factory bought in 2014 – it's his second visit in a row to the group. Machine learning specialist Professor Yoshua Bengio, head of the University of Montreal's Machine Learning Laboratory, will also be attending.
Several members of the technology elite are regulars at Bilderberg, with Alphabet chairman Eric Schmidt attending as usual, accompanied by steering committee member and well-heeled Gawker nemesis Peter Thiel. Alex Karp, CEO of the data analysis firm Palantir Technologies, will be there this year as usual, as will Joe Kaeser, CEO of Siemens AG.
Technology industry visitors making their first visits to Bilderberg (that we know about) include Dido Harding, CEO of the UK's troubled TalkTalk ISP, Reid Hoffman, chairman of LinkedIn, and Sam Altman, president of Y Combinator. Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield is a surprise addition to the list – hopefully he won't sing.
As for non-tech topics of discussion, China tops the list, followed by Europe, the Middle East, and Russia. The US "political landscape" is on the list too, aided no doubt by the presence of former Republican presidential challenger (and Trump's bête noir) Lindsey Graham, and Henry Kissinger, who hasn't missed a Bilderberg session in years.
One session on "Precariat and middle class" looks interesting. Precariat is the in-vogue word to describe low-income workers struggling to make ends meet. The British professor Guy Standing from the University of London will be at the event to argue for a basic income provision for all.
In the meantime, if you are in Dresden over the next three days, avoid the hotel. Security is very tight and traffic is likely to be slow as everyone is checked out. ®