Do you remember the last time you were without your personal computer and Internet? We have all become entirely dependent on, and addicted to the use of new communication gadgets; certainly the mobile phone.

Last weekend, my laptop went on strike on Friday and it took till Monday for it to be repaired and my world to be restored. I felt quite cut off in that situation, although friends helped me out for ‘emergency communication’.

But what I did not know was how much more time I had to do other things; reading printed versions of newspapers and magazines, even open some books I had bought but not read, making those visits to friends which had been put off, going for longer walks, stopping at a café, and more, and thinking about issues without having to search facts on Google, just think and let the mind drift – all of which is so important for creativity.

In 1973, the oil crisis led to two weekends of ban on driving of private motorcars in Norway. I remember how peaceful and old-fashioned Oslo was, with winter snow in the streets, children playing, and adults strolling leisurely with their dogs. This was the first time since the Second World War that driving was restricted; people prepared themselves for rationing, but from February 1974, the restrictions were lifted and life went back to normal. It had been estimated that restricted driving would have reduced consumption of petrol by up to 15-20 percent. One result of the oil crisis was that people began to realize that oil wasn’t an unlimited and everlasting resource. It became a demand that cars should be more fuel-efficient; Environmental issues were put on the agenda; there was a boost in development of more and better public transport.

In the late 1970s and earlier 1980s, I carried out fieldwork for social science research in East Africa. I remember that weekends in Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania were totally car-free, except for some few buses, diplomats and some rich men who had obtained permits to drive.

Even buses were few, and when I and the now Director General of the Norwegian Agency for International Development (Norad), Jon Lomoy, wanted a relaxing Sunday afternoon activity, the only thing we found to do was to go for a walk in the city. In the 80s Tanzania began giving up most of the solidarity and equality policies. We thought that the land was finally on its way to ‘development’. Yes, it was ‘unequal development’. They got better roads, even some better private schools for those who could pay, They could buy new private cars and laptops, if they had the money, and everything else that we identify with ‘development’ – again, unequal development, with growing upper middle classes, and more poverty for masses.

Last week, the world leaders from government, private sector and academia met in Davos, Switzerland, for this year’s Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) – a great organization and a well-intended event, founded and led by Dr. Klaus Schwab, the uniquely creative German Professor of economics.

This year’s theme was about the Fourth Industrial Revolution. They focused on digital, technological, economic, leadership, management and other structural change issues. I wonder if they forgot most of what I wrote about above; and did they exclude values and moral issues, in developing countries and the West? In the West, we have begun living in stratified ‘20-60-20 societies’, where more people fall outside the mainstream society than before, and even middle class people, working in what was seen as good jobs, are at risk and worried about the future. At the same time, some at the top get imaginably rich. And since we don’t want to share, migration issues and international development are in self-made crisis.

This year’s WEF theme was mainly about managing the fast change in the advanced societies. It was about how people can manage technology and new developments. It was indirectly about ascertaining that human beings remain at the center, not letting the digital technologies and robots take over so that more workers are being laid off. It was indirectly about the old foundations – which we keep forgetting – that development is not about growth, things, and more money in people’s pockets only; it is much more.

The good world leaders in different fields who met in Davos were ‘thinking men and women’, I hope, if they had time. They, too, like you and I, ask questions about change and political control, how new technologies and economic insecurity ‘run away with our lives’, and so on.

Maybe the leaders fear that the ‘genie has gotten out of the bottle’ and that it cannot be put back again unless we act fast.

The theme of this year’s WEF meeting was probably a bit too big for the world leaders. Well, it was good they began talking about the difficult issues, and we came to realize that there is need for more WEF and other meetings, especially at political level. The philosophers, social scientists, writers and all other thinking people must be invited to contribute, and certainly the common man and woman.

I began my article today by reflecting on some everyday issues and growing inequality in the world – and how all the new gadgets may keep us away from thinking and seeing what is really important in the lives of human beings.

Is it all the gadgets or is it human relations that are important in our everyday lives? True, we want and need a good material standard, to include shelter, food, health, education, and more, but as important are the non-material components, and equality, diversity and inclusion.

Can we not focus more on that again in the future? Can we not make Nanotechnology and all the other new things to be applied so they can benefit people, not just make the rich and successful climb higher and faster, and leave the rest of us behind – and one day, they, too may fall?

Dear Reader, let me pay a Special Tribute to one of our best thinkers of such issues that I have written about today, and many other issues, notably Professor Fredrik Barth, who passed away at 87 last Sunday morning. He was an eminent Norwegian anthropologist of international fame. He became world renowned when he in the 1950s and 1960s studied the power and leadership structures among the Swat Pathans in Pakistan; his book about “The Last Wali of Swat” came in the early 1980s, and he wrote a book about Afghanistan just well over ten years ago. He was a holder of Sitara-i-Imtiaz.

But Fredrik Barth, whom I knew personally, was also just a good human being. When he was in a medical care home during the last few years of his life, he helped another patient with a mathematics course, so that she could help her grandson pass a test and get into the college he so much wanted to. In the end, it is such things that count for all of us.