Global Risks. Twenty years from now..

Global Risks. Twenty years from now..
A few months ago the World Economic Forum published its annual report ‘Global Risks 2014’, (WEF, 2014). According to Klaus Schwab, the founder and executive chairman of the forum, the aim of the report is “to enhance our understanding of how a comprehensive set of global risks is evolving, how their interaction can lead to unexpected and often systemic impacts, and the trade-offs involved in managing them.” Of the many conceivable ways in which possible interconnections and interdependencies between global risks could play out systemically over the 10-year horizon considered by this report, three are explored in depth: Instabilities in an increasingly multipolar world; A Generation Lost; and Digital Disintegration.




The report explains that, changing demographics and growing middle classes on the one hand, along with inescapable fiscal constraints on the other hand, will exercise pressure on governments around the world to come up with pragmatic but politically “impossible” solutions to promote reform and reshape international relations. A good example of political “impossibility” is the saga of Europe’s South and its reluctant but epic efforts to tune up to the shifting economic reality. In the latter case of international relations in flux, China and Japan, both with their diplomatic forays abroad (mainly Africa to secure trade (in-)flows of raw materials), offer an excellent case study of changing (fiendishly antagonistic) international relations.


The “Generation Lost” set of risks is a rather sad story. It refers to the present generation of “digital natives”, who are full of ambition to change the world (thank God…!), but at the same time they feel rather disconnected from the traditional political establishment and (coming out of outmoded educational systems) ill-equipped to face the challenges of a new world order. This is a long-fused time-ticking bomb and unless political elites around the world take note of it and manage to come up with credible policies to address the grievances of young people, it will turn nasty. From North Africa’s Maghreb to chilly Ukraine, millions of unemployed and in some case uneducated youth take to the streets to protest if not subvert.


The Global Risks Landscape 2014. Survey respondents were asked to assess the likelihood and impact of the individual risks on

a scale of 1 to 7,  1 representinga risk that is not likelyto happen or have impact, and 7 a risk very likely to occur and with massive

and devastating impacts.  (Source: Global Risks Perception Survey 2013-2014)


Last but not least, the “Digital Disintegration” set of global risks bears the hallmark of the 21st’s technological advances running wild and in some cases out of control. For the last thirty years, the internet has been a superb generator of economic growth and prosperity but at the same time a change-agent, that triggered tectonic shifts within the body of the international community. Even more intriguingly, the world may be only one disruptive technology away from attackers gaining a runaway advantage, meaning the Internet would cease to be a trusted medium for communication or commerce. The Snowden affair has been a great wake-up call for everybody to the “dark” underlying dynamics of the digital world. And yet, if we look back we’ll come to realise that the digital challenges in the 21st are excellent causes for more integration, not more fragmentation.


Risk has always had a bit of an image problem. “It has been traditionally associated in the popular mind with gamblers, skydivers and, more recently, the overpaid bankers who crippled the global economy” (The Economist, 2014). However, look back in history and you will come to realise that it has also been a first-class ticket to innovation (sometimes disruptive, look at Silicon Valley and its ‘Angel Investors’), and tantalisingly, a long high-way to global recognition of causes (look at Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi and S. Africa’s Nelson Mandela). Assume it wisely and becomes a catalyst for success, ignore it and it turns into a Nemesis, a road to perdition. To quote Mark Twain on a ground-breaker: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbour, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover.”…but in the meantime…:


Have a nice Week!





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