Global Risk Report 2014–Risks and Trends to Watch


1.  Introduction

As mentioned in an earlier post, the list of global risks that were used as the basis for the survey of respondents has undergone changes in the past few versions of the Global Risk Report conducted by the World Economic Forum.

At first, 25 risks were used, but this was expanded to 50 risks in 2012 and 2013.   In 2014, this list was pared down to 31 global risks in five categories:  economic, societal, geopolitical, environmental, and technological.

However, when the respondents were given the list of 31 global risks, they were asked to contribute risks which they felt needed to be paid attention to but which had not been included on the list.   These are risks which need to be watched because they are gaining in probability due to recent trends.   In previous editions of the report, these were called “X factors”, which I always liked because it reminded me of the old TV show of similar name.   But they’ve dropped that title in the 2014 edition and have just labeled them “Risks and Trends to Watch.”

Forgetting about what you call them for a moment, the important thing is to give these “runner-ups” a brief look.   I recognize some of these risks from recent science fiction novels I have read that explore the impact of these potential risks.   That would be worth a post in itself to list the science fiction novels that go with each risk.   But for now, I will just present the risk.

2.  Risks and Trends to Watch

Category Risks to Watch
Economic Volatility in asset prices

Rising government debt

Rise of Bitcoin and other virtual currencies

Societal Burden of an aging population

Unmanaged migrations flows

Decline of trust in institutions

Persistent gender inequalities

Ideological polarization (religious, political)

Civil wars

Youth unemployment and lack of access to education

Obesity epidemic

Environmental Plastic waste pollution

Endocrine disruptors in the environment

Environmental impact of fracking

Technological Data mismanagement

Loss of privacy/Increase in surveillance

Toxicity of nanomaterials

Impact of 3-D printing

Widespread use of drones

Accidents involving synthetic biology

A couple things to note.   First of all, the list of economic risks are all related to the idea that interest rates may rise as a consequence of the fiscal crises many governments have been undergoing.

Also, the one category of risks that were not included were geopolitical risks, so the respondents thought at least that category was well-represented by the existing 31 global risks listed in the Global Risk Report 2014.

Now that we have covered all of the 31 global risks, analyzed them both qualitatively and quantitatively, and created a “watch list” of risks that are not at the top list of risks of greatest concern, but may be in the future, it is time to turn our attention in the next post to a real important question:  How do we craft risk responses to these global risks?

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