Spare a thought for Narcissus, in Greek mythology. He saw his own reflection in the water and fell in love with it, not realizing it was merely an image. Leadership in 2017 needs to be wary – because the dangers are everywhere, with much individual narcissism and not enough collaboration in the face of global risks.
Economic inequality, the polarization of society and intensifying economic dangers are the three top trends that will shape global developments in the next decade, according to a report just out by the World Economic Forum.
In its annual Global Risks Report 2017 some 750 experts assessed 30 global risks, as well as 13 underlying trends that could amplify them or the alter the interconnections between them. Regardless of the views of the U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, the environment dominates the risks landscape.
“Climate change was the number two underlying trend this year. And for the first time, all five environmental risks in the survey were ranked both high-risk and high-likelihood, with extreme weather events emerging as the single most prominent global risk” says the WEF.
Rising income and wealth disparity leads : it is a trend that WEF believes will determine global developments in the next decade.
The most interconnected pairing of risks in this year’s survey is between high structural unemployment or underemployment and ‘profound social instability.’
Society, it says, is not keeping up with technological change. Of the dozen emerging technologies examined in this report, experts found that Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotics had the greatest possible benefits – but also found they also had the greatest potential negative effects and the greatest need for better governance.
“Artificial intelligence has the potential to deliver dramatic benefits in sectors from manufacturing and transportation through to financial services and health care. However, increased reliance on AI will create new threats and amplify existing ones, such as cyber and social instability, making the parallel development of risk governance just as crucial” said Jon Drzik, President of Global Risk & Specialties at Marsh & McLennan, collaborators on the report.
“The complex transitions that the world is currently going through, from preparing for a low-carbon future and unprecedented technological change to adjusting to new global economic and geopolitical realities, places even greater emphasis on leaders to practice long-term thinking, investment and international co-operation” it said.
The WEF’s reports in the past have been prescient: in 2013, long before “post-truth” became everyday jargon, its Global Risks report highlighted the rapid spread of ‘misinformation’, observing that trust was being eroded and that better incentives were needed to protect quality-control systems.
“We live in disruptive times when technological progress also creates challenges. Without proper governance and the re-skilling of workers, technology will eliminate jobs faster than it creates them. Governments can no longer provide historical levels of social protection and an anti-establishment narrative has gained traction, with new political leaders blaming globalization for society’s challenges, creating a vicious cycle in which lower economic growth will only amplify inequality.” said Cecilia Rayes, Chief Risk officer of Zurich Insurance Group, which also helped develop the report.
“Co-operation is essential to avoid the further deterioration of government finances and the exacerbation of social unrest” she added. But is anyone listening ?
WEF’s annual meeting 2017 convenes 17-20 January under the theme Responsive and Responsible Leadership.
This article was written by Dina Medland from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.