“Why has it become so hard to predict things?” asked Wolfgang Ischinger, Chairman of the Munich Security Conference. He lamented that some of the smartest minds in the world failed to predict such headlines as ISIS and the Russian occupation of Ukraine.
As explained by Shirley Ann Jackson, President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, it is “because of the interconnectedness of our societies ... [that] the main challenges are global, but they are networked across domains.” The larger challenge is that events have “cascading consequences” for people in every corner of the world. A particular concern, she reckoned, is the “possible compromise of critical infrastructure that might make use of industrial control systems.” Indeed, she added, policies have not caught up with the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
“The level of uncertainty is unprecedented,” said Nikolaus von Bomhard, Chairman of the Board of Management at Munich Re, who warned about future threats – not just to national infrastructure – but to our very society.
Von Bomhard explained that our “values are being questioned” as never before, complicated by the fact that we are living in a time where “a single event [due to the speed of communication] can change everything.” In reference to the unprecedented challenges, he joked: it seems everything is a “black swan.” To help mitigate this risk, he suggested that policy-makers and politicians “learn from industry and apply what we call integrated risk management” to better prepare for “swans” of all types.
Echoing Ischinger’s comments, Tzipi Livni, Foreign Minister (2009-2012) and Co-Leader of the Opposition, Knesset, Israel, observed, “We know nothing about the future anymore,” adding that, with all its unpredictability and challenges, “There are so many ‘black swans’, I am now looking for the ordinary white swans.”
In this new area of technology, Livni explained, “the power is in people’s hands.” Comparing today’s pace of change to watching a science fiction film in fast-forward, she observed that new technology “is changing everything – it is changing our values.” She explained that Daesh and others are using technology to spread hate, while governments and leaders are acting in new, unconventional ways, where “red lines are being crossed in terms of our values.” In doing so, she argued, our traditional values are being eroded.
For Shinichi Kitaoka, President of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the situation in East Asia is “most dangerous”. With all the challenges in the region, Kitaoka lamented that the new US president is now “questioning the relationship with Japan.” He observed that the United States has military bases in Japan, which, according to Kitaoka, “constitutes a benefit to America”.
Jackson agreed that “not enough attention is being paid to Asia, including East Asia.” She added that there is also a “mindset to what confers power and prestige,” which is often linked to military might. The issue for so many of these challenges, including a nuclear North Korea, she suggested, “is what nations – collectively – are willing to do about it.”
The international community can work collectively to address common security challenges. To this end, experts agree that, with the impending youth budge, proper education of today’s youth – and tomorrow’s leaders – will be critical to improve our collective security.