The GCSP’s trainings on global and emerging risks
Global risks at the nexus of geopolitics and technology are increasingly disruptive as they exhibit rapid growth, unpredictability, diffusions from state to non-state actors and require a security policy paradigm shift from defence to resilience.
The nature of threats has been completely altered since the end of the Cold War. While during the Cold War, states faced threats; they are now confronted by risks. Threats occur when actors have both the capabilities and the intentions to harm the security of others. When either capabilities or intentions are lacking, then states face risks. Unlike threats, which are precisely identified through hostile intent supported by the required capabilities, risks are the product of the probability and utility of some future events. It follows that risks are more subjective and hence also more numerous. Due to the ubiquity of risks, it is no longer possible to face their entire spectrum simultaneously and to decisively counter them. This requires new thinking into security policy and requires a paradigmatic shift from defence to resilience. Resilience refers to the ability to withstand and survive the consequences of risks that reach into every aspect of society, with a whole-of-government, whole-of-society approach. Resilience changes from an act for which governments are solely responsible, to a more active and dynamic ongoing process that reaches across society. As such, resilience is a more encompassing concept to deal with the multiplication of risk than traditional national security concepts. For example, disinformation campaigns and tools such as progressively more realistic deepfakes, are being utilized as part of efforts to erode trust in democratic institutions and processes, and to sow confusion among population. As such, they are used as tools of asymmetric warfare to influence and destabilise states while remaining below the threshold of war. Against these risks, traditional defence approaches are ineffective. Building societal resilience on the other hand, can help reduce their impact.
With the advent of emerging technologies which rely on advances in the digital, neurological, biological and atomic domains, the access as well as the speed of development and proliferation provide states and new actors (non-state actors and individuals) with means of power that can have strategic impact. In fact, the democratization of disruptive technologies is lowering the bar of entry to the international stage, whereby states, non-state actors and even individuals with few resources can have a disproportionate influence. It follows that the scope of potential threats broadens dramatically. Furthermore, the convergence between these technologies is making their impact more unpredictable, more disruptive, and adding to their complexity. Predicting the impacts of emerging technologies and finding the solutions to mitigate disruptions is set to be increasingly complicated. This is further compounded by the fact that technological advancements follow an exponential growth curve, while human thinking is linear. This results in the increased obsolescence of policy responses to technological advancements as time goes on.
Due to this exponentiality, waiting for emerging technologies to mature to tackle issues related to them is a luxury policy makers and business leaders cannot afford. There is a necessity to think ahead for these “frontier risks”; risks that have not yet materialized, but that are on the horizon. The COVID 19 Pandemic caught organisations and states unprepared and showed the importance of investing in the knowledge and skills to anticipate frontier risks. The pandemic is not an outlier, there are a multitude of other risks at the intersection of technology, geopolitics and economics that will emerge and potentially be as disruptive as COVID 19.
The Global and Emerging Risks Cluster positioned itself as a thought leader on risks at the nexus of geopolitics and technology. To that end, it particularly monitors, analyses and interprets the impact that emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), synthetic biology, neuroscience, quantum computing, and nanotechnologies, will have on international politics, geopolitics, warfare and conflicts. In addition to the identification of emerging risk and future trends that will impact international security and warfare1 the Global and Emerging Risk Cluster also promotes new responses that can be brought to deal with these emerging risks notably through the concept of resilience. The cluster also participates in the breaking down of silos which lead to policy and governance failures when anticipating the consequences of emerging technologies. To this end, the cluster promotes “polymath thinking”, notably through its Polymath Initiative. The initiative seeks to create “translators”; scientists well versed in the ethical, security and governance implications of emerging technologies, who are able to bridge the gap between the tech and science communities, and the world of policy and decision-makers and scholars.
The Global and Emerging Risks Cluster is composed of three analytical pillars:
- Traditional geopolitical risk and international conflicts
- Geopolitical risks for the private sector
- Risk related to the impact of disruptive and emerging technologies on geopolitics
- Global and emerging risks training in Geneva and online
- Innovative and prospective insights about the future of international peace and security as well as the impacts of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, neurotechnology and synthetic biology.
- Expertise about global risks that is located both in-house and through the GCSP’s networks
- Tailored and generic training for the public and private sector in global risks and geopolitical analysis
- Policy-oriented academic research and publications in topical issues dealing with global risks
- Engagement with multiple stakeholders – state, civil institutions as well as military and law enforcement forces, intergovernmental bodies, not-for-profit organisations and the business sector -- that share the GCSP’s vision on the evolution and implications of global strategic risks.
What is global risk assessment?
Answer: Global Risk assessment is a survey of the emerging risks humanity can face on a global scale. These assessments typically assess and grade the probability of a risk materialising, the consequences of it materialising and the timeframe in which such a risk could materialise. Global risks can include global pandemics, natural disasters, catastrophic cyber failures, rising inequalities and conflicts. Correct global risk assessment can help avoid disasters, prevent conflicts and increase security worldwide. The main goal of a global risk assessment is to identify risks early and increase state and company resilience.
What are emerging risks?
Answer: Emerging risks are newly developing risks that are difficult to identify, for which the body of knowledge is relatively weak. Due to their unclear and subjective nature, emerging risks present decision makers and company management with difficult decisions. Emerging risks are usually unquantified but can have a high impact potential. Due to their ubiquity and increasingly global nature, it is primordial to build resilience and invest the knowledge necessary for risk management to withstand their effects.
How do you track emerging risks?
Answer: Tracking emerging risks is difficult by nature as it requires looking into the future and preparing for eventualities which have not yet materialised. For successful risk assessment, the identification of weak signals - an indicator of a potentially emerging issue, that may become significant in the future – is extremely important. Attending courses and trainings which identify the major trends geopolitical and technological trends, and which survey potential weak signals can help organisations, states and individuals learn how to track emerging risks to minimise enterprise risk and ensure business continuity and support supply/supply chain operations.
How does technology affect our security?
Answer: Technology and technological innovations are inextricably linked to security. Today, advances in artificial intelligence carry with them risks that span military, social and political domains. Other advances in synthetic biology and neurotechnologies such as Brain-Computer Interfaces are also opening up new risks such as genetically engineered viruses and control of the mind. The democratisation of technology is synonymous with proliferation, increasing the number of actors with access to new disruptive technologies, thereby increasing the number of potential threat vectors for states, individuals and businesses.
What are the different types of risk assessment?
Answer: There are many different types of risk assessments. They can range from topic- or project-based assessments to local, national, international risks assessments.
How do you assess emerging risks?
Answer: Monitor, analyse and interpret the impact that emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), synthetic biology, neuroscience, quantum computing, and nanotechnologies, will have on international politics, geopolitics, warfare and conflicts.