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  • Marzele Bosch (South Africa)

Viewing technology through the shifting global risk landscape lens

According to the Global Risk Report 2022, environmental risks (climate action failure, extreme weather, and biodiversity loss) are the most severe global risks over the next ten years. Risks worsened since the COVID-19 pandemic include societal divides, livelihood crises, and mental health deterioration. World leaders and other relevant stakeholders are tasked with creating policies that shape the agenda for the coming years while dealing with a global recession, energy crises, and the pandemic. Consequently, 84% of risk experts are concerned about the state of the world.

Policymakers, furthermore, need to navigate new and emerging risks. Emerging risks can be defined as a risk that has resulted from a newly identified hazard to which a significant exposure may occur or from an unexpected new or increased significant exposure and susceptibility to a known hazard. While the advent of emerging technologies yields positive impacts on lives, it also broadened the scope of potential threats. Technological risks included adverse outcomes of technological advances, systematic dependency on technology, digital inequality, digital power concentration, cyber security failure, and technology governance failure. The report indicated a 435 % increase in ransomware in 2020. However, technological risks did not appear among the most potentially severe risks for the next decade.

Technological risks were not identified as imminent risks in the report. However, this may indicate potential blind spots in perceptions of potential cyber risks. Global tensions, such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, amplify technological risks. Instances of high-profile cyber attacks are increasing. Political interference weaponized Artificial Intelligence, and digital espionage are all critical risks that countries should address. The private and public sectors face the risks of cybercrimes as security measures fail to keep up with rapid advancements. Cybercrimes result in economic disruption, financial loss, geopolitical tension, and social instability. Increasing efforts to reduce technological risks should be needed to mitigate and manage risks. There are no globally accepted frameworks or regulations to address and minimize technical risks.

Apart from cybersecurity risks and negative consequences of technological advances, unequal levels of technological developments may increase inequality and power concentration. In a country, technological advances increase capital returns and decrease returns to workers. Technological advancements boost highly skilled workers' productivity in some sectors, leading to lower demand for less skilled workers. Developing countries may also struggle to keep up with advanced economies. Thus, if technological advances go without regulation, they pose a real threat of increased inequalities and power concentrations, both on a regional and international level.

Technological advances play an essential role in promoting global prosperity. Developments may increase economic productivity and enable creative and sustainable solutions. However, these advancements create new risks with dire consequences. Policies and regulations aimed at technology should be viewed through the lens of the shifting global risk landscape. The stakes are incredibly high as the world becomes increasingly dependent on technology. A regulatory framework could lessen potential technological risks and ensure no one gets left behind.

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