Hidden threats

… it is even harder for corporations, governments – and indeed all of us – to avoid unfamiliar hidden threats that are ultimately also being driven by “unstoppable but exponential” High-Tech. 

If I am really honest, although the struggle to grasp opportunities can be a worry, avoiding exponential threats should be a far greater concern – for every one of us.

Some of these ballooning threats are direct unintended consequences of High-Tech itself.  Obvious ones are things like cyber-crime.  This menace includes not just hostile groups hacking into sensitive data or blocking access to important websites but also, maybe as part of a terrorist attack, far more war-like threats such as disrupting transmission and power distribution control systems.

Of similar concern, but maybe less familiar, are the dramatic advances in non-nuclear electromagnetic pulse weapons designed to destroy critical electronic control systems in pretty well every modern device (other than the very small percentage protected by military-level screening).

These types of threats are at least confined to reasonably-familiar High-Tech areas.  Most global threats are not – and that is what makes them far harder to handle.  The point is that the very same “unstoppable yet exponential” growth of High-Tech that offers such incredible promise is also causing unintended consequences when it interacts with other deeply-established global systems such as Capitalism or Industrialization or even Religion.

We are already experiencing some of these in the form of escalating global crises such as collapsing fish-stocks, depleting water reserves, uncontrolled species-extinctions, and growing threats of climate change.

Far more visibly, in 2007-8 the global financial system was bought to its knees, unresolved conflicts within the Eurozone will continue to cause crises into the foreseeable future, as will unresolved conflicts in the Middle-East.  Within this context, religious extremism is growing, and becoming more uncontrollable.

When I analyze the systemic connections underlying all of these global crises, the origin of each escalation can be traced directly to the interaction of “unstoppable but exponential” High Tech inexorably pushing against the “immovable” established global systems.