Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Global Fortune Telling: The tricky business of predicting global risks

The fortune teller Jemima Packington from the city of Bath in England lobs asparagus spears in the air to predict the future.  That makes her the world’s only asparamancer.  In January this year, on the basis of the pattern of the spears, she predicted that England would be defeated in the World Cup, Middle Eastern politics would give rise to yet more turmoil, a musical super group would split and there would be some celebrity divorces.  

In contrast, after significant consultation and consideration, in January the World Economic Forum published its report on Global Risks for 2014.  High of the risk indicators were the reemergence of fiscal crises in key economies, structurally high unemployment, water crises and severe income disparity.

Six months down the track, both the asparamancer and the World Economic Forum have scored a couple of hits.  But in an increasingly volatile environment, neither identified the risks that have blossomed in the past few months.  Instead, fragile states have crumpled, reopening critical stress lines – unidentified by forum or asparamancer.  

While it is easy to be wise in retrospect, the business of predicting the future must not be dismissed out of hand.  While we might smile at Jemima Packington’s efforts (although her guesses were a bit vague), the considered and careful analysis by the World Economic Forum remains a sensible catalog of risks posing risks to peace and economic stability.  It is also a stark reminder that the prediction of the future is an uncertain science.
I have been reviewing the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks 2014 – Ninth Edition – it is beautifully written and very accessible:
In preparation for next weeks ICCPM Australasia Forum conference in Melbourne, Australia on 22-24 July 2014 – conference details are at http://www.iaccm.com/australasia14

See also the World Economic Forum’s Blog - worth its weight in gold.

Peter Quinton
July 2014


No comments: