How Cascading Risks from Technology, Geopolitics, and Ecology Accumulate and How to Mitigate Them | Trond Undheim
William J. Perry Conference Room
About the Event: Systemic risks derive from a mix of economic, technological, socio political, and ecological factors. Inherently interdisciplinary, the study of systemic risk draws on financial shock models, operations research, global health, foresight, management, military strategy, risk assessment, risk sociology, disaster research, security studies, science and technology studies, existential risk research, as well as the AI risk and biorisk communities. Pulling together core insights from those fields, the talk presents the argument that even mid-range (meso level) risks may become systemic, and so might contribute to catastrophic or even existential outcomes, depending on the order and magnitude of the interaction effects between them. However, the study of systemic risk requires developing transdisciplinary tools that can better integrate the insights drawn from these disparate fields despite high uncertainty. Nevertheless, apart from a tiny literature on risk assessment of rare events (black/grey swans), and embryonic efforts at the the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) at a high level of abstraction, there is still no overarching framework specifically formulated for systemic risks beyond economics.
This talk seeks to promote the integrated study of systemic risk by offering a snapshot of five risk scenarios for 2075 (in video format), a custom-created board game, a transdisciplinary approach, conceptual clarifications, risk factor identification heuristics, and early results from an ongoing survey. The talk includes a novel attempt to structure and visualize systemic risk factors. It also sketches a notation that enables a simple way to annotate relationships between systemic risks and the cascading effects and relationships between them. Lastly, the case is made that we need a dual notation (scientific and lay) for any scenario models used in scientific results meant to also be consumed by the public.
About the Speaker: Dr. Trond Arne Undheim (see his Stanford profile), Ph.D is a Research Scholar in Global Systemic Risk, Innovation, and Policy at the Stanford Existential Risk Initiative (SERI) at the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) at Stanford. He leads a research project on Global Systemic Risk Scenarios for 2075, addressing the fact that humanity faces a myriad of existential risks of technological, sociopolitical, and ecological origin. The project involves developing a set of audiovisual scenarios, quantitative online surveys, technology reviews (generative AI, immersive AR/VR, quantum tech, synthetic biology platforms), and regional case studies (Nigeria, Mexico, USA, Scandinavia, India). He is also developing a framework to analyze cascading risks, assembling a set of risk factors and associated mitigation strategies, which is intended as a resource towards transdisciplinary collaboration. At Stanford, he teaches STS 156 The Future Of Global Systemic Risk (EARTHSYS 156, SOC 128) and is working on a 2024 course (STS X) tentatively called From Regenerative Entrepreneurship to Giga Projects. His next book, Eco Tech: Investing in Regenerative Futures comes out in the fall and will be on pre-order starting Aug 2, 2023 from Routledge.
Trond Arne Undheim is a futurist, scholar, podcaster, and venture partner and an expert on the evolution of technology and society. He is a Research Scholar in Global Systemic Risk, Innovation, and Policy at the Stanford Existential Risk Initiative (SERI) at the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC), Stanford University. He is also a venture partner at Antler, and a co-founder of technology foresight consulting firm Yegii. Formerly with Tulip Interfaces, Hitachi Ventures, MIT, WPP, Oracle, and the EU, he’s a co-author (with Natan Linder) of Augmented Lean (Wiley 2022), and is the author of Health Tech (Routledge 2021), Future Tech (Kogan Page 2021), Pandemic Aftermath (Atmosphere Press 2020), Disruption Games (Atmosphere Press 2020), and Leadership From Below (Lulu Press 2008). In addition, he hosts the Futurized podcast, and is a Forbes columnist. Trond's work has featured in a variety of business, industrial, and mainstream media, including in The Boston Globe, NPR's Cognoscenti, Fast Company, Forbes, Fortune, IndustryWeek, and MIT News. He holds a Ph.D. on the future of work and artificial intelligence.
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