The world is being consumed by unforeseen man-made events that have taken the pundits and prognosticators by complete surprise. Whether it is the outcome of the Brexit vote, successive terrorist attacks in Europe, the attempted coup in Turkey, increasingly sophisticated cyber-attacks, or fracking-induced earthquakes, the pace of change is accelerating, and man-made risk is at the center of it all. So much so, that we are now being governed by man-made risk. At no time in history have so many unanticipated man-made events occurred at the same time, having so much impact on so many people, and in so many ways. We have been reduced to merely reacting to these events, because we do not have the ability to predict them, and because so many of our approaches to risk management lack foresight and agility.
For these reasons we must change how we recognize and think about man-made risk. Terrorism, climate change, cyber risk, political change, and other forms for man-made risk can no longer be consigned to the rear of the global threat matrix; On the contrary, they should be moved to the top of the queue. In spite of all the forecasting tools at our disposal, even in the age of instant global communication, surprises continue to abound, and occur completely outside of our control.
For example, the Islamic State’s (IS) declared Ramadan offensive took an unprecedented human toll this year, even though the world was put on notice that is was coming. While not widely reported in the West, the number of global deaths attributed to the offensive (which ended on July 5th) exceeded 1,200 and involved at least 13 countries (Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Bangladesh, Jordan, the U.S., France, Yemen, Turkey, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia). The vast majority of these deaths occurred in Iraq (685), Syria (150), and Libya (148), although substantial numbers of deaths also occurred in the U.S. (49), Yemen (43), Turkey (44), and Afghanistan (47).