Oxford thinking informs decision making in 'hyperconnected' world

12 January 2012

© Istock/ChrisGorgio

The failure of global governance to manage and respond to the complexities of a hyperconnected world has emerged as the top theme in a recent global report by the World Economic Forum (WEF). The report is the outcome of a global survey of 469 experts and opinion leaders, including several academics from the Oxford Martin School.

A team from the WEF’s Risk Response Network spent a day at the Oxford Martin School last November. The occasion provided an opportunity for the WEF to draw on the wide range of academic expertise within the Oxford Martin School to examine risk, resilience and mitigation strategies across the global system. Their insights helped inform this latest report, “World Economic Forum Global Risks 2012”, which features an analysis of the top 10 risks in five categories – economic, environmental, geopolitical, societal and technological. The report also highlights "X Factor" risks, emerging concerns of possible future importance and with unknown consequences.

Oxford Martin School Director Professor Ian Goldin, whose revised edition of his well-known book “Globalisation for Development” will be out next month, said, “Today’s hyperconnected world is certainly more vulnerable to systemic shocks but it is vital that we make globalisation work. There is a real risk that the tremendous opportunities we have gained over the past 20 years – such as increases in life expectancy, educational attainment, and poverty reduction – will be lost among systemic failures (of which the financial crisis is just one example) and increasing global inequality. There is no turning back time to a simpler state of the world. It is only through effective global collaboration that a prosperous and sustainable future is at all possible.”

In addition to contributions to the Global Risks Report, the Oxford Martin School will have a strong presence at the WEF’s annual meeting of political and business leaders, industry experts, intellectuals and commentators in Davos later this January. For the fourth year in a row, Professor Ian Goldin will be leading a team of Oxford academics to present an “IdeasLab.” This special interactive session will focus on “Hyperconnectivity -- Harvesting Globalization and Limiting Systemic Risk”. Discussions will revolve around the implications of hyperconnectivity in preparing for pandemics; building resilience in complex systems; dealing with the data deluge; and developing new governance models at the national, regional and global levels to manage the risks of increasing connectivity.

Natalie Day, the School’s Head of Policy, explained, “Organisations like the WEF play a critical convening role, engaging a diverse array of stakeholders around systemic responses. There need to be more avenues for this sort of honest and pragmatic dialogue, particularly at the global governance level. It speaks to the significance of research at Oxford that so many of our academics are helping to inform these discussions."

Related links:

Oxford contributors to the WEF IdeasLab 2012:

Introduced by the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, Professor Andrew Hamilton, the WEF IdeasLab includes presentations from Professor Ian Goldin, Director of the Oxford Martin School, Professor Angela Mclean, Co-Director of the Oxford Martin Institute of Emerging Infections; Dr Felix Reed-Tsochas, Director of the Oxford Martin Programme on Complexity; Dr Chris Lintott, Co-Director of the Oxford Martin Programme on Computational Cosmology; and Professor Ngaire Woods, Dean of the Blavatnik School of Government. Together, they will explore new collaborative models to solve complex global challenges.