Chapter 4

The Age of Emergence

Perhaps more so than the financial crisis of 2008-9, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the interdependencies of global risks that give rise to the Age of Emergence.

Any viable strategy of change needs to recognise the depth and scale of anthropogenic, global interconnectedness. This is increasingly complex, tightly coupled, and near real-time. The fragility of our human system and the rise of exponential technologies have coincided with escalating systemic erosion, involving the diminishment of our biosphere’s regenerative capacities, which has been compounded by our extraction and consumption of natural resources.

This has served to establish a new age of risks & uncertainties that give rise to unknowable shocks precisely at a time when our collective will, technical capacity, and statecraft to tackle them appear to be lacking. It is an age in which the myth of certainty and linear predictions is neither useful nor applicable to emergent global realities; an age of mutual vulnerabilities in which the bailout is the ‘new normal’. This requires a new structural approach to statecraft, which is designed to operate in an age of shocks and cascading risks compound by structural vulnerabilities.

Our collective strategy of renewal ought to be premised on a systemic response built on emergent, discursive, contingent processes of perpetual learning and self-renewal︎︎︎ that build resilience and hope, and acknowledge the interconnectedness and types of risks we face, as well as their ‘unmeasurable uncertainty︎︎︎’. It should not be built only for the few on the back of the many. This strategy depends on establishing distributed capabilities, rapid policy experimentation, and alternative social infrastructures (Horizons 1–3). Ultimately, it requires rethinking the relationship of humans with nature, with the future, with technology, and with ourselves (Beyond the horizons). The aim is to bolster the institutional immune system, radical transparency, disintermediated sense-making, and participation. Initial responses to the pandemic have planted seeds for what a renewal strategy might look like in practice, something that we will return to when we address the topic of statecraft in the age of risks & uncertainties.

Next: Three Horizons and Beyond  ︎

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