Books written by Ray Sullivan

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Alien Life Forms Seen As Global Risk

It's a dangerous and unpredictable world we life in.  In terms of natural disasters I guess it always has been, although those on the right of the Climate Change fence insist that the planet is more unstable than ever in terms of natural disaster potential.

That may or may not be correct, I'm not stepping inside that debate in this posting, but it is clear that the planet is more dangerous today than it was one hundred years ago.  There are military conflicts in multiple regions permanently, the internet presents increased international and personal risks and I'm guessing we haven't seen the end of the global financial meltdown yet.

It's not surprising that an entire industry has grown up around the analysis and management of risks.  Many of you will be aware of the term Business Continuity, some of you will be involved in it for your organisations.  If you work at a governmental level you may be involved at some level in National Resiliency, the arrangements that analyse the risks and attempt to ensure that the National Interest is looked after.  As citizens of whatever country we live in - this blog does seem to stretch quite wide these days - we should think that it is a good idea our governments are looking after our interests in this way.

But the biggest risks are global; if the UK or US banking industry collapsed completely then the repercussions would be felt worldwide.  If China catches a cold in manufacturing, everyone sneezes.

One of the organisations that looks ahead at global risk is the World Economic Forum, a think-tank of academics and industry experts from around the world.  They have been producing annual reports on their projections for potential global risks and have recently published their eighth annual report, covering the next twelve months.

The approach is to analyse perceived risks in a variety of headings to determine the potential for damage.  For industries that span continents this is necessary reading; the effects of disparity of wealth, the rise in terrorism, the reach of cyber crime, the adverse effects of bio engineering, the potential for pandemics and natural events are all topics that are considered and while some of these will give you the Heebie Jeebies as you read how exposed we can be, I expect many of you will be familiar with the broad risks presented by many of the subjects.

While most of the risks identified in the document are unlikely to reach their full potential in any given year, some will and lives will change as a result.  For example, in 2001, terrorism in New York changed everyone's life to some degree and still does.  Around the same period SARS was forecast to portent the end of the world and clearly that didn't happen - at least not yet.  This latest report takes a SARS like event very seriously as the world has hardly become less susceptible to such a pandemic in the last ten years.  Interestingly, for those of you following Parallel Lives as it is serialised on this blog, you will recognise that I've had more than a passing interest in pandemics - and for the record, Parallel Lives is over ten years old.

However, this year the World Economic Forum have taken their crystal ball gazing one step further, engaging with Nature, the scientific journal, to look at the potential effects of scientific research as risks.

The extended crystal ball gazing has turned up something that probably most of us wouldn't have expected in such a document, and that is the discovery of alien life forms.  They're not saying that 2013 is necessarily the year the such life forms will be confirmed but they point to the high numbers of potentially life bearing planets being discovered, with the discovery rate accelerating year-on-year.  So where's the risks?

Well, one risk is that global belief systems may well be challenged by the confirmed discovery of life on other planets, which could lead to destabilisation of some cultures.  Ironically, it may give some credence to Scientology, the pseudo religion supported by the halfling Tom Cruise.  I guess anything that challenges religious beliefs is a recipe for strife. Another issue is that such a discovery could skew national and international funding as there would be a race to increase the space exploration programmes to the detriment of other necessary projects.  There may even be an increased arms race as the planet gears itself up to defend itself from the newly confirmed aliens.

The report provides food for thought to anyone who is interested in the risks facing the planet and even without the identification of alien life forms is a fantastic resource for people like me who write science fiction thrillers.  But throw in the alien angle and you have what should be a best seller on our hands, and it's free to download.  I've only started dipping in and out of it so far, but what I've read is suitably well written yet easily digestible.  The PDF is on my Nexus and next in line to be read cover to cover.


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