At the brink of crises, there is always a temptation to create new “systems” as solutions for dealing with the unanticipated or hitherto unknown. Alternatively, there is an equally or perhaps even more prevalent tendency to resort to systems which decision-maker and policy planners feel comfortable with, even though they are not necessarily appropriate.

Both routes are understandable, and neither always wrong.

However, we believe that when it comes to managing global threats, decision-maker and policy planners need not only to appreciate what is already out there, but also how best to use existing systems for maximum impact. This is a perspective very relevant to the warnings found in the 6 August 2021 Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

There is already a plethora of systems which exist that could contribute to meeting plausible and possible humanitarian challenges. However, as noted by Sir Peter Gluckman, the President Elect of the International Science Council, ‘The world is full of duplicative activities and this is increasingly unhelpful.’

redundant systems

With that in mind, you may recall from the previous HF Newsletter that we listed six factors that policy planners and decision makers needed to bear in mind about systems and systems architecture.

Additionally, we have compiled A Systems Compendium for Managing Global Threats

As suggested in this Systems Compendium, there has been an exponential increase in scientific systems and related networks over the past 30 years that could and should prove of considerable value when it comes to identifying present and plausible future global threats. However, few consistent efforts have been made to work through what appears to be a maze of systems, with the intention of identifying consistent and mutually supportive systems which could play valuable roles in managing global threats.

The reasons for this are many, but whatever the hurdles that have to be surmounted, the importance of systems and network mapping needs to be recognised. Efforts should be made to identify them, their objectives, components, intended outputs, procedures and processes that would directly and indirectly provide insights into global threats and ways to mitigate them. Mapping, too, should result in identifying those systems and networks that link, for example, the findings of the social and natural sciences. Such outputs would be made ever more feasible through technologies that are already available. 5G and Wifi6 can identify, compile, correlate and prioritise. Not only have the capacities of such technologies significantly enhanced data analytics, but they also have been able to play a significant role in developing technologies to strengthen related objectives.

Technology from the mapping perspective will be able to

  • identify and map different types of networks and actors that can directly and indirectly enhance capacities to deal with global threats, and in so doing, identify possible cross-sectoral and cross-institutional linkages;
  • compile available data from across a wide range of networks and sectors to determine amongst other things data consistencies, confirmations or contradictions; about global threats;
  • assist in the process of prioritising potential risks and threats from global and sub-global perspectives, and based upon these to issue alerts about emerging risks and threats; and
  • offer continuity in the gathering of material relating to the three objectives, above.

To this end, the Systems Compendium is intended as a step in the right direction.

Please let us know what you think.