Letter: Disruption — the world’s looming existential threat

Martin Wolf’s “Twelve propositions on the world today” (Opinion, June 1) can be incorporated into one “massive attacks of disruption”. This new MAD has metastasised into the looming existential danger to the world at large, exceeding even that posed by China or Russia.

Of course disruption has always affected mankind. However, because of technology and the global diffusion of power, societies have simultaneously become more interconnected, interdependent and vulnerable to the new MAD. Climate change is one example of this longer-term existential potential threat. Ukraine is another.

That war extends far beyond its borders and now threatens hundreds of millions, if not billions, with starvation and hunger. The understandable expansion of Nato is threatened by Turkish veto, a potentially huge disruption for the alliance. And many other unintended disruptions will follow as the war in Ukraine continues.

Ironically, during the cold war version of MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction), no American (or anyone else) died under a mushroom shaped cloud. Yet with the new MAD, more Americans died of Covid than were killed in battle in every war the country fought. In China, the Covid lockdown is crippling its economy with obvious global ramifications, one reason why American and other stock markets are so volatile.

Failed and failing governments, social media, debt and cyber are other mass disrupters. Unless or until, the new MAD is understood as a coherent threat and action is taken to mitigate or prevent it, future global safety, security and prosperity will remain at grave risk.

Harlan Ullman
Senior Adviser, The Atlantic Council
Washington, DC, US

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