Australian CSIRO Analysis of the Megatrends and Megashocks of Our Future World

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CSIRO has a new report describes the outcomes from a global foresight project. It presents five megatrends and eight megashocks (global risks) that will redefine how the world’s people live.

The five interrelated megatrends identified in the report are:

1. More from less. This relates to the world’s depleting natural resources and increasing demand for those resources through economic and population growth. Coming decades will see a focus on resource use efficiency.

2. A personal touch. Growth of the services sector of western economies is being followed by a second wave of innovation aimed at tailoring and targeting services.

3. Divergent demographics. The populations of OECD countries are ageing and experiencing lifestyle and diet related health problems. At the same time there are high fertility rates and problems of not enough food for millions in poor countries.

4. On the move. People are changing jobs and careers more often, moving house more often, commuting further to work and travelling around the world more often.

5. i World. Everything in the natural world will have a digital counterpart. Computing power and memory storage are improving rapidly. Many more devices are getting connected to the internet.

A global risk, or ‘megashock’, is a significant and sudden event; the timing and magnitude of which are very hard to predict.

The report identified eight megashocks relevant to Australian science:

1. asset price collapse

2. slowing Chinese economy

3. oil and gas price spikes

4. extreme climate change related weather

5. pandemic

6. biodiversity loss

7. terrorism

8. nanotechnology risks.

The detailed Global Risks report of the World Economic Forum (WEF, 2009) which has identified and evaluated some 36 global risks. The likelihoods ranged from 1-20%. I would note that many of things are issues that are being managed successfully now and have been managed successfully in the past and should have a framework for prevention and mitigation in a business as usual mode.


1 Food price volatility

2 Oil and gas price spike

3 Major fall in US$

4 Slowing Chinese economy (6%)

5 Fiscal crises

6 Asset price collapse

7 Retrenchment from globalization (developed)

8 Retrenchment from globalization (emerging)

9 Regulation cost

10 Underinvestment in infrastructure

11 International terrorism

12 Collapse of the Nuclear Nonproliferation treaty

13 US/Iran conflict

14 US/ Democratic Republic of Korea conflict

15 Afghanistan instability

16 Transnational crime and corruption

17 Israel-Palestine conflict

18 Violence in Iraq

19 Global governance gaps

20 Extreme climate change related weather

21 Droughts and desertification

22 Loss of freshwater

23 Cyclone

24 Earthquake

25 Inland flooding

26 Coastal flooding

27 Air pollution

28 Biodiversity loss

29 Pandemic

30 Infectious disease

31 Chronic disease

32 Liability regimes

33 Migration

34 Critical information infrastructure breakdown

35 Emergence of nanotechnology risks

36 Data fraud/loss

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