Is the world on the cusp of a new Dark Age?

There is another element to our predicament. That is our inability to manage effectively the unrelenting application of science and technology to war, industry, commerce, finance, education and the media. The sheer volume, speed and intensity of cross-border flows has transformed the way we trade, produce, consume, travel and communicate.

A great transition is under way – this much is clear. What is less clear is whether we can develop in timely fashion the political institutions and agreements we need for a relatively soft landing.

As the following examples show, the record to date is not encouraging.

Financial flows: Over the last 25 years a string of financial crises, often triggered by large and sudden flows of speculative capital, have brought many economies, including seemingly robust ones, to their knees. Despite much talk, an effective system of global financial regulation remains elusive.

Arms flows: Authorised international transfers of small arms, light weapons, parts, accessories and ammunition are estimated at about $8.5 billion annually. The illicit trade probably comes to $1.5 billion. Taken together these transfers account for 60-70% of annual casualties in today’s conflicts.

Population flows: By the end of 2013, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees calculated that the number of refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced persons, stateless people and others of concern had reached an unprecedented 42.9 million. Permanently resettling the displaced, let alone preventing such displacement, does not appear within reach.