The world looks like it’s getting worse. Here’s why it’s not
The world may feel like it’s about to explode.
Death ships on the Mediterranean. Cyberattacks in America. Syria in turmoil. War in Yemen and Ukraine. Islamic State, Boko Haram, al Shabaab — all on the move.
If the world seems more volatile, it is. If it seems more dangerous, not so much.
Welcome to the war of perceptions, in which an ever-improving planet seems ever more at risk largely because of the noise.
Many more people are hearing from many more people as they compete for the same, or fewer, resources. The result: a louder world, and more anxiety about the noise, but not necessarily deeper crises underneath.
“It’s almost the principle of network mathematics that when you build a system of globalization like the one we’re building with computers and speed, you’re going to get volatility, and we see it in the financial markets, and we see it in the rise of groups like ISIS overnight and their ability to empower themselves through their own engagement with global technologies and communications,” said Steve Coll, author of several books on terrorism and dean of the Columbia School of Journalism. “You’re looking at a world that is more subject to sudden shocks.”
Coll was among five previous winners of the Lionel Gelber Prize interviewed for a video project to mark the 25th anniversary of the award, which is named for the late Canadian diplomat who helped create the state of Israel. The award — granted, through the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto to the best English-language book on international affairs – was given this week to Serhii Plokhy, author of The Last Empire: The Final Days of the Soviet Union.