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The Many Grave Risks Confronting the World Today

Context:

Presently in the global order, Europe, Asia, and Africa appear to be in a continual state of discord, while North and South America grapple with issues of differing severity. Collectively, these factors have laid the foundation for a state of multipolar disorder.

Relevance:

GS2-

  • Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
  • Effect of Policies and Politics of Developed and Developing Countries on India’s interests

Mains Question:

The threat of terrorism, technology risks, health problems, and the issue of climate change all confront the world in the 21st century creating a situation of multipolar disorder. Analyse. (15 marks, 250 words).

Risks Confronting the World Today

  1. Multipolar Disorder

Events that point towards a multi­polar disorder:

Twin Towers AttackEvents of September 11, 2001, marked a new phase in terrorism with the Twin Towers attack by al-Qaeda. Subsequently, the emergence of the Islamic State, aiming to establish its own state, and the activities of lesser-known groups like Pakistan-backed Lashkar-e-Taiba and Boko Haram in Africa added to the complexity.
Israel- Palestine ConflictThe assault by Hamas, a Palestinian terror group, on the State of Israel represents a significant evolution in terrorism. Despite Israel’s powerful military, this incident has had a seismic impact globally, highlighting the ongoing challenges posed by extremist groups.   A new conflict has erupted in West Asia following Hamas’ attack on Israel, leading to an all-out confrontation. The backing of Israel by much of the West and support for Hamas from the Arab world has heightened the threat of a prolonged war in the region, sidelining the two-state solution for the Palestinian conflict.
Russia- Ukraine ConflictThe conventional conflict between Russia and Ukraine, starting in 2022, has taken an unexpected and concerning turn by lasting well over 18 months. Despite technological advancements, neither side shows willingness to consider a pause, increasing the risk of a wider conflagration.
OthersIn the aftermath of the Hamas-Israel conflict, a substantial United States Naval deployment from the Mediterranean to the Gulf of Oman has the potential to involve Iran-backed Shia militant organizations, like Hezbollah, and Iran itself in the conflict. This could alter the nature of the conflict with unpredictable consequences.

2. Tensions in the Indo-Pacific Region

  • This area is already synonymous with strategic competition and contention. While the U.S. and China have limited room for cooperation here and elsewhere, both now appear determined to escalate the scope of their conflict.
  • The U.S. seems to believe that with China’s slowed growth and its inability to access advanced technology from the West, it holds the advantage.
  • In contrast, China is actively pursuing two conflicting goals: countering the ‘U.S.-dominated world order’ while striving for the success of a China-dominated order. Consequently, issues like Taiwan are not receiving the attention they merit.
  • Currently, the West seems focused on replicating the tactics used in Ukraine to thwart Russia’s advances, applying similar strategies in the Indo-Pacific. However, there is a fundamental difference between the situations in Europe and the Indo-Pacific.
  • Unlike Europe, the East lacks a military arrangement comparable to NATO and, at best, has some loosely tested security agreements such as AUKUS and the Quad to address China. Equally significant is that only a few countries in Asia are prepared for a military confrontation with China.

3. Challenges Posed by Technology

Artificial Intelligence:  Jeopardizing the Truth:  
The digital threat landscape has expanded dramatically, with digital uncertainty undermining established norms. As more individuals become reliant on digital networks, their cognitive and psychological aspects are increasingly influenced by AI.  
The advent of generative AI is seen as a substantial game-changer, with experts predicting a more critical situation in the near future.  
The genuine risk lies in its potential to reshape the very structure of nation-states, jeopardizing truth through phenomena like the deepfake syndrome.
Misuse in Military:  
The use of AI, especially in military and security applications, is a cause for serious concern and requires careful management.  
AI is susceptible to various types of ‘adversarial attacks,’ including ‘poisoning’ (degrading a module’s prediction ability), ‘backdooring’ (misclassifying inputs due to a malicious trigger input), and ‘evasion.’ Extreme caution is therefore essential.  
Cyber Threats:  The cyber domain and cyber threats also present significant security risks. Well-known threats like Ransomware, Phishing, and the Zero-day syndrome are just the tip of the iceberg. In 2021, digital trackers recorded over 5.5 trillion cyber attacks worldwide (equivalent to over 14.5 billion attacks per day), with the scale increasing rapidly.
Quantum Computing:  Quantum’s unique data processing capabilities are already reshaping designated sectors. Quantum AI simulation offers unprecedented effectiveness and efficiency but comes with inherent risks.

4. Health:

  • Another global risk domain is health, as it has become a crucial factor in everyday existence. The COVID-19 pandemic is considered one of the world’s worst epidemics, and forecasts suggest the likelihood of more such occurrences.
  • In the broader perspective, many experts anticipate that climate change and associated health issues will be among the most significant global risks as the 21st century progresses.

Conclusion:

If, as suggested at times, war is an indication of geopolitical incompetence, then the initial quarter of the 21st century signifies a profound level of incompetence, involving numerous nations contributing to this state of affairs. The challenges of terrorism, technology-related risks, health issues, and the matter of climate change collectively confront the world in the 21st century and demand a global coherent planned course of action to effectively deal with them.


February 2024
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