Preparing for Frontier Risks in the New Economy

Leaders in the public and private sectors often focus attention and resources on managing immediate crises, but it is also important to account for the unique category of risks that emerge at frontiers as technologies surface or human and societal forces shift.

This chapter is excerpted from the World Economic Forum’s June 2021 report, Building Back Broader: Policy Pathways for an Economic Transformation.


“Frontier risks” are endemic to progress. As novel discoveries and innovations increasingly breach and expand human frontiers across multiple realms—ecological, geographic, social, technological, and more—there will arise new perils of which decision makers only possess a limited understanding.

Potential hazards such as irreversible, large-scale ecological change and democratic breakdowns may surface through frontier breakthroughs or lie at the intersection of multiple frontiers (e.g. risks emerging from brain-computer interface technologies). They may manifest as an extreme version of a known risk or a completely new phenomenon, and their emergence can be rapid, gradual, or non-linear.

It is critical for decision makers to understand and prepare for frontier risks because 1) their early warning signs are often subtle and difficult to detect; 2) they are less likely to be widely understood beyond a niche group of experts; and 3) there is great uncertainty around how and if they will manifest.

Read on for the latest thinking from the Global Future Council on Frontier Risks around why decision makers so often fail to anticipate these risks as well as what pathways they can pursue toward better resilience.


Marsh McLennan is represented on the Global Future Council on Frontier Risks. The Council’s work supports our longstanding partnership with the World Economic Forum on Global Risks.

Preparing for Frontier Risks in the New Economy