Triple witching hour in the futures market is the last Friday of the month every quarter when index futures, stock futures, and stock options expire. This event can create additional volatility of related securities and be a big problem for money managers.

Humanity is facing its triple witching hour as we move into 2020: The Digital Decade. Economic inequality, climate change, and frontier technology have all accelerated at the same time to converge on widespread social unrest around the world. The increasing geopolitical and environmental volatility is alarming.

Risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft forecast that nearly 40% of the world’s 195 countries are projected to see an increase in civil unrest during the next six months, according to their quarterly Civil Unrest Index (CUI). Putting human development at the center of this crisis should be at the top of political and business agendas.

The political, business and philanthropic establishment will meet in Davos next week for the 50th Anniversary of the World Economic Forum (WEF). This year’s WEF theme is “Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World.” Conveniently, the forum will be addressing humanity’s triple witching hour with discussions on stakeholder capitalism, progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the role of technology.

“People are revolting against the economic ‘elites’ they believe have betrayed them, and our efforts to keep global warming limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius are falling dangerously short,” said Professor Klaus Schwab, founder, and executive chairman at the World Economic Forum. “With the world at such critical crossroads, this year we must develop a ‘Davos Manifesto 2020’ to reimagine the purpose and scorecards for companies and governments. It is what the World Economic Forum has founded 50 years ago, and it is what we want to contribute to for the next 50 years.”

Let’s hope we see some great collective action coming out of Davos this year and into the future.

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Economic Inequality

Income inequality around the world is at its highest level in 25 years, there is a ten times difference in income between the richest and poorest countries. While extreme poverty rates have dropped consistently over that time, the inequality gap is the measure we must work on.

Last year, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that income inequality in the United States had reached its highest level in 50 years, though root causes are not often fully understood. With the highest levels of recorded consumer debt, slow wage growth, and life expectancy reducing for Americans, stakeholder capitalism should be the top priority for government and citizens in the U.S. and around the world.

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Climate Change

2019 was the second warmest year since records began (2016 is the first), and with Australia burning the evidence is disturbing. Even if you do not believe that climate change is being accelerated by humanity, there is no excuse to avoid significantly reducing air pollution due to carbon emissions and stop filling the oceans with plastic–it will eventually kill us if we don’t fix it.

Grete Thunberg, the 17-year-old Swede environmental protestor, made her pilgrimage to the United Nations in September and called for a global school children’s strike for the climate–this seems to have got the adults’ attention. Larry Fink, the CEO of Blackrock, the world’s largest investment management firm, in his annual letter to CEOs, announced that sustainability is at the center of Blackrock’s investment practices—this is a game-changer.

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Frontier Technology

A few years back I listened to a talk from U.K. sociologist Lord Anthony Giddens on how technology is moving quicker than humans. Lord Giddens hypothesized that with the advent of the smartphone, the internet, and the intelligent app, we had reached a point where technology was developing much faster than we as humans are, for this first time in history.

With the rise of new technologies, the blockchain, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing, and how these technologies are rapidly changing our lives, the evolution from the wheel to the automobile over 3,500 years looks glacial. The promise these new technologies bring has a significant potential to deliver opportunities to citizens in the areas of greater wage and capital flows through digital money and instruments, secure personal and asset identity and greater protection through more transparent governance and rules of conduct if harnessed successfully.

Government and business would be advised to consider better-engaging citizens of the world through dialogue, structured programs, and incentives for greater and diverse economic participation and prosperity while changing excessive (western style) consumption habits. This should all be within our grasp in the Digital Decade, we certainly have the knowledge, technology, and the money. This is history’s wake up call at humanity’s witching hour, let’s rise to it.


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