Ian Bremmer. CREDIT: Amanda Ghanooni, Carnegie Council

DEVIN STEWART: I'm Devin Stewart from Carnegie Council in New York City. I'm sitting here with Ian Bremmer, founder of Eurasia Group. Today we're talking about Top Risks for 2016. We're talking about what those risks are and what they mean in terms of ethics for individuals, companies, organizations, and governments.

Ian, great to see you.

IAN BREMMER: Happy New Year, Devin.

DEVIN STEWART: Thank you very much.

So what do you mean by a top risk? What is that, and how do you determine what a top risk is for 2016?

IAN BREMMER: A risk is something that can lead to negative outcomes that are otherwise unexpected, not where a U.S.-led globalized world with democracy and human rights and free markets would otherwise expect you to get to.

The way we rank these, the way we assess them, is along three dimensions. The first is, what's the likelihood that the risk actually happens? Second is how imminent is it—could it happen tomorrow, or maybe at the end of the year we might see some of that? Then the third, of course, is, the magnitude of the impact that risk would have, not just on the country itself but more broadly in the global scheme of things, how significant is this? You put those three things together, you shake them up, and at the end of the day that's how you kind of rank-order it.

DEVIN STEWART: That's a quantitative assessment?

IAN BREMMER: I would say there are certainly lots of quantitative elements when you think about scale. But ultimately, we've got a firm of almost 150 people, we have 500 folks in 90 countries locally, we spend about three months from start to finish actually putting this together. We've done it for about 16 years now. There's a lot of inputs.

When you're talking about political risk, there is a lot of art in addition to science. That doesn't mean there isn't expertise—there's enormous amounts of expertise—but it's not as if a computer is going to replicate this.

I think one of the ways that we try to give a lot of rigor to the process is we tell all of these experts, "We're going to take this piece and we're going to keep it on our homepage for the entire year, in addition to all of the publicity that it gets around the world and the rest. So that at any point anyone who comes and looks at our site is going to actually go back and see what we actually said, until the next piece comes out on January whatever, the first Monday of the year, in 2017." I think that tends to hone the mind a little bit.

You know, political science has been one of these fields that people for such a long time have basically said, "Well, you know, how do you get anything right if you can't possibly get it wrong? You're hedging all over the place." No, no, you can get this stuff wrong.

To read the full discussion, click here.  

This conversation was held between Devin Stewart, who is a Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs and Ian Bremmer, who is the president of Eurasia Group.  

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