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Title: International Trade:
future scenarios

Approx. Reading Time: 13 minutes
Author: Philippe Legrain

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Long Read: Insurance Futures - Essay Five

International Trade:
future scenarios

Unprecedented uncertainty hangs over international trade. This extends well beyond the short-term prospects for US-China trade relations and the simplistic narratives about post-globalisation.

In the fifth essay in the Insurance Futures series, commissioned by Milliman, Philippe Legrain explores how climate crises, digital technology, virtualisation and other policy drivers may both localise and globalise.

Political rivalries and the decline in the US-led liberal international order amplify trade and climate risk. Future scenarios range from the collapse of globalisation at one extreme to cooperation restored at the other, with strategic competition or conflict as intermediate possibilities.

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Title: Global Politics: alternative futures
Approx. Reading Time: 15 minutes
Author: Mat Burrows

Long Read: Insurance Futures - Essay Four

Global Politics: alternative futures

Geopolitical competition, migration, national populism, accelerating technological change, media manipulation and climate change are transforming the political risk landscape. The challenges to leadership teams are complex, interdependent and characterised by radical uncertainty.
In the fourth of a series of essays on Insurance Futures, commissioned by Milliman, Mat Burrows explores two possible extreme scenarios that may emerge to 2035.
In one, he outlines ‘the possible pathway to war’. In the other, a ‘resurgence of cooperation’.
He also considers some of the implications for the insurance industry and the vital importance of political risk. Our experience is that by exploring extreme possible futures, scenarios can create a framework within which policy options, hedging and business strategies can be developed. Too often, decision-makers wait until crises are upon them, by which time it is too late. It takes judgment and courage to make decisions in condition of uncertainty.

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Title: Financial Market Stability: inventing the big hedge
Approx. Reading Time: 13 minutes
Author: Peter Kingsley

Long Read: Insurance Futures - Essay Three

Financial Market Stability: inventing the big hedge

Regulators, banks, insurers, corporations and institutional asset managers share a problem: how to ‘transition’ to a sustainable world, whilst maintaining financial stability.

The two are in conflict. Timing is central. Climate, in many parts of the world, is changing fast. Culture, contrary to conventional wisdom, can change in weeks and months, as futures are re-imagined and new narratives emerge. Politics, even faced with long-term strategic and possibly existential risk, is characterised by prevarication and delay.

In the third of a series of essays on Insurance Futures commissioned by Milliman, Peter Kingsley argues that shocks to the financial system will emerge long before the full impacts of climate change are felt and sea levels rise, as investors make large-scale changes to their asset portfolios. The fundamental structures of asset management and insurance will be transformed. Some regions will be uninsurable. Radical transparency will force sectors, individual corporations and financial institutions to re-invent themselves, or face failure.

There are three broad long-term financial scenarios: ‘Too Little, Too Late’, ‘Stable Transition’ and ‘Crisis Now’.

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Briefing

Weak Signal: aviation and ‘flight shaming’

Barely registering a few months ago, ‘flight shaming’ has momentum. In Europe, airline traffic is down and rail up. We began monitoring this ‘weak signal’ in mid-2019. Peter Kingsley explores how airline leaders have come to call this cultural change an ‘existential risk’.

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Reforestation: natural geoengineering

Reforestation—natural geoengineering—has momentum. In a policy environment still short of creative win-wins, Peter Kingsley revisits an essay originally published in 2018, arguing that the WEF ‘one trillion trees’ initiative is too little, too late.

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The Global Internet Fragments

The idea that the global internet could be replaced by a bifurcated or fragmented internet has momentum. Ian Kearns, outlines why, should it happen, there will be deep implications for the operating conditions of many international businesses, for geopolitics and for human rights.

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Global Risks 2035

Mat Burrows has published long-range assessments of global trends and risks, for sixteen years, first at the US National Council. The West has moved from “being optimistic about the future to downright pessimistic about the vitality of Western institutions and democracy itself”.

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Title: The Politics of Climate Change
Approx. Reading Time: 14 minutes
Author: Tom Burke

Long Read: Insurance Futures - Essay Two

The Politics of Climate Change

“Politics is how we choose who wins and loses” and “prevarication is a typical response of governments faced with hard choices”. This will not work for a time-bound problem like climate change, as Tom Burke, a member of our editorial board, puts it in the second of the series of Insurance Futures essays commissioned by Milliman . Understanding complex risk and modelling the potential for long-term systemic crises will create multiple opportunities for the insurance industry and risk specialists, as they evolve from providers of transactional services to advisors and primary actors.

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Title: Tomorrow’s Earth: 2055
Approx. Reading Time: 11 minutes
Author: David Drewry

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Tomorrow’s Earth: 2055

2055: the village of Newtok in Alaska is no more. In other parts of Alaska, mass migration from uninhabitable southern and south-eastern parts of the US has begun. The United Nations global estimates are that a third of a billion people have lost their homes and businesses and a further half billion are highly vulnerable to displacement by 2100. Large parts of The Maldives, the Marshall Islands, Tokelau and Tuvalu, and Kiribati have been overwhelmed. In the Indian Ocean, similar problems are being experienced at an entirely different scale in the delta regions of the rivers Ganges, Brahmaputra, Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady) and further east, the Mekong, and in China the Pearl.

Professor David Drewry, former Director of the British Antarctic Survey, former Director of the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge University and member of the IPCC, explores a fictional account, based on current science. He argues that extreme futures are possible. Estimates for temperature rises, sea levels and storm surges and their impacts may be underestimated.

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Title: Climate and Culture: shocks ahead?
Approx. Reading Time: 12 minutes
Author: Peter Kingsley and Ian Kearns

Long Read: Insurance Futures - Essay One

Climate and Culture: shocks ahead?

Contrary to conventional wisdom, in chaotic social and political environments, culture can change rapidly. In the first of a series of essays on Insurance Futures commissioned by Milliman, Peter Kingsley and Ian Kearns explore how climate-related ‘pre-shocks’, in the form of sudden changes in public and market sentiment, will emerge long before physical events, such as irreversible damage to low-lying cities. In extreme scenarios, over the next decade we may face a perfect storm of runaway climate change; political panic measures; radical innovation; culture shocks; and environmental activism. Cultural values will be decisive in the transition to a sustainable world. The insurance industry has a vital role to play.

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Title: AI and the Disruption of World Politics
Approx. Reading Time: 8 minutes
Author: Ian Kearns

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AI and the Disruption of World Politics

Ian Kearns, our CEO, explores AI as a new force shaping the future of world politics. He goes well beyond the emerging US-China technology Cold War, to consider the impact AI will have on the global balance of power, the future of warfare and arms control, the emergence of new technology spheres of influence, terrorism, and the role both middle powers and small states might be able to play in shaping the AI driven world of the future. Understanding and navigating the disruption that lies in store, including its possible extremes, is going to be a major strategic challenge for businesses and governments alike.

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Briefing

Bioprinting: the next big thing in healthcare?

Imagine printing body parts. Jane Kingsley looks at the potential of 3D and 4D bioprinting technologies and the artificial creation of human tissue, skin and even hearts and lungs.

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2035: Introduction to the Dark Ages scenario

‘Dark Ages’, one of our four ‘Rome Scenarios’, explores a chaotic world from the perspective of 2035. Originally written in 2017, in late 2019 several narrative threads have momentum. Climate change is a clear and present danger, from California to New Delhi.

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Briefing

Complexity Risk Redux

Complexity science has long had an image problem. Complex systems, as Peter Kingsley explains, are opaque. Yet simplification is also a risk. Woe betide modellers who miss the key variables, like culture, or make flawed assumptions.

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Investing in White Space

Intangibles and intellectual property are primary drivers of wealth creation. Yet they are largely uncharted by conventional asset managers and beyond the reach of conventional economic modelling and forecasting.

Peter Kingsley explores this secret world of invention.

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Climate Science and Politics: system failures

Peter Kingsley draws on new evidence that points to how compromises made in climate science and the consensus culture of the IPCC have allowed political leaders to avoid urgent, short-term action and given the fossil fuel industry and ‘hostile critics’ space.

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The Emerging World of Worker Surveillance

The surveillance of workers is gathering momentum and will be with us for the long-term. Ian Kearns considers how it is changing and it what might mean for employer-employee relations, the boundary between work and private life and the future of privacy.

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Hacking the Political Order 2.0

Disinformation campaigns and battles between national security agencies and privacy activists have dominated recent debate about technology and political disruption. Longer-term, will other innovations be even more significant? Ian Kearns considers digital governments in exile, crypto-currencies and blockchain-facilitated elections. What they might mean for the future of politics?

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Too Little, Too Late: might panic set in?

The world faces extreme weather, the emergence of radical innovation and social unrest. The ‘too little, too late’ narrative has momentum. Political leadership shows little sense of urgency. There is a gap between rhetoric and reality. Peter Kingsley considers if and when panic might set in.

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Quantum Computing: “doubly exponential” progress

In July 2017, we explored the future of quantum computing. The prevailing view then was that it was like fusion: always decades away. We took a different view: that it would arrive much sooner. Peter Kingsley explores ‘Neven’s Law’, which adds fresh evidence.

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Mass Innovation: short of potential

The global patent system is criticised for failing to anticipate or adapt to rapidly changing global conditions. Ironically, it has failed to re-invent itself. Peter Kingsley explores how the system favours elites and inhibits grassroots invention. Productivity languishes and the world is poorer.

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Gaslighting: the past, present and future of politics?

Peter Kingsley takes another look at short-termism in Western politics, exploring the emergence of an old form of psychological manipulation given a new, potentially long lease of life.

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Gene Editing and the Future of Food

Jane Kingsley looks at how gene editing technologies could revolutionise food production and solve looming food problems. With investment in this area continuing to grow and CRISPRd food now on the market, the pace of revolution will depend on consumer acceptance.

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The Rome Scenarios

Long Read Overview

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Title: The Scenario Edition
Approx. Reading Time: 2 minutes
Author: Peter Kingsley

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The Scenario Edition

The Rome Scenarios, now updated, range from the chaos of ‘Dark Ages’ and the volatility of ‘Best of Times, Worst of Times’ to ‘Walled Gardens’ – a world of enlightened and inclusive nationalism. ‘Renaissance’ describes a multi-lateral vision of a world of mutual understanding that many people might like to create for future generations.

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Briefing

The Best of Times, The Worst of Times 2035

Not much has changed, looking back from 2035. Perpetual crisis for some – war, starvation, homelessness, mass migration and brutality. The gilded age for the few. The good life for more than ever before. In that sense, 2035 is not so different to 2018. Political volatility, crisis and national division has been a constant. Action on climate change is fragmented, too little, too late. The world veers on the edge of collapse as the US century has come to an end and Eurasia has emerged as the new centre of gravity.

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Dark Ages 2035

The last decade in a short narrative: descent into chaos. The signs of fundamental political crises and systemic failures were there all along. The ultimate breakdown was driven by multiple causes, from deep inequality, declining innovation, trade wars, economic stagnation and overstressed financial markets, to cyberwar and diplomatic failures. Terrorism and violent extremism, coupled with the pitiless sight of mass migration, has now crossed boundaries, driven by failing states and major coastal cities ravaged by the deepening crises of global warming.

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Walled Gardens 2035

For a time, the deal makers, merchants, financiers, autocrats and the military seemed to be winning. After the tumultuous events of 2016, the world became ever more complex, messy and violent. The rules-based international order collapsed. This has slowly led to the emergence of walled gardens and new socially inclusive models, bringing politics and technology back to domestic, community and village scale. Local social and economic needs are now positioned before the interests of global scale multi-national business, hyper-competition and global capital. Enlightened nationalism now shapes the world.

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One World: renaissance 2035

The old adage is that it takes a crisis for visionary leaders to emerge and a crisis to create the conditions for radical invention. After a brief interlude of US political extremism and EU disarray, the world has changed again. Hope has returned. Something had to give. ‘One world’ thinking is now in the air, a new world order that transcends and yet aligns national interests. Global governance, long seen as a pipe dream, is a reality. Faced with socio-economic chaos and accelerating ecological disaster, the positive version of the Anthropocene narrative has crystallised.

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