FREE ARTICLES

Agenda-Setting Foresight

Featured

Long Read Overview

Title: On Simulation and Hedging
Approx. Reading Time: 13 minutes
Author: Peter Kingsley

Long Read

On Simulation and Hedging

The gap between the complexity, uncertainty and speed of the political, security, economic, financial, and technological worlds on the one hand and leaders’ ability to understand and navigate them continues to widen. As a result, Peter Kingsley argues, world leaders appear to be sleepwalking, unaware of the consequences of their actions. In chaotic times, the grand challenge is to reimagine strategy and focus not just on risk, but uncertainty—to simulate and hedge against even the most extreme possible futures.

Read Essay
Briefing

Hybrid Threats: escalation

The expression ‘hybrid threats’, or ‘hybrid war’, goes back decades. During this time, the security and military landscape has been transformed by waves of inventions by states, defence contractors and technology companies. The barriers to entry for developing lethal systems for non-state actors, terrorists and criminals continue to drop. So-called ‘dual use’ systems are pervasive, blurring boundaries between Big Tech and governments. Artificial intelligence and autonomous lethal weapons increase the risks of civilian casualties and miscalculation.

Read Essay
Briefing

Risk Assessment of Nuclear War: lessons for climate change

During the Cold War, government risk assessment inferred that nuclear conflict would be devastating but manageable. By the mid-eighties, improved analysis contributed to an understanding across society that nuclear war would indeed be catastrophic. Today, official risk assessments of climate change infer that even severe temperature rises could be manageable. A similar analytical fightback could give urgency to climate action.

Read Essay
Briefing

Can the West Unite?

Western institutions that have dominated the global economy and international relations since World War Two face an unprecedented challenge. However, if the West does crumble, it will not be because of the power and appeal of China and Russia, but because of the decisions made—or rather not made—by Western governments. The West remains economically dominant, rich and with strong technology. Collectively, it also has huge military clout. It could fend off the challenge relatively easily. That does not mean it will.

Read Essay
Briefing

The Politics of Emotion, Mood and Feeling

Beneath the surface of political rhetoric lays an age-old set of principles: emotion and tribalism beat policy. Combine unregulated social media, ‘open’ artificial intelligence and short-term emotional manipulation, and we have the recipe for persistent domestic division, inter-state conflict and fragmentation. Yet as the public mood shifts, political visions that stretch into the future and convey a sense of direction and hope may emerge.

Read Essay
Recent

Long Read Overview

Title: Escalation Risks
Approx. Reading Time: 8 minutes
Author: Simon Tilford

Long Read

Escalation Risks

Proliferating geopolitical risks. A closely integrated, unbalanced and highly leveraged global economy. Poorly understood and regulated new technologies. Accelerating climate change, political polarisation and culture wars. Together, these are creating pervasive fragility and uncertainty. Back in December 2023, we argued that there was a risk of governments sleepwalking into inter-systemic crisis and see little reason to amend that view: there is a risk of simultaneous escalations on several fronts, with potentially far-reaching impacts for security, arms control, trade, finance and the climate transition.

Read Essay

Long Read Overview

Title: Peak Propaganda
Approx. Reading Time: 9 minutes
Author: Peter Kingsley

Long Read

Peak Propaganda

The rise and rise of all forms of propaganda is one of the defining crises of the age, argues Peter Kingsley. In the run-up to multiple elections, highly orchestrated misinformation campaigns—some powered by autonomous artificial intelligence systems, with no human in control and that no-one understands—are in full swing. Fact, truth, reality, human rights and justice are the first victims, and with that comes the question: will social and political systems—of all varieties—descend into toxic chaos and anarchy? Or have we seen ‘peak propaganda’?

Read Essay

Long Read Overview

Title: What Happens if Trump is Re-elected President?
Approx. Reading Time: 11 minutes
Author: Mat Burrows

Long Read

What Happens if Trump is Re-elected President?

US elections have always mattered, because small shifts in US policies can have a significant impact elsewhere. However, for so much to now rest on who sits in the White House is new, uncharted territory. Mat Burrows explores the far-reaching implications of a second Trump Presidency for America itself, its allies and enemies, and its future role in the world. The country’s increasingly dysfunctional politics now mean that it is not only a source of in-country risk, but of geopolitical, global economic and climate risk. These could interact in ways that lead to inter-systemic failure.

Read Essay

Long Read Overview

Title: Walled Gardens: towards 2050
Approx. Reading Time: 38 minutes
Author: Peter Kingsley, Simon Tilford

Related Articles

Long Read

Walled Gardens: towards 2050

January 2050. The world is no longer ‘globalised’. Nor is it entirely localised. Faced with existential risks, the major powers look inward, self-sufficient and resilient in a hostile natural world. As many predicted decades ago, climate change has divided the world’s geography into islands of relative stability and security to the north and south. In stark contrast, millions of people along the coasts of equatorial regions are still facing existential battles and fighting for survival.

Read Essay
Briefing

A Protectionist Backlash?

It appears increasingly likely that we will see a protectionist backlash, driven by huge and rising overcapacity in China on the one hand and growing determination in the West to maintain domestic industrial capacity on the other. The risk is that this backlash will extend far beyond an understandable (or even necessary) drive to hit back at Chinese mercantilism.

Read Essay
Briefing

Mercantilism With Chinese Characteristics

The era of relatively equitable trade relations with China is over. The country’s overcapacity problem is systemic, and represents an attempt to make up for the weakness of domestic demand by taking an ever-larger share of global manufacturing production and exports. At a time of weak global growth and rising indebtedness, the patience of the country’s trade partners is wearing thin.

Read Essay
Briefing

A Deadly Bite: climate change exacerbates mosquito-borne diseases

Climate change has caused extreme heatwaves, droughts, rainfall and floods to increase in severity and regularity around the world, creating ideal conditions for what mosquitoes—responsible for 1 million deaths and 700 million disease infections each year—like to do most: breed and bite.

Read Essay
Briefing

No More Babies: the coming population shift

Low birth rates have exploded from a fringe issue to one at the centre of the culture wars. The left has called for more socialist-inspired policies to support young families, such as free childcare and help with housing, and even a shift to “de-growth” economics. The far-right has taken aim at women’s advancement and the “breakdown” of the traditional family. One thing is clear: Just like the climate crisis, the population crisis will force us to have tough conversations on what we want our society to look like.

Read Essay
Briefing

Have Economists Got it All Wrong?

Marxist-Leninists tend to argue that communism did not fail but rather was never really tried properly. When challenged on economic performance, mainstream economists are at increasing risk of sounding like Marxist-Leninists. If economics is to remain relevant, it needs a much more sophisticated understanding of power, efficiency and human well-being. However, it needs to do this without giving too much weight to ‘how people feel.’

Read Essay
Briefing

Renaissance: towards 2050

Picture this: January 2050. Time to look back—to 2027, to the moment when, after years of crisis, the focus on long-term resilience and regeneration of the natural world gained momentum. To a time that marked the beginning of mass-scale global action to reverse the decades of industrial destruction and the ecological disasters. Hope was in the air after years of relentless crises, pandemics, wars and economic stagnation. In just one generation, the world’s geostrategic and environmental landscape is now transformed.

Read Essay
Briefing

Media Futures

Mainstream media continues to battle against the defacto information giants of Big Tech and machine-dominated social media. Artificial intelligence is the latest wrecking ball to threaten business models and editorial standards. Flawed large-language models, released too early, have opened Pandora’s box and undermined media, national security and democracy. As we put it as far back as 2017 “facts, truth, public trust and privacy are the victims”.

Read Essay
Briefing

COP28 Dubai: success, failure or irrelevant?

Held in the United Arab Emirates, COP28 was always going to be controversial, but it confounded sceptics in one crucial regard: it was the first COP to officially acknowledge that fossil fuels are the root cause of climate change, heralding the beginning of the end for the fossil fuel era. Unfortunately, it failed to get countries to agree on more ambitious emissions cuts, leaving the world on track for a temperature rise of 2.8˚C.

Read Essay
Briefing

Politics, Machine Language and Misinformation

There is a perfect storm emerging at the intersection of social media, generative artificial intelligence, elections and global security. There have been warnings, but policy, regulation and technological ‘guardrails’ lag the rate of innovation. Disinformation has won. Digital platforms may ultimately split into two: the ‘toxic swamp’ of the public internet and myriad ‘communities of trust’, where accuracy and information integrity rule. The split may be too late to protect democracies.

Read Essay
Briefing

The Politics of Time and Escalation Risk

Every era has a time signature. For decades, the neoliberal Western consensus was based on a cultural belief in progress and hope—a linear narrative. This consensus hangs by a thread. In the wake of the financial crisis of 2008, the Russian invasion of Crimea, growing alarm about climate chaos and wars in Ukraine and the Middle East, the time signature has changed. Fear and nostalgia-based nationalism is creating the system conditions for global conflict and war.

Read Essay
Briefing

Is Global Warming Accelerating?

Record-breaking temperatures since early 2023 have led some scientists to warn that global warming is accelerating. Others are sceptical, arguing that what has happened is within the range expected by climate models, while many believe it is too soon to tell. Disagreement over the climate outcomes should be of critical concern to policymakers. We cannot afford to wait to find out who is right.

Read Essay
Briefing

Dark Ages: towards 2050

Scenarios are models. They describe alternative possible futures. At their best, they explore extremes, because history tells us one thing about the future: failure of imagination is a primary source of risk and catastrophic failure. In this update of Dark Ages, one of our reference scenarios, we explore a descent into chaos, a story of climate and biosphere collapse, state failures, economic crisis, mass migration, humanitarian disasters and perpetual wars. Too little, too late. Like Orwell’s 1984, it serves as a warning, not a prediction. This story has momentum. Is this the world we want?

Read Essay
Briefing

On Sleepwalking

War in Ukraine and the Middle East. Tensions over Taiwan. Pervasive state and non-state conflict in cyberspace. ‘Everything wars’ spilling over into proxy attacks on corporate interests, trade, financial markets and core infrastructure. Despite warnings of fundamental threats to security and the international order, world leaders may be sleepwalking into catastrophe as they fail to imagine the systemic impacts of multiple, interconnected crises on their own future.

Read Essay
Briefing

A Global Health Emergency—and Opportunity

The climate and nature crisis fundamentally threatens global health. Rising temperatures and nature loss have direct human health impacts, such as increasing heat-induced mortality, as well as indirect ones, such as damage to food and water security. Framing the climate and nature crisis as a health emergency would be an effective communications tool and a good basis for policy-making.

Read Essay
Briefing

COP28: planetary priorities versus geopolitical realities

Expectations for the annual UN climate conference—COP28—are low. Nations must agree on new global greenhouse gas emissions reductions plans and how to provide support to the most vulnerable nations. Yet a host of issues—the power of fossil fuel interests, the cost-of-living crisis, strained national budgets and weak international cooperation—continue to obstruct progress. Escalating climate impacts promise to create further obstacles.

Read Essay
Briefing

Avoiding Costly Technological Dead Ends

Governments should not assume that the only solutions to technological problems are ones we already know, especially when these have fatal flaws. There are potential solutions to hard-to-abate sectors that we are yet to explore, and that are not technological and environmental dead ends. Similarly, there could be ways of capturing and storing carbon dioxide that do not involve punitive costs and almost impossible timeframes.

Read Essay
Top