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Agenda-Setting Foresight

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Title: The Car in 2035 and Beyond
Approx. Reading Time: 11 minutes
Author: Stephen Bayley

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The Car in 2035 and Beyond

Stephen Bayley, one of the world’s leading ‘design gurus’ and co-founder of London’s Design Museum, explores the future of the car. The automotive industry is conservative, yet ‘by the time a conventional new car is launched, its designers have already designed the replacement of its replacement. Thus, with an eight-year product life-cycle, designers are already in 2035’. As he puts it ‘Cars may become ever more like mobile architecture: spaces to be enjoyed. But what will replace the fascination and romance?’ Attachment to cars, like all consumer behaviour, is not about rationality. Driverless cars will lack soul.

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Title: Culture Wars
Approx. Reading Time: 10 minutes
Author: Peter Kingsley

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Culture Wars

Contrary to conventional wisdom, culture can change fast, particularly in times of chaos and uncertainty. Prepare for fundamental structural change. In an extended version of an earlier essay on the role of imagined futures and cultural realities, Peter Kingsley explores how guiding narratives that have dominated for decades may be overwritten. The time has come for radical re-think in how we think about the future and see shocks coming.

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Title: Digital Health: where AI meets EI
Approx. Reading Time: 14 minutes
Author: Lord Nigel Crisp

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Digital Health: where AI meets EI

Lord Nigel Crisp, formerly CEO of the National Health Service in England, explores how science, digital sensors and artificial intelligence hold the promise of transforming well-being, health and care for millions around the world. They are not, however, a panacea or silver bullet. Health promotion and disease prevention are coming to the fore. We are seeing an increasing need for care, empathy and societal action. Artificial intelligence will be very important, but human and emotional intelligence and trust will be needed more than ever.

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Title: ESG Strategies: inevitable
Approx. Reading Time: 7 minutes
Author: Thierry Malleret

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ESG Strategies: inevitable

Thierry Malleret explores how Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG), a shortcut for sustainability, will dominate corporate, investor and financial market thinking. The statement by the US Business Roundtable will be seen as an historic ‘inflection point’. This is the culmination of two primary sources of crisis: the fragility of capitalism and the inability to deal with inequality, and the urgency associated with the accelerating climate crisis.

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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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Complexity Risk Redux

Complexity science has long had an image problem. Complex systems, as Peter Kingsley explains, are opaque and hard to explain. 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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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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Ageing Populations: the great constant

Thierry Malleret explores how population growth around the world is no longer driven by birth rates but by the number of older people. The number of over 60s is projected by the UN to reach 2.1 billion by 2050. This is transforming everything from well-being and health, pensions and thinking about long-term debt, to intergenerational tensions.

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Title: The Geopolitics of Innovation Revisited
Approx. Reading Time: 16 minutes
Author: Peter Kingsley

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The Geopolitics of Innovation Revisited

The secret world of innovation escapes mainstream political and financial market attention. The result is that radical change is largely discounted. Yet innovation is the primary driver of real world economic development and productivity. On the horizon, a marketplace of ideas, based on openness and codified knowledge-sharing; patent exchanges; and machine creativity. The darker side: a battle for supremacy, a culture of leadership rivalry, conflict, cyberwar and challenges to national pride. The future revolves around competition for ideas and intellectual property. This essay, revised and updated from the original written in June 2017, foreshadows a new era that may yet emerge, however current US-China trade battles play out.

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Title: The Misuse of Foresight
Approx. Reading Time: 8 minutes
Author: Peter Kingsley

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The Misuse of Foresight

Imagine you had an accurate picture of the future. Then imagine that the future threatened your interests. What would you do? Peter Kingsley argues that the answer, too often, for corporate and political leadership teams, is to keep the picture secret, or create confusion and a web of deception. In other words, to misuse foresight.

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Title: Financing Decarbonisation of the Global Energy System
Approx. Reading Time: 13 minutes
Author: Tom Burke

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Financing Decarbonisation of the Global Energy System

Tom Burke, Chairman of E3G, explores the challenges of financing the global energy transition in the context of the complex ‘system of systems’ relationships between energy, financial institutions and underlying political stability. There are no single solutions, but rather a portfolio of options that blend public and private finance and differ from place to place. National carbon prices will be more important for the revenues they generate than the signals they give to energy investors. In his view there is no prospect of a global carbon price.
There is a momentum swing amongst the world’s regulators, major investors, central bankers and international financial institutions that signal growing willingness to redirect financial flows to meet the climate challenge. The politics of the energy transition may prove more of an obstacle to safeguarding the climate than either the technologies or the financing. As he puts it “To get the politics of climate change right we must also think through the social adjustment that will accompany the technology and investment changes”.

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Title: A Chinese Sputnik Moment for the West?
Approx. Reading Time: 11 minutes
Author: Mat Burrows

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A Chinese Sputnik Moment for the West?

Mat Burrowsexplores the idea that China’s rapid transformation in innovation and science, technology, engineering and mathematics is a ‘Sputnik’ moment for the US and the West. He makes an assessment of the deep entanglement between the US and China, ranging from industry, education and investment to whether collaboration or competition will dominate the future agenda.

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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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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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Sea Level Rise: retreat or defeat?

The idea of retreat from vulnerable coastal regions has momentum. Sea defences and managing natural wetlands will work, for some. The barrier to long-term sustainability is not physical infrastructure, but language and culture. Peter Kingsley discusses how ‘retreat’ can mean ‘defeat’.

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Data Driven Policing and the Public Mood

Technology is transforming policing, improving crime prevention and detection. Ian Kearns explores how new approaches have to strike a balance between surveillance and public concerns about privacy. At the same time, criminals are being creative, using crypto currencies for money laundering, the funding of terrorism and tax evasion.

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The Missing Narrative: radical environmentalism

Amidst growing alarm, two unstable meta-narratives frame the challenges of climate change and the risks to the biosphere. The first: reduce emissions, slow warming. The second: stay within two degrees, avoid catastrophe. We may face both runaway climate change and exponential, radical innovation. Public values and action are critical to the outcome. Peter Kingsley explores the missing narrative: can financial, economic and political security be maintained? Does radical environmentalism hold the key?

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Europe After the European Union

Having mapped out the crisis facing the EU and the triggers that could lead to its collapse, Ian Kearns explores possible sequences of events and what Europe might look like if the collapse emerges. This is an extreme scenario that should be explored more often, if only to focus the minds of policy-makers on what needs to be done to avoid it.

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Chronicles of Catastrophes Foretold

Nicolas Taleb was right to argue that extreme, rare events define history, but wrong that they could only be explained in hindsight. Black Swans are preceded by weak signals. Peter Kingsley explores how inadvertently Taleb gave political and business leaders around the world an excuse to procrastinate.

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Potential Political and Security Triggers of EU Collapse

A new recession or a new financial crisis could destroy the euro, the Single Market and the EU itself, but they are not the whole story. In the second of three essays, Ian Kearns writes that there are political and security scenarios that could lead to the same outcome, from a Eurosceptic breakthrough in the core of the eurozone; the collapse of the deal with Turkey on migrant flows; a flare up of the Catalan separatist crisis; and an act of Islamist super-terrorism.

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The EU Remains Vulnerable to Collapse

Eurosceptic sentiment has far from run its course. The European Union (EU) remains divided on a range of issues. Eurozone leaders have failed to agree reforms that would put stability of the currency beyond doubt. There are disagreements over migration, policy towards Russia and defence cooperation. In the first of a series of essays, Ian Kearns explores how economic crises could lead to the EU’s collapse.

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The Rome Scenarios

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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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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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