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Title: Activism will Spur the Great Reset
Approx. Reading Time: 10 minutes
Author: Thierry Malleret

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Activism will Spur the Great Reset

The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the world’s fault lines, above all social divides, the lack of fairness and the absence of global cooperation. Thierry Malleret explores how diverse activist groups, from a new generation of green campaigners to employees demanding higher standards in corporate life and beyond, to interventionist investors, may overwhelm the forces that favour returning to the status quo.

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Title: COVID-19: the great acceleration
Approx. Reading Time: 23 minutes

Long Read: Insurance Futures - Essay Ten

COVID-19: the great acceleration

We recently published Insurance Futures, a series of essays exploring the possible futures of the insurance landscape to 2035, commissioned by Milliman.

On our risk horizon was the near certainty that a pandemic would emerge. The uncertainty was timing.

The original essays shared a common narrative about a world of fragile, tightly coupled systems and growing risks of extreme events. The pandemic has created a ‘hyper-turbulent’ environment characterised by both runaway change and the inability of many global, national and corporate leaders to adapt. Put simply, it has accelerated many of the developments we explored. It has given new urgency to action on climate change. Cultural transformations that might have taken decades are happening in weeks. We are seeing radical economic development and exponential rates of invention.

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Inventive States (Two): new geographies

Country risk is once again high on the agenda, as attention shifts to possible post-pandemic recovery and medium-term structural adjustment. Yet ‘risk’ remains focused on conventional measures of national prospects, such as cost of capital and the possibilities of default on sovereign bonds. What is missing is inventive capabilities, in everything from industrial strategy, to green infrastructure and ‘new world’ technologies.

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Global Warming and Nuclear: emerging risk

The current policy environment is ‘hyper-turbulent’—a combination of growing complexity, uncertainty and speed, and the inability of political leaders to anticipate and adapt. The potential for misjudgement, unintended consequences and error are growing as existential threats, like global warming and nuclear converge.

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Will US Foreign Policy Change Under a Biden Presidency?

There are prospects of a Biden presidency in early 2021. In that event, as Mat Burrows argues, some things will change and others remain the same. We can expect shifts on climate change and on restoring America’s global image, reversing exits from key multilateral agreements.

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Quantum Risk

Quantum computing may be developing at exponential rates. It is one of many areas of groundbreaking technological development that has the potential to change the world for the better, yet carries significant systemic risks, not least to global security.

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Title: Weak Signals: no surprises?
Approx. Reading Time: 8 minutes

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Weak Signals: no surprises?

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the destructive impact that ‘wild card’ events may have. Pandemics were well-known ‘high impact’ risks categorised as ’near certain’ in risk registers.

Governments and companies around the world have learned a harsh lesson: wild card events should be constantly monitored for the first signs of emergence. Early action is critical.

Peter Kingsley revisits another equally important category in strategic risk management: weak signals—a key to thinking about the future.

Weak signals are ambiguous, barely defined stories that are easily dismissed, yet are a missing link in how to navigate a world of growing complexity, radical uncertainty and above all, speed.

The world’s most profound problems are often the result of short-term thinking, probabilistic worldviews, consensus culture and lack of imagination. Like wild cards, weak signals are ignored at our peril.

There should be few surprises.

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Title: COVID-19: a wild card event
Approx. Reading Time: 8 minutes

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COVID-19: a wild card event

Pandemics are ‘wild card’ events—’high impact and certain’. It is not a question of ‘if’, but ‘when’ they occur. They have been on our radar for years. COVID-19 has exposed the fragility of an interconnected world. It is a public health crisis, but the underlying strengths and weaknesses of national responses are political and cultural. Political leaders too often wait for conclusive evidence before taking decisive action. The result: too little, too late.

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Title: Cities: underwriting risk and innovation
Approx. Reading Time: 12 minutes
Author: Peter Kingsley

Long Read: Insurance Futures - Essay Nine

Cities: underwriting risk and innovation

Cities concentrate creativity, jobs and economic power. They also concentrate risk. At the same time, they are playing a leading role in driving the sustainability agenda, often in the face of weak national political commitments to large-scale, urgent change.

Peter Kingsley, in the final essay in the current Insurance Futures series, commissioned by Milliman, explores how cities are on the front line in the race to reduce climate change and biosphere risks, and avoid the ‘too little, too late’ scenario. The decisions city leaders take over the next decade will shape the future of the planet.

The insurance industry has a vital role to play in underwriting and financing responses to both the physical and systemic transition risks, working in partnership with city leaders. It also has an opportunity to drive systemic innovation, in the public interest.

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Title: Radical Innovation and Sustainabililty
Approx. Reading Time: 13 minutes
Author: Peter Kingsley

Long Read: Insurance Futures - Essay Eight

Radical Innovation and Sustainabililty

Innovation to address climate and biosphere sustainability is both a source of solutions to urgent problems and a source of systemic technological, socio-political and financial risk.

In the eighth essay in the Insurance Futures series, commissioned by Milliman, Peter Kingsley explores how novel forms of complex risk will emerge as industries, trade, financial markets and political systems—each fragile—adapt. We can expect shockwaves where global systems are not risk-adjusted for possible downsides, or for sudden changes in government policies and unintended consequences.
Less well recognised, shocks will emerge as far-reaching innovation transform entire sectors.
The insurance industry has a vital role to play, supporting vulnerable communities and working with everyone from city and corporate leaders to inventors of high risk technologies. The challenge: cut carbon emissions, reduce pollution and create an orderly transition to a sustainable world.

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Country Risk: judgement in uncertainty

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that many national, corporate and city leaders lack judgment when faced with catastrophic risk, complexity, speed and extreme uncertainty. Will lessons be learned?

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Country Risk: culture shocks

In chaotic environments, contrary to conventional wisdom cultural change can emerge suddenly. COVID-19 has triggered multiple cultural shocks in everything from public health and the economy to global security. One of the consequences is that country risk is once again at the top of the agenda.

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Inventive States (One): COVID-19

Ground-up invention had momentum before the COVID-19 pandemic at micro-scale community city and national levels. In the search for recovery, public health monitoring is pivotal, yet fraught with privacy concerns and fears about surveillance. Cultural and technological shifts may yet emerge.

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Climate Emergency:
scenario modelling

Climate models are by definition complex. At worst, they blur the reality of the situation. The scale and urgency of the challenge are easily lost. A new interactive model from Climate Interactive allows anyone to simulate their own climate futures.

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Exoskeletons to become ‘part of our lives’

Wearable robotics and mechanical suits will make work easier and life more active for everyone from the super fit military to the elderly

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Finance: driving the green transition?

The ultimate asset owners in the financial hierarchy, such as insurers, sovereign wealth funds and private offices may take the long view and switch to ‘future ready’ investment amidst the chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Marketplace of Ideas: weak signal

Artificial intelligence, open data and machine-to-machine trading may transform innovation. The trade in trade in ideas is set to accelerate.

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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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Weak Signal: 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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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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Complexity Risk Redux

Complexity science has long had an image problem. Complex systems 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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