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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: 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: 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: 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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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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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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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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Technology and the Future of Work

One of the most profound uncertainties over the next decade and beyond is how mass automation and artificial intelligence will impact job prospects. In one camp, techno-optimists, in another pessimists who fear unemployment on a vast scale and all that this may mean to social stability. Thierry Malleret argues that there is no right or wrong answer. Much depends on labour mobility and the creative and adaptive capacity of governments, investors, regulators and public policy. The stakes could not be higher.

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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: Through a Glass Darkly
Approx. Reading Time: 12 minutes
Author: Peter Kingsley

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Through a Glass Darkly

With rationalism, scientism, big data and artificial intelligence promising answers to everything, we have lost sight of the importance of creative imagination.

Peter Kingsley argues that the paradox is that contrary to conventional wisdom, confronted by an increasingly complex, interconnected and uncertain environment, imagined futures dominate our lives. We are shaped by our simulations, predictions and mental frameworks, continually re-inventing the world around us. We communicate our imagined futures through the stories we tell. Imagination is the engine of creation.

This updated essay draws together new evidence, academic research and illustrations, extending the original version, written in 2015.

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Title: Storms Gathering in 2019
Approx. Reading Time: 10 minutes
Author: Mat Burrows

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Storms Gathering in 2019

Mat Burrows explores the global risk landscape in the year ahead, a landscape characterised by political, economic and security volatility and looming crises. We are slipping towards a bipolar world pitting Russia and China against the West, increasing the scope for violence in the Middle East and elsewhere. It will take leadership on all sides to stop the drift. With multilateral collaboration weakening, the risks of inaction on climate change are growing.

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Title: Politics and Machine language
Approx. Reading Time: 10 minutes
Author: Peter Kingsley

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Politics and Machine language

In 1945, George Orwell wrote a famous essay entitled ‘Politics and the English language’. He said:

‘The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink. In our age there no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics’. All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer.’

On the horizon, machines may not only understand language – so they help us search for the latest gadget, or act as servants – but become authors. The signs are there. Machines already write routine news reports and even formulaic popular novels, driven not by understanding language, but by a growing recognition that emotive words sell.

In academic terms, machines have agency. They will increasingly manipulate our emotions, shape what we think, frame our daily lives. Will they be sincere? Will they ‘keep out of politics’?

No. Welcome to the age of politics and machine language, circa 2025 and beyond.

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Briefing

On Foresight: part five

On the horizon: AI-driven foresight tools, a vision of a future world where man and machine work together and everything is about simulation, predictive systems and human imagination. Peter Kingsley discusses how scenarios will remain the most flexible set of tools and techniques, but AI and ever-improving data promise a future where machines and human creativity are combined, in increasingly sophisticated forms.

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Google: arbiter of wellness?

A project, dubbed ‘Google Earth for Human Health’, collecting and analysing comprehensive health data promises to enable us to predict, treat and prevent many diseases. Jane Kingsley asks what will it mean to let one company— let alone one with Google’s track record—with its own commercial interests at heart hold this information and create the algorithms that determine our wellbeing.

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Changing Ecosystems

Some argue that global biodiversity depletion represents a crisis equalling or surpassing climate change. Others, while acknowledging that worldwide biodiversity is decreasing, are not so sure there is a crisis. Jane Kingsley explores how with increased awareness of the importance of biodiversity and the value of natural systems, together with new techniques from biotechnology and the resilience and adaptability of nature, some of the diversity we have lost can be restored.

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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 Perfect Storm 2020-2025

The idea of ‘perfect storms’, where multiple systems coincide in time to create apocalyptic situations has fallen out of favour since it emerged as a metaphor in 2004 and became commonplace during the 2008 financial crisis. So-called ‘inter-systemic’ failures and successes are again on the horizon. Peter Kingsley writes about ten narratives that are shaping the next decade and beyond, from climate change and the natural world, to artificial intelligence and the power of capital over labour.

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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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Narrative Economics, Migration and Populism

Thierry Malleret writes about ‘Narrative Economics’, illustrating how we live by stories by exploring how they influence how we think about migration and populism. This is the latest in a series of essays on imagined futures, narrative and networks. We are highly attuned to narratives, factual or not. Economists have been loath to accept the importance of narrative, since the idea runs against the basic tenets of classical models. This is beginning to change. A new economic worldview may emerge.

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Competing Narratives: past vs future

Peter Kingsley explores how populist nationalism has changed the political landscape in just two years, sending shockwaves around the world. Right wing populists are setting agendas, evoking history to create a false sense of security. Their readings of the past may be selective, but they have a crucial advantage: they can call on an endless pool of evocative stories that recall former glories and mythical worlds.

Liberal leaders risk underestimating the long-term disruption to the world order if they fail to develop competing narratives.

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Total Surveillance Gets Emotional

There are growing fears that surveillance by governments, social media companies and intelligence specialists can integrate ‘all-source’ information, undermining both privacy and democracy. Facial recognition will get better for security services, or worse, depending on your perspective. Peter Kingsley argues that this is just the start: sensors and machines are on the brink of delivering insight into our most private, unconscious emotions and moods. There will be many benefits. Yet it is one thing to track our behaviour and quite another to see into our inner worlds.

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Imagined Futures, Narrative and Cultural Realities

Peter Kingsley explores how imagined futures and the narratives that describe them are cultural realities, influencing present day decision-making, investment priorities and judgment about future value. They are fundamental to identifying the early signs of emerging systemic shocks and to understanding how markets may navigate out of them.

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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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