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Agenda-Setting Foresight

The Oracle Partnership is a strategic foresight business and platform for great writing about the future. We bring together some of the world’s leading thinkers and a range of artificial intelligence tools to deliver independent, agenda-setting foresight, focused on strategic risk, big ideas and game-changing invention. We develop sophisticated futures scenarios, deliver bespoke research and monitoring for clients, publish a public web magazine and provide private briefings

The Oracle Partnership

In an age of accelerating complexity and radical uncertainty, imaginative foresight has more value than data, information or knowledge. We provide a source of original ideas, creativity and innovation.

We also explore extreme scenarios, providing a framework for inventing hedging strategies that will work, whatever may happen.  In an age still dominated by short-term thinking, we take the long view.

At the same time, we aim to deliver iconoclastic views and early warnings of political upheavals, financial market crises and fundamental structural shocks to industry. We look for weak signals and tell-tale early signs of political and economic shocks, policy changes, sudden shifts in public sentiment and transformative technologies, long before they go mainstream.  Contrary to conventional wisdom, we believe that there should be few surprises.

Our team of world-class talent, specialist writers and sources of intelligence, is led by Peter Kingsley, Thierry Malleret and Dr Ian Kearns.

Biographies

Peter KingsleyPeter Kingsley, Chairman and Co-Founder chairs PJR, a specialist foresight and strategic advisory firm. He has provided foresight and thought leadership to major financial institutions, corporate boards and wealth managers for more than 20 years. Earlier in his career, he held senior strategic positions at Reuters and Dow Jones, amongst other things designing information and editorial services. He was a partner at Stanford Research Institute’s futures think tank. His more recent work has included advising the leadership teams of international banks; the senior partner of a major hedge fund; the leadership team of one of Lloyd’s largest insurance underwriters; one of the world’s leading software companies; a regulator; one of the world’s largest water engineering firms; and several utility firms. He originated, designed and led the Coutts ‘Futurescope’ foresight and thought leadership programme.

Thierry MalleretThierry Malleret, Co-Founder, is also co-founder of the Monthly Barometer and was managing partner of Rainbow Insight, which provided tailor-made intelligence to investors. Prior to that he founded and headed the Global Risk Network at the World Economic Forum, a network that brings together top opinion and policymakers, CEOs and academics to look at how global issues might effect business and society in the short and long term. His earlier experience includes investment banking; work as an economist at the EBRD; and three years in the Prime Minister’s office in Paris.

Dr Ian Kearns, Chief Executive, has 25 years experience working in the public, private and NGO sectors, the last 13 of them in leadership positions.  He is a former Acting Director of the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), Britain’s leading policy think-tank and launched the IPPR All Party Commission on National Security.  In 2011, he co-founded the European Leadership Network (ELN), a political, military and diplomatic network of former Prime Ministers, Foreign and Defence Ministers, diplomats and senior military figures across greater Europe.  Ian served as the organisation’s first Director, establishing ELN as a well-respected feature of the policy landscape on foreign policy and security issues.  He serves on the Executive Board of Directors.  He has written for The Guardian, The Times, The Independent, Newsweek, The New Statesman and has been a commentator on the BBC and international media.  His new book, Collapse: Europe after the European Union was published by Biteback in April 2018.

Contributors

Stephen Bayley is an author, critic, columnist, consultant, broadcaster, curator and founding director of the influential Design Museum in London. Over the past thirty years his writing has changed the way the world thinks about design. He is the author of many books, including most recently ‘Death Drives’ and ‘Taste’.

Tom Burke is the Chairman of E3G, (Third Generation Environmentalism), and a Visiting Professor at both Imperial and University Colleges, London. He is a Senior Associate at the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership. He is Chairman of the China Dialogue Trust and a Trustee of Black-E Community Arts Project, Liverpool. He was Environmental Policy Advisor to Rio Tinto plc (part time) 1996 -2016 and served as Senior Advisor to the Foreign Secretary’s Special Representative on Climate Change from 2006-12.

Mathew Burrows, retired in 2013 from a 28-year career in the CIA and State Department, the last ten spent at the National Intelligence Council, the premier analytic unit in the US Intelligence Community, where he authored the highly praised ‘Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds’. He is now director of the Atlantic Council’s Foresight, Strategy and Risks Initiative, working with an array of governments, business, multilateral institutions and NGOs on analysing trends and scenarios. His recent book is ‘The Future Declassified: Megatrends that Will Undo the World Unless We Take Action’.

John Casti, formerly a member of the Sante Fe Institute, is Director of The X-Center, a private research institute in Vienna focusing on the development of tools for anticipation of extreme events in human society. He has published eight technical monographs in the area of system theory and mathematical modelling, as well as 11 volumes of popular science. ‘X-EVENTS’ was published in early 2012, followed by his latest work ‘Confronting Complexity’ in 2016.

Ravi Chaudhry was formerly chairman of four Tata Group companies in India. He is the founder Chairman of CeNext Consulting and Investment Pvt Ltd, New Delhi, a firm that advises corporations, governments and non-profits on Re-inventing Strategy to cope with Emerging Complexities. His clients include Fortune 1000 corporations, UN Organisations and Governments of Switzerland, Turkey, Brazil, Norway, Uganda, Austria and Canada.

Lord Nigel Crisp is an independent crossbench member of the House of Lords where he co-chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Health.  He works and writes extensively on health and co-chairs Nursing Now, the global campaign on nursing.

He was previously Chief Executive of the English NHS – the largest health organisation in the world with 1.3 million employees – where he led major reforms between 2000 and 2006.  He was at the same time the Permanent Secretary of the UK Department of Health.  He has written several books including “Turning the World Upside Down – the search for global health in the 21st century, a well-received account of what rich countries can learn from poorer ones about health.

Helen Jackson is an economist with research interests in climate change, energy and natural resources. She has worked for a variety of government, private sector and multilateral institution clients, and was one of the initial personnel of the leading strategic economics consultancy Vivid Economics. Her experience encompasses Brexit research for the British government; helping a G20 government develop its thinking on energy security; applying remote sensing and machine learning to climate resilience planning in Africa; and using climate performance and risk information to form decision rules for green bond labelling. She also has longstanding interests in physics, data science and dynamical systems theory which influence her work.”

Jane Kingsley, Co-Founder has degrees in both science and arts subjects, including a Masters in Contemporary Culture from University of London. She has enjoyed a career of freelance writing and photography, and is presently editor of the Oracle Partnership.

Philippe Legrain is a critically acclaimed thinker and communicator with high-level policy experience. Previously economic adviser and head of the team providing strategic policy advice to European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and special adviser to the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation, he is a senior visiting fellow at the London School of Economics’ European Institute and the founder of Open Political Economy Network (OPEN), an international think-tank. A columnist for Project Syndicate and other international media outlets, he is the author of best-selling books on globalisation (Open World), migration (Immigrants), the financial crisis (Aftershock) and Europe (European Spring). Philippe is also a consultant and keynote speaker in demand around the world.

Chandran Nair is one of the most prominent voices of Asia and founder of The Global Institute for Tomorrow (GIFT). He is the author of the best-seller ‘Consumptionomics: Asia’s Role in Reshaping Capitalism and Saving the Planet’. His photo book project ‘The Other Hundred’ aims to provide a counterpoint to the mainstream media consensus about some of today’s most important issues.   ‘The Sustainable State’, his most recent book, was published in October 2018.  Chandran frequently speaks at major global gatherings such as the World Economic Forum in Davos and APEC where his thought leadership is sought for its fresh insights and intellectual honesty.

Paul Ormerod is the author of four best-selling books on economics, ‘Death of Economics’, ‘Butterfly Economics’, ‘Why Most Things Fail’ and ‘Positive Linking’. He is a Visiting Professor at University College London (UCL) where he supervises graduate students in machine learning. He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy of Social Sciences in 2006, and has been awarded a DSc honoris causa by the University of Durham, UK, ‘for the distinction of your contribution to economics’.


Oracles

Greek Oracles, or certain combinations of Greek Oracles, have a sophistication that surpasses modern thinking….

James Wood: The Road to Delphi – The Life and Afterlife of Oracles

In Greek mythology, Oracles existed before Apollo’s father, Zeus, controlled the universe.

Themis represented stability, permanent order, the cycles of nature. A predictable future that left humans powerless. In contrast, Metis made pronouncements about the future veiled in uncertainty. She represented the future as full of potential good and evil. Nothing is fixed.

Zeus married them both.

As Wood puts it ‘the Greeks, like any members of any culture inhabiting a world of stories, would understand the logic of their myths without having to behave like logicians….’. For the gods ‘the world is both stable and unstable, unchanging and erratic; for humans, it is fixed and not fixed, fated and free’.

Little has changed. Financial analysts talk of ‘futures’, capturing the idea of possible rather than fixed future worlds. ‘Hedging’ conveys the idea of multiple options in an open, uncertain future. The gold standard in strategy development is the resilience that comes with strategies that will work in any future scenario.

In all these variations, we are in the worlds of storytelling, not prediction. Or rather that forecasts, predictions, scenarios, hedging strategies and policies are anchored not in the present, but in how stories that lead to an endgame that may or may not play out.

What is new is that with the natural and man-made worlds in turmoil, Themis’ perspective has lost ground. Even the most basic assumptions about future worlds are ruthlessly questioned. Radical uncertainty stalks decision-makers.

Yet modern oracles have evolved. In the 1980s, scenarios took centre stage. Shell demonstrated that linking exploratory storytelling to strategy could work. More recently, complexity modelling. Then prediction markets and more recently predictive analytics, with the promise that big data and AI can create more accurate probabilistic models, at least for short-term horizons.

The idea that machine intelligence can capture the vast complexity of the world and in particular predict the vagaries of human behaviour and interaction suggests that we continue to hope Themis will make a comeback. That we can understand fear and desire. That we can uncover the underlying narratives that shape everything we do.

Yet as James Wood said, the Greek oracles ‘have a sophistication that surpasses modern thinking’. On long-term horizons, scenarios rule. As do Themis and Metis.

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