FREE ARTICLES

On Foresight

How we think about the future is often more important that what we think about.

‘On Foresight’ brings together decades of experience together with the latest research in everything from the neuroscience of simulation and narrative emotion to the emergence of ‘creation machines’ that mirror human imagination to deliver inventions. We examine why ‘imagined futures’ are cultural realities, shaping decisions.

We explore why ‘failure of the imagination’ is a recurring theme in every enquiry into the world’s major catastrophic events, from 9/11, to the financial crash of 2008 and the COVID-19 pandemic.

We answer many of the hard questions. How do cognitive weaknesses, like confirmation bias, create blind spots? Why are early warnings in ‘weak signals’ and ‘wild cards’ often ignored or misinterpreted? Why do political leaders fail to learn how to use judgment in the face of extreme uncertainty and go down in history for ‘too little, too late’? Why are backward-looking statistical and algorithmic models so popular, despite their failings?

On Foresight Articles

Long Read Overview

Title: Beware Blindspots
Approx. Reading Time: 9 minutes
Author: Peter Kingsley

Long Read

Beware Blindspots

The defining characteristic of human consciousness is that we project ourselves forward, exploring possible future worlds.

Peter Kingsley argues that innate neurophysiological forces are fundamental to how we think about long-term strategy, interpret emerging complex risks and how mental models can either inspire invention, or act as barriers. One of the recurring lessons of recent history is that risk management shrinks the world to events that can be priced or codified, rather than on the broader vulnerability of complex infrastructures, social systems and financial markets. The challenge is to re-invent strategy, then risk.

Read Essay

Long Read Overview

Article publicly available

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

Related Articles

Long Read

Through a Glass Darkly

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

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.

Read Essay

Long Read Overview

Article publicly available

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

Long Read

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? We argue 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.

Read Essay

Long Read Overview

Title: Propaganda Futures: the narrative is the message
Approx. Reading Time: 9 minutes
Author: Peter Kingsley

Related Articles

Long Read

Propaganda Futures: the narrative is the message

Marshall McLuhan famously said that ‘the medium is the message’. At the dawn of the information age, this had an element of truth. It has framed commentary on the role of media technology ever since. Most recently, Tim Berners-Lee talked about his fears that the technology he invented might yet be the ‘destroyer of worlds’, a technology so powerful that in the wrong hands it may undermine democracy.

Yet in a new media era where propaganda plays a decisive role in political security and stability, content, not technology, is the message, the manipulator of minds and behaviour.

Read Essay
Briefing

Re-Inventing Decision-Making

The finance, pensions and insurance sectors have long relied on data and mathematical models to justify decisions. Risk is traded, based on projected returns. In this essay Peter Kingsley explores how in ‘edge of chaos’ environments, these culturally defined value models break down.

Read Essay
Briefing

Inventive States: success stories and imitators

As tensions over trade, supply chains and ‘industries of the future’ continue to rise, the search for national innovation models is more intense than ever. DARPA is seen as the prime example of radical invention, sponsored by government. Until recently it has not been successfully imitated.

Read Essay
Briefing

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.

Read Essay
Briefing

On Simulation

‘Predictive Analytics’ dominates dialogues from policy development and risk assessment to financial market forecasting. This briefing argues there is some way to go, that claims are often overblown and that simulation, not prediction, better matches the real world characterised by complexity and radical uncertainty.

Read Essay
Briefing

On Foresight: part one

One of the critical measures of long-term value is the ability to act successfully on a mental model of the future operating environment. This is about acting on a fiction – an imagined future. In a world: foresight.

Read Essay
Briefing

On Foresight: part two

Foresight is about exploring possible futures, not prediction. It is innate, from our moment-by-moment simulations to our culturally shared imagined futures. This is not all: imaginative foresight is a primary source of innovation

Read Essay
Briefing

On Foresight: part three

Organisational culture is a critical determinant of the success or failure of foresight. At the same time, how we think about the future is more important than what we know, or even what we think about.

Read Essay
Briefing

On Foresight: part four

There are critical relationships between scenarios and real options in long-term strategy, vision-led innovation and strategic risk. All depend on imaginative human talent. AI is best in ‘narrow’ applications, relying on big data and pattern discovery. Scenarios will remain the most flexible set of techniques, but AI promises a future where machines and human creativity are combined.

Read Essay
Briefing

On Foresight: part five

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

Read Essay
Briefing

Dystopian Fiction, Political Realities

Dystopian fiction is more popular than ever. Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World are etched in the public imagination. Here we explore how themes of totalitarianism, mind control and the end of the world shape real politics and inspire violence. Yet climate change seems beyond even the most talented fiction writers.

Read Essay
Briefing

Competing Narratives: past vs future

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.

Read Essay
Briefing

Imagined Futures, Narrative and Cultural Realities

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.

Read Essay
Briefing

In Defence of Worst Case Scenarios

Contrary to conventional wisdom and practice, some extreme events are foreseen and warnings issued, only to be ignored or misinterpreted. Worst case scenarios may make uncomfortable reading, but modern-day Cassandras should not be ignored.

Read Essay
Briefing

Three Human Mysteries

Academic research and media coverage of artificial intelligence (AI) rightly majors on the enormous potential and, at the other extreme, possible existential risks posed by ‘generalised’ machine intelligence. Yet three human talents: prediction, creativity and storytelling will remain elusive, possibly for decades. They may also hold the keys to breakthroughs.

Read Essay
Top