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John Petersen is considered by many to be one of the most innovative futurists in the world. He is best-known for writing and thinking about high impact surprises—wild cards—and the process of surprise anticipation and for having conceived of and developed the first national surprise anticipation system in the world for the government of Singapore. His current professional involvements include anticipatory analysis and surprise anticipation related to the unprecedented global shift that humanity is now experiencing.
In 1989, Petersen founded The Arlington Institute (TAI), a non-profit, future-oriented research institute where he now edits and publishes FUTUREdition, an internationally acclaimed newsletter that tracks early indicators of potentially significant futures. Before that, he led national non-profit organizations, worked in sales, manufacturing, real estate development, and marketing and advertising, mostly for companies he founded. A graduate electrical engineer, he has also promoted rock concerts; produced conventions; and worked as a disc jockey – along with building his own airplane and maintaining an Advanced class amateur radio license.
Mr. Petersen's government and political experience include stints at the National War College, the Institute for National Security Studies, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and the National Security Council staff at the White House. He was twice the runner-up candidate to be Secretary of the Navy. He was a naval flight officer in the U.S. Navy and Navy Reserve, flying aircraft carrier based attack aircraft in Vietnam, and is a decorated veteran of both the Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars. He has served in senior advisory, fundraising and policy positions for a number of presidential political campaigns advised three U.S. presidential candidates and led a delegation to the Democratic National Convention in 1984.
An award-winning writer, Petersen's first book, The Road to 2015: Profiles of the Future was awarded Outstanding Academic Book of 1995 by CHOICE Academic Review, and remained on The World Future Society's best-seller list for more than a year. His second book, Out of the Blue: How to Anticipate Wild Cards and Big Future Surprises, was also a WFS best-seller. His coauthored article, “The Year 2000: Social Chaos or Social Transformation?” was one of the most highly acclaimed writings on Y2K. His 1988 book-length report “The Diffusion of Power: An Era of Realignment” was used at the highest levels of American government as a basis for strategic planning. He has also written many articles and papers on different aspects of the future including national security and the military, the future of energy and the future of the media. He was a featured contributor to the widely broadcast HISTORY Channel television special, NOSTRADAMUS 2012. John’s latest book, A Vision for 2012: Planning for Extraordinary Change, presents a systems approach for preparing for big change whether from the perspective of a government, organization, or individual.
John is the Chairman of the Board of The Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation, which was founded by friends of the Lindbergh’s to continue their legacy of encouraging the balance of technology and the environment. The foundation focuses on aviation-oriented projects and is particularly involved in their Air Shepherd initiative, which Petersen developed to provide small drone aircraft with thermal cameras to fly at night in Africa to spot poachers before they are able to kill rhinos and elephants.
Petersen is a former board member of the World Future Society and was a regular contributor on the future of aviation for Professional Pilot magazine and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association He was a network member of the Global Business Network, a fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science, and was a member of the Global Agenda Council of the Geography of Innovation for the World Economic Forum. A provocative public speaker, he addresses audiences around the world on a variety of subjects related to future trends and potential emerging worlds. He has been a featured speaker on two Seabourn cruises and on one WindStar cruise.
He lives in the West Virginia near Washington, DC.