He is considered by many to be one of the most informed and innovative futurists in the world. An electrical engineer by education, 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.
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.
Mr. Petersen’s government and political experience began with flying aircraft off of aircraft carriers in the Viet Nam war and includes stints at the National War College, the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, the Institute for National Security Studies, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and the National Security Council staff at the White House. He 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 and was an elected delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1984. He was twice the runner-up candidate to be Secretary of the Navy.
An award-winning writer, Petersen has written three books. 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. His most recent 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.
Recently the chairman of the board of the Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation, he is a former network member of the Global Business Network, a fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science, and is a former member of the Global Agenda Council of the Geography of Innovation for the World Economic Forum.
He lives and works in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia.