Professor Angell’s growing reputation comes as the culmination of twenty years work developing a new perspective on information systems, which stresses that the social, economic and organizational issues are more important than the technological ones: even the very best investment in new technology can be a source of commercial risk, if the societal aspects are not managed properly. This alternative position is having wide-ranging repercussions both in educational and business circles in the UK and increasingly abroad. In particular he emphasizes that even the very best software and investment in the Internet will be a total waste and the cause commercial risks if the complexity caused by societal aspects is not managed properly.
Professor Angell has a first degree in Pure Mathematics, and a doctorate in Algebraic Number Theory, although he now claims to be an “ex-mathematician”. He first came to prominence through his work in computer graphics, and apart from his academic output he has written the software and produced animation sequences for television advertisements and for science and business TV programmes. At one time the animation package he wrote with one of his students, Gareth Griffith, was the market leader in the UK. Griffith subsequently went on to write software used in Spielberg’s Jurassic Park and other major films.
Angell has published ten books on computer graphics, including one co-written with a then-colleague at LSE, Dimitrios Tsoubelis, entitled Advanced graphics on VGA and XGA cards using Borland C++. With Dr. Steve Smithson, he produced a well-received book that stresses the more conservative aspects of the social science perspective Information Systems Management: Opportunities and Risks. Within this broad field he has two particular and related specialities: ‘systemic risk’, and ‘the global consequences of information technology.’
Professor Angell acts as a consultant on the management, security and strategic impact of information systems, to many national and international organizations and to a number of governments and the EU. Until 2000 he was a personal advisor to the Cabinet of the Director General of UNESCO (Federico Mayor), and he has consulted for the Russian Ministry of Science on the impact of IT on employment. In January 1998 he was invited to present his ideas to the Malaysian National IT Council and had private meetings with both the Malaysian Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and the (now ex-) Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim. He has also come to the attention of some very senior international businessmen and politicians who have invited him for private discussions about his ideas. In May 2003 he was asked to hold number of private advisory sessions with three of the sons of Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai. The CEO of Warner-Lambert once wrote to him saying that, because of a presentation he had made to W-L senior executives in Orlando, the company was changing its whole approach to Internet business.
He presented his ideas before the Parliamentary IT Committee at the Palace of Westminster to a cross-party group from both Lords and Commons, and they were “profoundly disturbed” and “visibly shaken” by his forecasts. He was nevertheless invited to be the first to give evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee on e-commerce in Europe, where he “managed to knock the gyroscope over.”
Undoubtedly it is Angell’s radical and controversial views on the global consequences of IT that has brought him such a high-profile reputation as a ‘futurologist’ in business circles and in the media. January 2000 saw the publication of his book The New Barbarian Manifesto, in which he lays out his advice on how to win in an increasingly complex, brutal and brutish world. This book is having an impact worldwide (it is already translated into Chinese and Korean), and even reached number 5 in the Amazon.com best-sellers list in Brazil! In April 2000 he undertook a media tour of the United States to promote his book, with TV and radio interviews in New York, Yonkers, Washington, Chicago, Seattle, Olympia, Dallas and Fort Worth.
His latest book, jointly authored with his friend and colleague Dionysios Demetis, Science’s First Mistake, looks at the failure of the scientific approach when facing societal complexity – a topic all too relevant given the turmoil in today’s financial markets.
Ian recognizes that Sciences’s First Mistake is not an easy read, and so he has plans to write a more accessible version, provisionally entitled Revisiting Reality.
Using the notions developed in Science’s First Mistake Angell and Demetis propose a series of fictional books delving into the occult. The first, Sons of Asterion, is complete, and the second, The Novitiate, will be finished by Easter 2014. They are at present looking for a publisher.
He has produced a new edition of The New Barbarian Manifesto, The Flight of the Golden Geese, that focuses on taxation. In this he has a joint author, David Lesperance, a Canadian tax lawyer based in Toronto. The book will appear later this year.