Peter was in born in 1946 to Klara and Benjamin Schwartz, Hungarian Jews who had been in concentration camps and were living in a displaced persons camp in Stuttgart, Germany. The family soon moved to Norway, where they lived until Peter was five. At this point, they emigrated to America, and found a new home in Camden, New Jersey. Peter grew up there, attending school with such future stars as Steven Spielberg. He won a National Merit scholarship, and was able to attend Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute on full scholarship.
After graduating in 1968 with a B.S. in aeronautical engineering, Peter taught high school in Philadelphia and worked in the innovative student housing program at UC Davis. In 1972 he became an employee at the Stanford Research Institute, where he began to develop his unique method of scenario planning, and rose to director of the Strategic Environment Center. In 1982, he moved to London to work for Royal Dutch Shell as head of scenario planning. In 1985, while giving a speech at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory of UC Berkeley, he met his future wife, Cathleen Gross. He moved to live with her in Berkeley, California in 1987, and they bought a house together and were married, and had one son, Benjamin, born in 1990. Peter has written several books, on a variety of future-oriented topics. His first book, The Art of the Long View is considered by many to be the seminal publication on scenario planning, and is used as a textbook by many business schools. He founded GBN, an “information hunting and gathering company,” in 1988 and describes it as a high level networking and corporate research agency. He publishes and lectures widely and served as a script consultant on the films "The Minority Report," "Deep Impact," "Sneakers," and "War Games."