What is a Futurist?

What’s a Futurist? – I get asked this question often, so here’s an answer.

A Futurist is someone who looks at emerging technology, social patterns and economics to make sense of the future and what’s next. It’s about developing a systematic way to explore possibilities and then make predictions about our future. The net outcome should be to show how it will affect human society. Some people call it Futurology.

The next obvious question is, how would someone do that and is it even possible? Yes, the future is absolutely possible to predict, especially when it comes to emergent technologies. But there is one thing we can’t predict – who and which organisations will be best prepared to invent that future. We can predict what trends, possibilities and technologies will emerge, but not who wins in that new world when it arrives. And that’s why I do what I do – I help people navigate the inevitable future and I have a pretty good damn record of doing it.

So, I’m about to give away some of my secrets and tell you how I do it… shhh – Don’t tell anyone. Here it goes:

My system is split up into looking at three things the future is made of:

  1. Anthropology: Human behaviour.
  2. Technology: The tools humans use to do things.
  3. Economics: How we trade with each other to get things done.

Anthropology: This is what doesn’t change. Or changes very slowly.  I often joke that we are running software as humans – a 400,000 year old code, otherwise known as our DNA. Having a solid understanding of human psychology and our history is the vital first step to being able to predict what’s next. Importantly, new tech can’t just be awesome, it has to be socially acceptable as well. Remember we’re  social creature and what people do and think collectively really matters.

Technology: This is what does change. The tools we use to get things done are always evolving. And now they are changing quicker than all of human history. If the cost to switch to a better option is lower, people will move to it – regardless of what powerful companies sold yesterday. When we study what’s next in technology it’s easy to see where shifts are likely to occur because technologies follow certain patterns when you know what to look for. This happens both at the commercial and societal level.

Economics: This is what ties to the above two elements together. Money does make the world go round. The future always involves lots of people with competing incentives. The question we need to ask here, is will this technology facilitate the way people behave and provide a big enough incentive for them (Corporations and Consumers) to move to this new way of getting things done. If so, how will it change the way money, things and people move around.

As a Futurist – this is my ‘secret‘ template – it enables me to blow minds on the stage doing keynote speeches and to provide future proof strategy for any company, in any industry.

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