with Ross Dawson
with Ross Dawson
In this episode, Australian author, speaker and futurist Ross Dawson joins Robert and Brett to talk the path to the future. From tackling the qualities that make a strong futurist, to the tactical application of forecasting at a organizational level. Dawson is Australia’s leading futurist, but a globally relevant voice .
Hosted By Brett King, Jason Henrichs, & JP Nicols
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this week on the futurists when i think about the future i think well what are the things that are inevitable and then a quite different question is how long will it take and i think it’s absolutely inevitable that yes we will interact significantly in virtual spaces and particularly using avatar-based technologies that are potentially as close to who we are exactly you know essentially replicating ourselves in a virtual world onto skin pores and so on
hi i’m brett king and with me on the futurist is robert turcheck and together we examine the thought leaders the engineers the forecasters the futurists sci-fi authors building and thinking about the future every day this week we have world-renowned futurist keynote speaker entrepreneur and author ross dawson a fellow aussie futurist which is is always good to support the australian view of the future ross dawson welcome to the futurist awesome to be on the show thanks good to have you yeah i know we you know i i’m not sure exactly when this this show will air but um you know it is topic or how do you feel about the election result that that occurred over the weekend uh well i’m not a fan of two-party systems yeah and uh we kind of put paid to that in australia uh quite uh effectively over the last couple of days uh this this i think points to you know if we’re talking about the future that two-party you know a future of democracy is a pretty important part of our future as a human race and two-party politics is broken and yeah go on i’ve gone for this for a long time as to why uh but it just essentially means you’ve got two camps all fighting against each other all opposing each other and so being able to get a whole stack of independents and other parties and so on to play with that i mean it may make it a little less easy to govern but you know as in western many of the northern western europe countries they’ve certainly done coalition politics in an effective manner and i think yeah let’s uh death of two-party politics uh yeah thumbs up for that now consensus building um you know is is hard when you’ve got only two sides and it tends to be polarized like that so uh yeah um but uh maybe we start with this ross um you know we’ve we’ve known each other for many years now um in fact we we met through um the futurist community online um but um you know you you’ve been in this game for a while you you previously had experience in um like stock brokering and other things you’ve run your own businesses but what made you go down the path of becoming a futurist well when i when i was young i mean i don’t remember the exact date but certainly while i was still at university so 20 or something like that i was thinking about well what do i do with my life i i’d i’ve chosen to do a degree thinking about your future well well yeah i was but only jess i’d only just started because i did a degree in physics because i thought well i have no idea what i want to do i’ll just do something which i think is interesting and i had no idea no intention to become a physicist but i thought physics you know let’s this understands the nature of the world we live in and then i started began to think while i was there thinking all right well this will be over and i want to get out in the real world and i thought wow wouldn’t it be amazing to be a futurologist which was the the term at the time and so that was and the other thing was just think tanks i suppose was i just wanted to think for a living think about the world think about society think about where things were going and and i had a most of my corporate career was a bit stuntifying um well that’s probably a bit cruel but but i mean i learned a lot but it just wasn’t it wasn’t it was a path it was trying to get me somewhere and i and when i finally left corporate world and i had got some great experience on the way i you know the first thought was well yes this is what i want to do and then in the first year i started doing scenario planning uh program which was run by global business network and my advanced scenario training in san francisco and started doing that that’s 25 years ago now but it was still you know there’s still i wasn’t a futurist because most that wasn’t most of my work so most when most people say back in the late 20th century that’s that’s right last century so so when people say how do you become a futurist i usually say well you claim you are and people either believe you or they don’t and what that means you need to become credible first and so you know there’s plenty of people claiming there are futurists uh far too many but uh i said okay well i need to build my credibility my first couple of books in particular started to pave the way the first one the subtitles the future of professional services and over 20 years later i think it’s bought out my second one was living networks which again has sort of i think come to pass but it was still another few years and i set up a future expiration network in 2006 and we launched the future of future media summit which was held simultaneously in sydney and san francisco so there was um that was the time when you know i had built my own futurist organization we were doing work all over the world it was that was the time i was firmly finally a full-time futurist when you first set up the the cross uh pacific uh collaboration that was where i think we crossed paths or i first became uh in contact with you and at the time i mean that was that was a long time ago that was about 15 years ago 2006 was the first one yeah that’s right so this is just to put in perspective for people are listening that’s before youtube uh it’s before streaming video is a thing and ross was already finding ways to patch people together um transatlantic or trans-pacific i guess at that point for real-time conversations and was on was unlocking the power of collaborative forecasting or collaborative scenario planning and that’s really important i think because right now of course we’re doing this call on zoom everybody post pandemic is quite comfortable with talking you know in real time to people on other sides of the world that just wasn’t the case back then so in a way in order for you to gather the viewpoints of different people from around the world you had to invent that little piece of the future you know you had to invent a little technology that enabled real-time collaboration talk a little bit about that so i wanted to so you know i’ve i just have a foot and had a foot in san francisco well many many places throughout the world san francisco in particular for a long time and there were lots of had a good community of people there and so i was running this event to kick off future exploration network future media summit and so well you know most of the really interesting people i know are a long way away well let’s build them into the conversation so we had to uh find a sponsor to sponsor the tele conference piece of it and did though for the first few years until we sort of worked out our own ways of doing it but it was really this and it was very interesting the dynamics of that in terms of saying all right well how do we actually build a conversation between places and two continents so we literally had a panel with people on one side and people on the other side and especially in this video or is it just audio that was video and so one quite impressive so what you have to do is on the panel you’re sitting on the panel and then next to you is the screen so it has to be kind of a little bit v-shaped so it’s like you can turn and you can look at the people on the panel who are on the other continent and then you’ve got the moderator and so you’ve got essentially you know people stand sitting on a stage standing next to them a screen so the audience can see both the people on both you know the physical people the distant people and the people on the panel can see their counterparts so basically every problem that event planners around the world had to encounter during the pandemic you solved about 15 years before them well we made it work though the the first the first one event i actually thought uh well actually so i got a colleague who did the san francisco side said well actually this didn’t work quite as well as i wanted on sevensupersite so i actually spent every event after that i flew over to san francisco and moderate on that side worked out basically you have to have two people on each side more than two on each side and it just becomes difficult you’ve got time lags and so on and i moderated i i just felt i wasn’t able to delegate had some brought in some moderators for some of them and they didn’t get the subtleties of cross-continental panel moderation
you know do you think um i know we’re jumping right in here but um you know with the advances we’ve seen around zoom and so forth obviously um the pandemic has shifted a lot of this where you know even as speakers um you know the three of us are in that space um where we’ve got more used to doing virtual obviously going to physical events is still um something that i prefer to do but um you know where do you think or how quickly do you think the metaverse will create spaces for us to do these types of events and collaboration well how quickly is the important question so i i when i think about the future i think well what are the things that are inevitable and then a quite different question is how long will it take and i think it’s absolutely inevitable that yes we will interact significantly in virtual spaces and particularly using avatar-based technologies that are very well potentially as close to uh yeah who we are exactly you know essentially replicating ourselves in a virtual world down to skin pores and so on so the timeline for that i think is very uncertain but we will move more and more on that i’m very interested as well in things like the you know the 3d or quasi-3d or quasi-holographic or holographic and other ways of bringing us beyond a flat screen and you know they’re getting some pretty decent advances in that i think that some of that will progress a pace uh but the metaverse i think is going to be more and more engaging but part of it i think is also that what it will take for people to feel comfortable to be an event for example in the metaverse as opposed to you know what they’re used to on a screen or going to a physical event and how much friction there is around setting each of those things up because right now the vision at least as i’m seeing it it’s pretty early for the metaverse but the way i’m seeing it right now is each company seems to be pursuing their own separate version of the metaverse which is going to kind of feel like another social network and frankly who the hell wants to go through the process of logging in setting up a profile connecting with your friend all that stuff can’t we just have like a universal login i’m excited by a company called ready player me because they’re developing a standard uh where you can build an avatar that represents yourself and then it’s transportable from as long as the different meta versus subscribe to the same standard uh you’ll be able to import that so you don’t have to like go through the hassle of replicating and what that’ll do is it’ll increase sampling right it’ll increase the ability for people to graze across multiple worlds uh you know what we’re drifting towards in this conversation it seems like is um the way the web 2 companies have built all these uh switching costs into their platforms they make it very difficult for you to graze from one platform to another and then that makes it difficult to co-mingle uh communities and i think what now the people have spent you know the good 10 15 years developing a social presence and developing um a you know a virtual identity and we’ve all become adept in developing digital ways of representing ourselves whether it’s a website or twitter or social media or anything else um now i think people have a different expectation of what they want from a platform we couldn’t say what that was in 2006 we didn’t know but now we’ve all lived through it we can say actually here’s what we definitely don’t want here’s what we definitely do want i think that’s actually kind of an exciting feature it’s like the audience has matured somewhat you know we weren’t very good at social media in 2010 because most of us were new to it whatever happened to universal messaging too you know right that was supposed to be a thing right you know where you were going to bring in all of your different messaging emails and sms and you know social media into one platform and that sort of disappeared or died of death as well platforms don’t like it even now apple’s putting wedges in the into just plain text messaging right so if you have um if you’ve got if you’re texting with somebody who has an iphone you get one experience if you’re texting somebody on android you get a slightly degraded experience and they sort of shame you by putting it in a green bubble and so forth uh it’s it’s old school like this is we’re tired of this approach i think well you know well this is this is partly this is probably where i started a lot of these things in social media so living networks which i wrote in 2002 is largely about the immersion of social networks and fundamental to it was the interoperability that was one of the premises on which the my idea of the living networks was based so early on in social media i was involved in fact i was on the advisory committee for the apml the attention profile markup language which was essentially been able to take transportable data and to build that and a lot of you know what i wrote on my blog back you know this 15 years or so ago was about these issues of how we could transcend the uh the walled gardens of social media to be able to move to that and i’ve been following that for all the time it’s been pretty disappointing all along the way in a way they’ve got more entrenched with how powerful each of those players are yeah so now as you suggest robert i think you know for it is the degree of our you know user demand you know where we said we expect we must have this ability to interoperate and the fact that you know that being actually driving the success of these platforms or otherwise because it’s going to be brutal battle to play out this is this is the massive prize and so if those if we see that those platforms that offer a greater degree of interoperability are favored by users because they feel this way now having been battered for so long then that that’s promising i’ve been uh i’ve been talking about data colonialism and ai imperialism in the sense that you know data assets are extracted from audiences all over the world but they’re typically concentrated in companies that are based in california or in beijing and so they’re they’re being centralized and then what comes back to the the colonized if you will we go with the metaphor is uh ai that makes decisions about what you get to see and what you get to choose and so a limited set of choices comes back to you and um and this is starting to resonate i think what’s going to emerge my prediction and something i’m working towards my own work is a digital bill of rights uh you know some sort of uh demand from the people who participate in these worlds hey if you want us to help build out these new imaginary immersive worlds we’re ready to do it we’re ready to participate but we’re going to do that on our terms we’ll see how far we get with that you know there’s this sort of long pendulum swing on the internet between um highly decentralized ad hoc uh you know work that’s done by different individuals in large numbers and then centralization on the other side and of course we’re in a phase of supremely concentrated centralization uh but also decentralization including you know what twitter used to moot and jack dorsey and and of course now we inject the you know blockchain type elements where there is more of the potential and so we’ve talked on you’ve talked on the uh the futurist before about uh distributed autonomous organizations and i think it’s very hard at this point for a dow to establish a uh yeah massive market share in social platforms but it does there will be more alternatives there there are already alternatives where we can start to see distributed rights where essentially you know everyone can own and control with a high degree of granule granularity their information how it’s shared uh you know the interactions and so on and this is this is absolutely a very compelling vision of where it could go but it’s still largely vision at this stage you know there i mean there’s a there’s some debate going on right now obviously around um health data as an example i think there is elements of efficiency to centralizing data networks in respect to like health services as an example um you know genomics uh blood work uh you know um by you know real-time biometrics and so forth um i i actually think um you know having um that all centralized at a national level um would provide you the ability to be far more efficient and you know better at resource management in terms of provision of health care than keeping it in lots of different separate companies for example but you you could have an element of decentralization like we have the concept of open banking with financial services where you know certain you make certain elements of that data available to the decentralized world to massage and innovate um you know health tech around that i think there’s um you know i think that there’s an argument where you could have in these worlds of the future a bit of a hybrid in terms of that centralized and decentralized yes and you necessarily need that and particularly in terms of health data and i think health data is it’s really pointed because and this this shows up the privacy versus common value debate if we look at sharing uh dna data because potentially if we were able to prepare have correlate individual uh genetic data with everything from you know all of your behaviors all of your you know your diseases everything that goes wrong it goes right then we could have an extraordinary database but this would require everybody to expose all of their genetic data with you know fraud implications uh you know and potential for abuse of this so this is i think this is a real way in which we can when in mapping some of these future paths forward there is massive common value in sharing data and where where possible being able to give people individuals that control that to control that data but there are also issues because we’ve always seen that these things have been abused and genetic data is one of those things that can be well let’s also point out that most people don’t want the hassle of managing the stuff right we would prefer instead of setting up an email server we prefer to get the free email from google even if it means google gets to read every single one of our emails we all seem to have gotten pretty comfortable with that and while i’m not proposing radical transparency or you know the radical release of personal data i’d love to actually you know have a bit more control over that i’m realistic about the fact that most people just can’t be bothered we have not done a good job as technologists of conveying the value of maintaining your personal data which includes your behavior your location your preferences your interests your browsing activity all your communications who your friends are what they’re interested in i mean like the list goes on and on the amount of things that are being tracked is actually quite extraordinary most people are blissfully unaware of it um and when you point it out to them they’re outraged for a moment but then when they they go right back to their gmail and their instant messaging account and their social media accounts that are managed by a centralized system so there’s a certain amount of user latitude or inertia that would have to be overcome for a decent a truly decentralized approach to gain a lot of traction yes you know looking at your career as a as a futurist futurologist is there anything that’s really surprised you uh in terms of developments that have happened that you thought might take a different path well i well the first thing that’s bring to mind is how uh social media and sharing has gone uh not as well as we initially hoped yeah i think there’s many of us you know i was one of the massive evangelists from the start saying you know the potential for connection and you know there were a lot of very powerful benefits initially and that has been perverted and subverted um it doesn’t mean we can’t come out the other side so these are all of great value but that’s you know the sort of the first thing that springs to mind um and you know i am an optimist and so you know this is you know that’s that’s quite a deliberate stance uh and it’s been found that there have been some you know things that have happening which have um you know wouldn’t say shaken that because you know i still think we need we can be optimists but in terms of the political developments uh globally fractures and so i suppose if we’re looking from a scenario perspective one of the key dimensions between coherence and fragmentation suppose it’s not so much a surprise per se but you know i suppose uh alarming is this massive fragmentation or polarization which was seen across borders on all sides and i suppose that’s certainly something i haven’t you know i’ve been looking at for a long time but for at a certain point it was started to become something i had to become more aware of and you’re talking about the polarization of the electorate and domestic politics not only so for me polarization goes across uh politics uh their wealth against uh access around education around uh you know attitudes to privacy around attitudes to openness uh you know the whole wealth of different domains and a lot of these ends up as social fragmentation you know essentially this is you know dividing populations uh in various ways but it is not not just political well i think what we should probably do now is roll into a break uh folks you’re listening to the futurists with brett king and me rob tercek and this week our guest is ross dawson a futurist from australia he’s a keynote speaker a noted author and he’s been a futurologist for more than 20 years and we’ve just been going through a little bit of that history we’re going to take a short break we’ll be back in a minute so please stay tuned to the futurists welcome to breaking banks the number one global fintech radio show and podcast i’m brett king and i’m jason henricks every week since 2013 we explored the personalities startups innovators and industry players driving disruption in financial services from incumbents to unicorns and from cutting edge technology to the people using it to help create a more innovative inclusive and healthy financial future i’m jp nichols and this is breaking banks
hey you’re listening to the futurists and we’re back it’s uh rob tercek with my co-host brett king and this week we’re interviewing ross dawson a futurist from australia and one of the things that’s on my mind is hey i’m getting double teamed here by two australian futurists no worries mate what what’s the story what is it about australia that makes you so interested in the future well i mean i’m maybe a little bit of a different case as i’ve lived a very junk large chunk including almost all my childhood overseas uh so i’m not a typical australian don’t have an australian a very australian accent yeah i can’t claim to be a typical australian well but that’s part of it but every australian i know travels like mad like australians have no problems you go well it’s a 24-hour flight they’re like yeah no problem and then you know like everywhere you go you run into australian backpackers so that’s that’s part of it i think this desire to explore yeah so straight australians are very there’s if you look at the australia association professional futurists in the board and so on there are australians are vastly out represented according uh relative our population there’s a lot of australians a lot of australian uh courses you know sort of tertiary courses and so on so right there’s a lot of australian interest in the future but it’s not a particularly futuristic country is it well i think that well the politics has is rarely been very uh future-oriented so say for a few politicians here there tried to do something the last
there’s a little bit of a pendulum swing you make a step forward and a step back but what i’ve noticed i’ve been to australia a lot in the last 20 years and what i’ve noticed is that there’s two of everything you know there’s like two major retail companies there’s two major sportswear companies there’s you know there’s two telcos for instance uh and it’s because in a country with a population smaller than that of california how many businesses can you sustain yeah and then the main business of australia is selling you know bits of the country by the shovel floor exactly china has been certainly in a way that’s yeah there was it was a great uh economist i can’t remember his name right now but he he said australia’s um you know a third world country with a lot of natural resources right you know the point being that the australian economy was fairly dependent on those natural resources if you limit if you take that out of the economy the economy looks very very different um and i think that’s one of the most frustrating elements in in respect to what you’re saying rob or the question about um being future focused like australia is the perfect country for developing solar technology right australia is the perfect country for looking at um you know uh a renovation of the ocean you know in respect to to plastics and um you know bleaching of the great barra reef and so forth you know there’s there’s so many areas where australia would do well uh domestically um you know and internationally competitively to develop uh future focus technologies but um well it has done fairly well on the particularly the solar energy technologies australia’s uh universities are in the vanguard a lot of it has been the issues with commercialization right in the in the and the economy isn’t a transition phase now with you know more and more people who do things like watch the richland see uh how the technology uh you know young technologists are getting a pretty getting a pretty decent chunk of the list and so on but in terms of high technology you know there’s like two examples of australian companies that have been successful i think uh atlassian and and canva right two companies based in australia that have kind of broken out into the world stage where if you take a country like say finland or israel or even the netherlands when it comes to tv formats these countries with significantly smaller populations uh five or six million their entire economy is geared for export like everything they develop they use then they use the domestic territory as just a beta test or a launch a proof of concept and the whole the whole idea is the launch stuff internationally i was always curious why the germans and french were not as successful in exporting technologies or developing new ideas uh for media and the reason is they have pretty big domestic markets so they’re kind of um if you can be successful in germany well you know you’re pretty successful you don’t really feel this compelling urge uh to export where uh smaller countries if you want to be very successful you’re going to need to design everything from the start for experts well there’s some schizophrenia in australia and the part of it is this you know everyone says australia is a small economy well in fact it’s you know in the order of 12th largest in the world yeah so you know there’s 25 million and also fairly rich and it’s yeah it’s a decent sized economy but there is so it is almost big enough yeah so to to sustain decent businesses and so and part of that schizophrenia as well is that there is some deep conservatism in australia wanting to stop immigration wanting to hold us back wanting to you know just focus on the land and you know minerals and so on and there is also this extraordinarily you know uh you know all the travelers you mentioned are the ones who are out there exploring looking for the world looking to connect and so you say well i’m you know i’m born i grew up somewhere which is so far from the rest of the world well i want to go and explore i want to touch things they want to move and so there is the schizophrenia where there is this deeply conservative stay at home let’s keep other people out type mentality which is very real and that was associated with the the political party which was in power till the weekend um but there’s also this whole dynamic which i think is you know come through the centuries of australians who are just saying well we are a long way away we want to explore we want to connect we want to do things and one of the things i pointed to in the past is australia actually has been very successful in crowdsourcing platforms so we’ve had freelancer 99 designs design crowd uh you know a bunch of the other crowd platforms and for me that was always made a lot of sense yes we have uh we want to be able to tap global audiences and global markets we can pull those all together and that’s seems to have struck a chord in the ways in which we’ve been thinking about things so the mentalities are there but there is this divided nature to the way australia’s think about i mean every country is a little schizophrenic yeah one of the things i noticed in australia is that there’s a very very strong labor movement uh it’s a it’s a pro-labor country maybe more so than any other place i’ve visited where you can say pretty well the labor unions in the united states have been dismantled uh largely you know they’re making a comeback right now but it’s tiny right in australia labor is is powerful um and and moreover there’s an awareness of labor as an important factor in the economy and people are conscious of that and there’s a kind of solidarity that comes with that and so you have a sort of social solidarity one of the things i noticed that struck me very powerfully back in the 1990s my very first visits to australia was the emphasis on multicultural australia this idea that australia’s uh position on the planet you know your geographic location causes you to have you have no option you have to embrace the fact you’re based in asia and deal with that but also the influx of european immigrants and the immigrants from other parts of the world uh that that the the makeup of australia was changing australia is the first country in the world where i heard the welcome into the land where people acknowledged that the land was actually the the the home of an indigenous people that was new to me i never heard any americans try to make some kind of invocation like that we’re starting to hear that all over the world now uh that’s an idea that i first i think first got purchased in australia and it took quite a while for the united states and canada to catch on and really the us is laggard in that respect so in some respects australians are progressive in ways that we can barely understand in the united states and we certainly don’t have an experience of right now yes well if you look at northern europe those are the you know the socialist capitalist uh countries which have uh you know really pushed it out in terms of true socialization australia is probably more that end of the spectrum it is to the uh individuality of america though it’s there’s still again i think you know this divide but certainly yes there is a strong labor movement there’s social socialized medicine uh there is there’s belief that everyone should be supported you know there’s kind of no question around that so it’s it’s not quite as as far as uh scandinavian countries in in many of those dimensions but it is yes quite you know strongly social in in uh or come you know well there i use the word you know is it communal in terms of you know thinking about the common benefit here despite the political divides i mean that that’s a way to think about the future right that’s the way to construct a future uh i bring that up because um here in california where i’m based the future’s debate is very much dominated by libertarians and these are people who if he gave him a choice there would be no government they’re not anarchists but they are very distinctly people who are pro small government like the less government the better um and you know there’s merits to their perspective so it’s worth listening to that perspective i hear it all the time it’s unavoidable in cryptocurrency and in the web 3 space because it’s uh it’s kind of the dominant strain of the folks that are there but that is a vision that does not have a lot of room or compassion for people who are disabled or differently able people who are older or people who are not as adept or people who need a little bit of help and so forth and you see that represented in cryptocurrency where it’s like oh you know if you if your metamask wall gets hacked and you lose all your coins like tough luck you should have took better precautions and so on there’s like very little sympathy there very little empathy for people who might not be as adept uh at that particular thing and um and from my viewpoint that’s um that’s a pretty cold future um and and and that’s a that’s a dominant strain here in california those folks speak with a very loud voice it’s not hard to find examples of that you know certainly you can see uh you know peter thiel has been at the very forefront he’s very outspoken but even elon musk is starting to move in that direction in his public commentary the the problem with that view i think um you know and and ross you jump in as well but um you know if you look at the problems we have to tackle in the future particularly you know the role of human capital and human labor in society as artificial intelligence uh makes impact and the impact of climate change you you can’t essentially have that view of the world because you the humanitarian cost will be so great if we don’t provide um you know some sort of uh support system or um you know safety net um that it’s just unconscionable it’s not something that we we um as a human species should ever i think you know go down that path you know like just look at food scarcity we’re talking about that at the moment but obviously we’re just the start of the worst elements of the climate change in respect of food scarcity and um you know uh uh eco refugees where the estimates are anywhere from 300 million to 1.6 billion eco refugees by 2050 the scale of that requires a much more cohesive cohesive community approach absolutely and yeah absolutely and the you know the themes of your book techno socialism i think are very highly aligned with that but i mean just i suppose complimenting or pulling out some of those one of them is that we live in a networked world and in a networked world or if you have a scale-free network you have power law distributions apply so essentially as we move to a more networked society this actually is a force of polarization by its nature even if we are getting uh parts you know even if we are getting everyone who is participating in the networked economy within them there are going to be by its very nature these uh distributions which pull people apart so this means that uh we are moving into a more polarization these are the fundamental forces and we need to do everything possible to guard against that and that requires you know essentially as you pointed out brett we have more and more abundance through technology so we need to find ways where everyone can benefit from this and whereas i don’t fully subscribe to the view that we start to get massive technological unemployment there are these risks of certainly underemployment and so we need to be able to find ways to you know be that through universal basic income or other ways to be able to have people participate and part of the case to make is that if you are wealthy on the better end of the spectrum do you want a world which is conceivable where people around with pitchforks and uh trying to burn your place down um or do you want people where most people are living happy lives and you can live a happy life too this is the remains of a quote from oliver wendell holmes who said i don’t mind paying taxes because with them i buy civilization and that’s a nice way to think about it right it’s all the stuff that makes life okay makes it safe to go you know go on the street and so forth you don’t have to have private security that’s what we’re getting with taxes but now we’re talking about the future we’re talking a little bit about forecasting ross and and i want to shift the subject to that because this is the heart of our podcast we’re interested in forecasting methodologies recently we had a conversation where i was a little bit surprised because we spoke to someone we have a great respect for who kind of blithely said you don’t have to put any um you have to put any dates on a forecast you can be a futurist without putting a date on a forecast and it kind of stuck in my head afterwards i thought about that i said what good is a forecast without a date and just to put that in perspective anyone who’s an entrepreneur and i know you’re an entrepreneur ross uh anyone who’s an entrepreneur puts their money on the line because they’re making a bet on a date every single time they’re saying i’m going to invest money right now because i think this is the moment in time where it’s going to change things going to be different and there’ll be a new demand a future demand for this new product or service that i’m making and so it seems like a cop-out to uh to not put a date on a forecast sorry to editorialize there but why don’t you guys respond to that and then we can get into like the general topic of the quality of futurists in general well well i firstly have to say that i don’t i don’t actually make many forecasts at all uh so i do make some dated forecasts but usually i don’t because i mean i’m when people say what’s a futurist my my role is that my answer is someone who helps people to think you know people in organizations think better about the future so they can act better today and so it is that process of enriching thinking that’s my job is not so much to say hey i think this is going to happen you know either believe me or don’t it is to help people leaders and others to for themselves to have richer thinking to think about things they didn’t think about otherwise and so they can be better equipped to make their own decisions about the future so i don’t believe you can outsource everyone has to be their own futurists you can’t outsource being the futurist i mean the in which case the role of the future is not say well this is what i think then you can say well all right i gotta believe you i’m gonna put all my eggs because i think you’re you you’re wonderful and i’ll do everything you say or i don’t believe you in which case you know there’s no use at all so i think it’s most useful to engage into a rich into thing but sometimes that is through giving dated predictions which i did for example in my newspaper timeline extinction uh framework where i had lots of dates some of which have got uh very wrong some of which i think are going to be pretty pretty spot on and i’ve got a lot of pushback from it on various guys but it made people think is he right is he wrong and they started to engage in saying well all right when am i going to turn off my printing presses and they weren’t going to be thinking about that unless i was uh actually giving him uh giving those dates so yeah to make it actionable for other people there has to be a date to it and um i don’t mind being wrong because being wrong is enlightenment that’s how we learn right that’s that’s where information comes from it’s uh you learn something in the process so ross um you know you have uh famously uh in fact we’ve used we’ve used your list of futurists um to look at target futurists we should have on this show um you have on rossdawson.com a ranking of the top 200 or so futurists tell us about the methodology use in respect to this mostly a popularity ranking or how did you come up with that so so this is a it’s algorithmic or extremely simple algorithm and it is based looking at influence so one of the events i did in sydney and san francisco was future of influence summit back in 2009 where i was looking at influences the emerging currency and economy and looking at various measures to how it is we can look at influence and in this and i actually that was one of the startups which i put some investment into initially and didn’t come off called repute which was looking to provide a more than digital assessment of reputation in various domains but but in terms of the futures ranking it’s just very simple algorithm it is only social influence it’s looking at web traffic uh twitter and some some broader social aggregation you know uh i suppose activity and engagement on social media so it is not not not the best not the top not the uh the most wonderful but simply the ones that get the most engagement digitally based on just a few few measures but that’s still that’s still interesting in terms of you know the reach that these futurists have that’s like influential uh futurists yes yes digital and digital online influence only so as i was saying i was hoping to in other ways in other domains look at for example you know speaking in terms of books in terms of uh you know me you know non-digital media appearances and so on to aggregate some of those but this list is simply just now you know a few digital data points and aggregating those in terms of uh online influence what what’s your own methodology we talked a little bit about how you’re very open to international influences you’re always seeking to build international connections and get that kind of feedback but what else do you do to keep your blades sharp to keep learning about the future
part of it is well there’s this wonderful you know all three of us we have this wonderful feedback loop where whenever we have a client which engages us who sometimes yes puts on a play into some strange parts and we have conversations we learn from them so we are sharing what we have learnt and we learn more by going to a different country by being a different industry to having a conversation with different people so we’re all starting you know that that’s a wonderful part of being you know reasonably prominent futurists is you you the nature your work feeds your input yeah there’s a lot of social obviously i’m scanning uh sources all the time being able to pull those together into frameworks various kinds but also trying to have those conversations with interesting people uh in different domains that you know thinking more deeply about specific things than me that i can actually build up and uh hone that understanding but you know a lot of my deep dives when the client says tell me about this and go say all right well i know a fair bit let me just bring that up to date or bring some new perspectives or bring that to bear yeah i’ve gone around and done interviews with 30 or 40 people particularly in a field where like healthcare where i’m not going to be an expert myself but i know a question what questions to ask and uh and i know who to call so i can start to have a conversation and then every conversation leads to another person and pretty quickly you can distill the kind of the general wisdom i think that’s a good approach that makes sense sorry brad i cut you off what are we about to say no no saying it sounds like a think tank but you know something that you know um i think we we all tend to do that i mean um you know futurists one thing i really love about futurists is they tend to be very collaborative if you go to a futurist and ask them a question about the future they can’t help but give you an opinion or jump into the conversation and share their reasoning right they’ll say here’s why you know even if it’s a debate or like an argument you get you get into a very constructive conversation because yeah you start to think about the forces that shape the future ross what do you think the big forces are that shape the future i have all sorts of theories about that but but i want to hear from you what you think are the big macro trends that are going to determine um the kind of define the boundaries around what possible future is available to us the next 10 years or so well let’s take a probably a non-traditional approach it is who we are as humans when we find out who we become we’ve discovered who we are so if we just if we create a positive future where we float out the stars and we meld our consciousness then that’s who we are as humans if we destroy ourselves and then we’ll discover who we are as humans right so that is the fundamental question the fundamental trend is who are we and discovering what that is through what we what’s the purpose so where we have got to today is the nature of us as inventors humans we always say i want to do this better i want to make things i’m ambitious i want to you know create a better way of doing things and that’s the history of who we’ve become and so there are fraught implications of that you know we’ve created some some uh you know some deep challenges for us in that process and so there is this divide between yes can we through the i suppose this techno utopiasism perspective and saying well you know we’re brilliant we can solve all the problems we’ve created possibly or that we are some the deep divisions within us so in terms of thinking about the future i think it’s ultimately saying who are we and how will we express ourselves collectively and and critically are we evolving and that’s in fact the next phase of my work is looking at can we evolve both in terms of our cognition of our ways of thinking and morally and philosophically yeah that and that leads us to a great way to sort of finish this out we tend to do this on on each of the uh the episodes now is as looking out over the next 30 to 50 years ross um what excites you about the future what what captures your imagination you know futurists tend to be in a hurry to get to the future what would you really like to see happen in in the future a big part of my focus is human machine uh integration synthesis symbiosis where our brains which are you know if we look at the entire universe the most extraordinary phenomenon the entire universe is the human brain by you know many orders of magnitude it is just mind-boggling we you know we have we understand the depths of the universe we go down to these uh you know quarks and these micro particles yet we actually have a pretty limited understanding of our brain that’s the real frontiers so if we can merge not just our human brain and its extraordinary capabilities with the technologies that we create be they artificial general intelligence or whatever it is that we can do with technologies and bringing those together and and potentially creating be able to merge conscious human consciousness and human thinking direct human to human uh brain communication so of course you know many challenges and many uh potential problems from all of this but that’s a that’s that’s is truly exciting where i can tap through my mind just to access the you know the all of the information available offload different uh you know cognitive processes to use that to be able to think more effectively about the future about my relationships and as well to be able to connect more directly to someone else’s brain be that a lover or be that someone i’m trying to have a complex political debate with interesting you know a few years ago there was an event in us in south australia in adelaide where i wanted to bring you in and unfortunately it didn’t work out for that particular event but one of the speakers that i really wanted you to meet was dr philip alvelda and he was the researcher at darpa the defense advanced research projects at the pentagon in the us our defense department uh who developed that cortical modem the brain interface for the computer and um and he was talking about many of these things it wasn’t just what happens to people when they can connect to the network but it’s also what happens to the machines and he actually since that time has gone and launched uh companies because he said look we’re going to need new computing architectures and new languages for computers so that they can understand and communicate with us better so he’s he’s focused on that we’ll have him on a show in the future but i do want to make that connection with you at some point because i know you will yeah you’ll get along very very well so ross how can people find out more about the work you’re doing and of course you’ve got a new book coming out thriving on overload we we hope to get you back on the show to talk about that when it comes out but where can people find more about yourself and what you’re working on oh it’s pretty easy rossdawson.com on the web or rossdawson on twitter or rossdawson on linkedin uh and yes a new book coming out thriving on overload you can go to thriving on overload.com and they’ve got a podcast on there as well talking to amongst you amongst other people about how to thrive on overload in a world of information i’ve learned how to make sense of it so uh that’s uh another resource wow great well ross dawson great to have you on the show man thanks like like every episode lately it feels like we’ve only just touched the surface and we could uh go on for for much longer but uh thank you for joining us and um you know all the way from australia and um yeah stay stay healthy and stay positive that’s it for the futurist this week we will be back next week of course with more great future discussions and taking into the future and don’t forget to leave us a review if you’ve listened to the podcast the five-star review um you know wherever it is you download the podcast don’t forget to share it on social media help others to find it all of that will be super helpful and and robert and i will be very grateful for any assistance there to get some traction um but uh until then we will see you in the future well that’s it for the futurists this week if you like the show we sure hope you did please subscribe and share it with people in your community and don’t forget to leave us a five star review that really helps other people find the show and you can ping us anytime on instagram and twitter at futurist podcast for the folks that you’d like to see on the show or the questions that you’d like us to ask thanks for joining and as always we’ll see you in the future.
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