What the Heck is a Quantitative Futurist? And What They Want You to Know

It’s not every day you meet a quantitative futurist, right?
So when I saw that Amy Webb, quantitative futurist, professor at New York University Stern School of Business, founder of the Future Today Institute, and recipient of Thinkers50 RADAR Award (an award naming the 50 top business thinkers in the world) was speaking at a conference at the Charles A. Wright African-American Museum a couple weeks ago, I was so intrigued that I had to go hear what she had to say.
Over 200 people from all areas of the Detroit business, education, and non-profit communities came to hear what Amy had to say.  And she didn’t disappoint.

Her insight into the future, was both scary and exhilarating.  She made three major points:

  1. When thinking about the future, we can’t just think 10 or even 25 years into the future. We need to be thinking 50, 75 and 100 years into the future.  The reason is that technology and trends happen so fast that what you’re thinking about five years from now is really already happening.
  2. It will take numerous stakeholders in Southeastern Michigan, to address the implications of AI. These stakeholders include: news organizations, community organizations, funders of research, government officials, schools, and for-profit corporations.  We have to take control of AI right now, before it takes control of us.
  3. When trying to discern what the future holds, your best strategy is to pay attention to public-private partnerships, research that’s being conducted, and where venture capital dollars are flowing. These are the best indicators of where the future will take us.

As an added bonus, she has opened source all of her research and writings.
Aside from these takeaways, there were a number of items I found intriguing.

  • First, technology is changing so fast that our policies, standards, and laws are not keeping up.  The result is that that United States, and even the World, will have  different laws in each community, affecting privacy, technology, AI, and access to technology.
  • Second, Amy noted that other governments are thinking about issues 50 to 75 years in the future, yet we are not doing this in the United States.  However, she was comparing foreign government activities with U.S. corporations.  She admitted that it’s unfair to compare government actions with corporations, which have a shorter time horizon of five years than a country.

As I reflected on the conference and the questions that were asked, I really felt that the concept of a futurist, at least as it applies to an individual, is what kind of legacy are we really going to leave our children and our community.  Futurists are looking so far into the future that its impact will not be felt by them or the current (or even next) generation.  Rather, they’re worried about structuring an environment, a community, and technology that has a positive impact on everyone.
How will you impact the future?  And how will you engage with others in the community to make it positive?

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