Between Worlds is a technology podcast that takes you over the horizon and beyond borders, to bring you the global thinkers, innovators and troublemakers whose ideas challenge the world as we know it. From a courtyard cafe in Paris, to a busy sidewalk in Tokyo - each week futurist and global nomad, Mike Walsh, will share his personal conversations with some of the most fascinating people on the planet, recorded live in the field.
If you were to start a law firm today, leveraging all available technology and new ways of thinking - how would you do it? That, among other questions, is what I asked Piotr Spaczyński, managing partner of SSW, the only independent law firm from Poland, and one just shortlisted in the prestigious Innovative Lawyers ranking organised by the Financial Times. The legal industry - conservative, slow-moving and based on precedent - is a fascinating case study for the disruptive impact of AI and automation. Piotr and I discussed what the legal AI stack of the future might look like, from the use of algorithms to analyze contracts to predicting the outcome of litigation under particular judges. So when the legal system becomes increasingly standardized, contracts more automated and legislation akin to computer code - will the best lawyers of the future be less like Harvey Specter and more like Bill Gates?
So finally some good news: according to Cognizant’s Jobs of the Future index, since early 2017, the index's jobs of the future have been growing faster than all jobs. I strongly believe that the Algorithmic Age will create as many interesting jobs as it destroys, and so was fascinated to catch up with Ben Pring, who co-founded and leads Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work. Ben is a co-author of the best-selling and award winning books, What To Do When Machines Do Everything (2017) and Code Halos; How the Digital Lives of People, Things, and Organizations are Changing the Rules of Business (2014). We spoke about why the jobs of the future will those that incorporate the qualities of coaching, caring and connecting - and what ultimately this means for leaders as they start to think about reimagining their organizations for the 21st century.
When people ask me what our best insurance is against being made irrelevant by AI, I always reply: rethink education. On this week’s show, I spoke to someone doing just that. Richard Culatta is the CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), and prior to which, was the chief innovation officer for the state of Rhode Island and the director of the Office of Educational Technology for the U.S. Department of Education. For Richard, the future of education is more than just digital textbooks or electronic whiteboards - the real challenge is whether we can leverage disruptive technology to fundamentally reimagine the experience of learning. Duplicating existing education processes are doomed for failure, as is any approach that treats all students the same. We chatted about the real potential of personalized learning, whether AI will replace traditional teachers, and what companies like GM are doing to help reboot the education system to prepare kids for the Algorithmic Age.
I met Simon in the late nineties in Sydney when he had just started Australian Fashion Week. After the huge success of that event, he sold the business to IMG International, and went on to found Ordre, a business-to-business online wholesale marketplace for luxury designers, which has recently taken on Alibaba Group as a strategic investor. Catching up at his office in London, we had a fascinating chat about the use of AR/VR by global fashion buyers, the challenges of serving dynamic global consumer markets, the emergence of algorithmic fashion design and how AI will change the future of retail.
Christine is one of the most talented and thoughtful technology leaders around today. Currently CIO at Questrade, she was recognized in 2017 as a Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award Winner. We met at a Gartner event where I was presenting on an early version of my 'Algorithmic Leader' idea, and as someone that exemplified many of those values, I was keen to continue our discussion about what she had learned from leading successful digital transformations. In particular, I was curious about the results of their ‘Spotify-style’ agile transformation at Questrade, the impact of automation on their organization design and why the most valued people in her team were ’T-shaped’ rather than ‘I-shaped’.
Will AI-assisted IVF be the new normal when it comes to having smarter and healthier children? This, and other provocative questions are at the heart of Jamie Metzl’s brilliant new book, ‘Hacking Darwin’, which argues that we are at the dawn of a new genetics revolution. In Jamie’s view, our DNA is becoming as readable, writable, and hackable as our information technology. What will this mean for humanity as we start to reengineer our own genetic code and radically change our lifespan and capabilities?
As AI moves out of research labs and into the real world of commercial applications, we will increasingly see the rise of AI products. Whether it be detecting fraud in financial transactions or optimizing supply chains, while you won’t need a detailed knowledge of machine learning models to take advantage of the next generation of AI tools, you may well require an appreciation for confidence intervals and a new approach to making decisions. On a trip to Toronto, I caught up with Karthik Ramakrishnan, Head of Industry Solutions & Advisory at Element AI. We spoke about the near-term challenges of embedding AI decision-making in organizations, and why just as important as getting algorithmic products to work with people, will be getting the products to work with each other to make complex, synthesized decisions across the company of the future.
I met Jason in Las Vegas while speaking at the National Automatic Merchandising Association show. The vending industry is uniquely placed to be a testing ground for the intersection of data, consumer behavior and autonomous retail solutions. Jason, who is the CEO of AI startup Hivery was originally selected as part of an innovation accelerator organized by the Coca-Cola Company in Atlanta. Tasked to take Coke assets and create a new business model, they came up with an AI platform designed to transform retail decision making. Catching up backstage in Vegas, we spoke about the future of machine learning, and what it might take to build a complete retail AI technology stack.
Robotic process automation is a tempting proposition for many leaders: who wouldn’t want the ability to replace your processes with cheap algorithms that can run 24/7? However, the real benefit of automation is not efficiency or cost-savings, but the opportunity to rethink your entire operating model. I spoke recently with some of EY’s automation clients in New York, and one of the most interesting chats I had was with George Kaczmarskyj, a principal within EY’s Financial Services advisory practice, who leads Robotics and Intelligent Automation for Americas Financial Services. In this episode about the future of automation, we spoke about the similarities with the early days of electricity when companies also struggled to reinvent their paradigm and business models.
Rob Tercek is a fascinating thinker and futurist. His most recent book, VAPORIZED: Solid Strategies for Success In A Dematerialized World, was selected as a winner for the 2016 International Book of the Year by GetAbstract. I met Rob a number of years ago at the METal networking events in LA. As a pioneering executive for MTV, Sony and OWN, as well as an entrepreneur in disruptive startup ventures, Rob has long been at the forefront of critical thinking about the digital world. Meeting up at LACMA, we discussed a wide range of topics from placeless innovation to the challenge of tech-driven inequality, the myth of perpetual growth to algorithmic management, smart contracts to the economic fallout from a data-driven future.
Despite being one most traditional and conservative sectors in the world, insurance is a sector primed for digital transformation and reinvention through AI. I met Phil Armstrong, the Global Chief Information Officer and Executive Vice-President at The Great-West Life Assurance Company while speaking at event for them in Toronto. Great West Life is a 32 billion dollar financial services holding company with interests in the life insurance, health insurance, investment and retirement savings, and reinsurance businesses. Armstrong has been a key driver of adopting automation to transform their operating model, and we spoke about the challenges of embracing AI while maintaining legacy platforms, digital ethics, his vision for a ‘factory of bots’, and the new kinds of algorithmic talent that companies will need to thrive in this environment.
I met Tiffani a number of years ago when we were both speaking to an audience of business leaders focused on digital transformation. I was struck by her pragmatic message around navigating the difficult choices that surround achieving sustainable growth, and was keen to interview her for my show. Tiffani is the Global Customer Growth and Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce. Prior to that she spent ten years at Gartner as a distinguished analyst and research fellow. Catching up with her in Los Angeles recently, we spoke about her latest book, ‘Growth IQ’, and what leaders need to be thinking about today as they plan their next smart move.
Mark Pesce has been living in the future for longer than just about anyone I know. He was one of the original pioneers of virtual reality, having invented VRML, the standard for 3D on the Web and a core component of MPEG-4. He is the author of 6 books, including "VRML: Browsing and Building Cyberspace", "The Playful World", and, most recently, "The Last Days of Reality". We caught up recently in Sydney where he now lives, to talk about the coming age of algorithms and the perils and pleasures of what it will be like to live in the AI-haunted world of the near future.
For retailers, being data-driven in the 21st century is not a luxury but a matter of survival. Everything is measurable: from engagement to purchase patterns, and that creates the need for leaders who are capable of being both creative and analytical when it comes to integrating data into their decision-making process. To explore this challenge, I spoke with Kshira Saagar, Head of Analytics and Data Sciences at The Iconic, one of Australia’s leading online retailers. Previously at Datalicious and Fairfax, Saagar was responsible for institutionalizing data-driven analytics across the company’s core competencies and building next-generation analytical products for his organization.
We are at a pivotal moment in our society where the forces of accelerating technology are starting to collide with our personal values, social priorities and legal systems. With the rise of AI and automation, knowing how to identify what is right or good in any given situation is becoming both more complex, and more essential. To get to the bottom of some of these challenging issues, I caught up with Dr Simon Longstaff, Executive Director of The Ethics Centre. Longstaff, who has been named as one of AFR Boss’ True Leaders for the 21st century, recently released a fascinating report entitled ‘Ethical By Design: Principles For Good Technology’ - that provides a framework that unifies centuries of philosophical thought, with today’s data-driven dilemmas.
To kick off a new season of Between Worlds, I’m turning the camera and the microphone on myself! What you are about to hear is the first chapter of my brand new audiobook, ‘The Algorithmic Leader: How to be smart, when machines are smarter than you.’ In this book, you will meet many of the leaders, pioneers, and scientists that regular listeners to this show will recognize from previous episodes. What will happen to jobs in a time of accelerating automation? How does the availability of real-time data change the way we need to think and solve problems? What will it take to be an effective leader in a world changed by AI? What are the secrets to successful digital transformation? I’ve synthesized years of research into a set of 10 principles about what it takes to succeed in the algorithmic age. My book is out in early March, but if you enjoy this sample, please download the entire audiobook at Audible (https://mikewal.sh/2DhTobe) or iTunes (https://mikewal.sh/2sAehYP).
The algorithmic age raises new difficult questions about truth and objectivity. For leaders of companies and countries alike, reconciling accountability and transparency, with freedom and privacy have never been more difficult. To debate these issues, I sat down with Andreas Ekström, a Swedish philosopher and author of seven books, known for his writing and lectures on life in the digital age. His TEDx talk on the false objectivity of search results has been viewed over a million times.
I met Aleksandro Grabulov almost a decade ago, when he invited me to speak to the global innovation team at Philips in Amsterdam. Back then, Philips was at a turning point. Shortly after I spoke to the group, they divested a number of their consumer appliance divisions, to focus on opportunities in data-driven health tech and connected devices. Grabulov now leads Philips digital and connected products teams in the US, and was responsible for ground-breaking work around their connected toothbrush product line. We spoke about the future of health tech in the algorithmic age, and what it takes to unleash the forces of disruptive innovation, in the context of traditional organizations.
Sherif Elsayed-Ali leads Amnesty International's global technology and human rights program. Sherif previously established Amnesty’s technology and human rights program and the organization’s artificial intelligence and human rights initiative. We met up in London to talk about the impact of algorithms, automation and AI on freedom, identity and privacy. Given the encroaching power of states and global corporations to collect and analyze data on their citizens and customers, there has never been a more important time for leaders to ask themselves, what is the right moral compass for the algorithmic age?
When AI platforms are not busy beating us at Go or showing us how to drive cars properly, they are also changing the way that companies spend and track money. Talking with Manish Singh, an EVP at Oversight Systems, I learned how machine learning is both automating financial operations, and transforming the way we mitigate risk. Although Manish and I had fun talking about some of my favorite geeky AI topics (probabilistic thinking and the influence of Thomas Bayes), what you may find really interesting, is our discussion on how clerical jobs in the company of the future will not be simply automated, but elevated into something altogether new with very different skills and outcomes.
Steve Cronan started out as the digital asset manager on the Matrix movies in the early 2000s. The experience inspired him to start a company that helped Hollywood Studios and global brands manage vast amounts of content and digital assets across processes, workflows and global markets. If you watched the latest Avengers movie, you would seen Cronan’s company, 5thKind in the credits. Catching up in LA, we spoke about the lessons that studios like Marvel can teach other organizations about digital transformation, and how we are just at the beginning of a new renaissance in AI-powered creativity.
For big organizations, the biggest roadblock to transformation is not technology but culture. How do you design an environment conducive to rapid, constant and often disruptive change? Katz Kiely has spend her career working on such questions. She built the world’s first open innovation platform for HP, re-architected the way a UN agency did business and delivered a ground-breaking project with Intel that connected mobiles, big screens and data to change behaviour. We caught up in London to discuss how leaders and companies can adapt to the new algorithmic era.
One of the most interesting and controversial topics today is the potential impact of AI on employment, economics and politics. Calum Chace has written a number of bestselling books on these topics including ‘Surviving AI’ and ‘The Economic Singularity’. We met up in London to talk about the broader social consequences of superintelligence, the merits of a Universal Basic Income, and how the concept of work and employment might radically change in the future.
The platforms and devices provided by Big Tech pervade every aspect of our private and public lives. They promise a more efficient, social and entertaining world, but how far should we trust this new algorithmic oligarchy with our future? Author and futurist Lucie Greene has spent the last few years studying this question for her book, ‘Silicon States’. I caught up with her in New York to discuss what drives these organizations, and what might happen when they move beyond social media and search, to reinventing other sectors like space travel, education, finance or the housing market.
Geoffrey Hinton, one of the world’s most renowned computer scientists has argued that ‘we should stop training radiologists right now’, and that as a result of AI, most would be out of a job within 5 years. But is this really true? Dr Hugh Harvey has a unique perspective on this question, having worked both sides of the fence - both as consultant radiologist, and also as leader in the AI space first at Babylon Health, and currently as the Clinical Lead at Kheiron Medical. Catching up with Hugh in London, I was keen to find out about the impact of algorithms on employment in the healthcare, and what it might mean to be a radiologist in the 21st century.
Martin Raymond is one of the world’s most respected consumer forecasters. He is the co-founder of The Future Laboratory, is editor-in-chief of Viewpoint magazine and LS:N Global, the online lifestyle news and consumer insight portal. Author of a number of books including ‘The Tomorrow People’ and ‘The Trend Forecaster’s Handbook’, he has a unique perspective on the skills required to anticipate future consumer behavior. Visiting him in their London headquarters, and provisioned with a very English cup of tea, we spoke about the evolution of the ‘business of the future’, and how the algorithmic age is creating new challenges for understanding and building trust with customers.
Ali Parsa is a fascinating leader and entrepreneur. Founder of Babylon Health, a company that is working with algorithms and AI to reinvent the healthcare industry, Ali has been both an influential and provocative figure at the intersection of medicine, business and technology. A few years ago, he was an early guest on the Between Worlds podcast. Since then, Babylon has expanded globally to Africa and China - as well as achieving significant advances with their own AI systems. I caught up with Ali again to learn more about his early experiences fleeing Iran as a child, where AI-first healthcare is going next, and what it takes to design successful, algorithmic organizations.
Daniel, a British expert in AI and machine learning, founded Satalia, one of the world’s first companies that brought algorithms from the academic world, into practical application at organizations. He has a Masters and Doctorate in Artificial Intelligence from UCL, lecturing in Computer Science and Business, and spoken everywhere from TED to the Singularity University. We caught up in London to discuss the latest developments in AI, the new kinds of people that algorithmic organizations will need to hire, and his own experiments in designing a management model without traditional KPIs and hierarchies.
GlaxoSmithKline, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, is in the midst of a fascinating digital transformation. To accelerate their process, they recently created a new chief digital and technology officer role, and brought on the former CIO of Walmart to fill it. They have been active in applying AI to drug discovery and clinical trials, have sought to use inhalers with clip-on sensors to combat asthma, and have deployed their first medical device mobile app. To get some detail on what was going on behind the scenes of their transformation, I spoke with Adam Raeburn-James, SVP End User and Infrastructure Services and Business Service Centers.
Right before he joined the AI company, Cognitive Scale, Ganesh Padmanabhan was working on his own AI startup aimed at trying to make systems that were able to explain how they reach their conclusions. The real threat of AI is not killer robots or rogue star destroyers, but rather systems that lack accountability, or consideration of their economic impact on job replacement. Speaking at the Cognitive Scale HQ in Austin, Ganesh and I explored some of the big topics around augmenting human intelligence through machine learning, capturing knowledge and talent patterns, and how to personalize customer experiences at scale.
A topic that has fascinated me recently is how the semiconductor industry is changing with the advent of AI and machine learning. We have already seen the stellar rise of NVIDIA, a company previously known for making video gaming cards, once AI developers realized how useful their chips were for deep learning. To get a handle on what’s next for chips, as well as the impact on jobs in that sector, I spoke with Keith Schaub. Keith started out working on radar systems on the famed Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor jet. He is now a VP at Advantest, which is one of the world’s leading manufacturer of automatic test equipment for the semiconductor industry.
Applying the logic of professional gambling to leadership might not strike you as obvious, but Rasmus Andersen is no ordinary thinker. Currently running two football teams with the assistance of data and machine learning, he is also a provocative thinker on human performance. When he became curious about why certain towns and cities produced so many top athletes, he decided to find out himself, venturing from Africa to Korea, in search of the secrets of talent clusters. Those experiences became his bestselling book, ‘The Goldmine Effect’. More recently, in ‘Hunger in Paradise’, he explored why success can be the undoing of companies, even at the peak of their powers. We met up for a coffee in London to talk about what might really drive talent and high performance in the 21st century.
Manoj Narang is one of the world’s leading thinkers, and provocateurs, when it comes to the future of investing. A proponent of high frequency trading, he previously founded Tradeworx before setting up electronic trading and asset manager Mana Partners, with a $1 billion under management. What makes Mana interesting, especially for my research on algorithmic leadership, is Manoj’s vision for tomorrow’s investment manager, is super smart humans augmented by smart AI. When I caught up with him in NYC, he gave me a master class in the secret structures of the investment markets, and how they will be shaped and influenced by machine learning and algorithms.
Chris White is Global CIO of international law firm Clyde & Co, one of the world’s leading legal firms particularly known for their work in the insurance sector. The legal world, deeply conservative and based in tradition, has been under growing pressure to change with rapid changes in technology, AI, machine learning and the increasing algorithmic nature of client’s business activities. Chris, who manages a team of 140 technology across 40 offices globally, is helping drive his firm’s push into automation and case management technology. What will this mean for the future of the law firm? Listen in to find out.
Recently named Founder of the Year by Benzinga, Ramya Joseph is a former banker that combined her knowledge of investment management and machine learning, to create Pefin, the world’s first AI financial advisor. Pefin, which won the People's Choice Award at SXSW in the interactive innovation category, is a neural network which starts with the user’s current finances and projects how they will change over time with market conditions, inflation, taxes, government rules, and the user’s plans. I caught up with Ramya at her company's HQ in New York, where we spoke about the future of algorithmic financial advice, and also what kinds of people AI-first organizations need to hire in order to succeed.
If you have ever been fascinated by the lives of brilliant people like Einstein, Tesla, Curie or Musk - you might have wondered how exactly they were able to do what they do. And, more to the point, what drove them to such impressive achievements? That is a question that Melissa Schilling, a professor at NYU Stern, and author of the bestselling book ‘Quirky: The Remarkable Story of the Traits, Foibles, and Genius of Breakthrough Innovators Who Changed the World’, seeks to answer. I had a coffee with Melissa on a recent trip to New York, and we spoke about what makes these serial innovators tick, and in particular, the personality traits that lead to breakthroughs. What we might think of as impossible - for these people - is simply a place to begin.
I got to spend some time with Tim on a recent trip to Tokyo, when he and his colleagues at KPMG Advisory hosted me for a week of talks and research meetings. Tim is a partner in the Japan practice, where he leads the digital innovation team, and has experienced first hand some of the fascinating characteristics of Japanese business enterprises, and their recent embrace of automation and AI as a way of transforming the way they do things. As we rode in the back of a gleaming black taxi, in heavy Tokyo traffic en-route to a meeting, we spoke about digital transformation in Japan, the shift to probabilistic decision making, and the challenges of changing traditional cultures.
Yossi Ghinsberg is a true adventurer. Although best known for his story of survival when he was lost in an uncharted part of the Bolivian Amazon jungle for three weeks in 1981, he has since led a life of inspiration, motivation and raising awareness for humanitarian causes. His bestselling book, ‘Jungle’, was recently released as a major motion picture starring Daniel Radcliffe. Over a cup of coffee we chatted about life, the universe, and the magic that happens when you find yourself off the beaten track.
If by 2050, 70% of the world’s population will be living in cities - how do we reimagine our infrastructure, resources and services to cope? Bala Mahavaden is one of the thought leaders involved in planning the next generation of super cities in India, the Middle East and Europe. We spoke about the role of data in tomorrow’s cities, digital identity and citizen information, and how predictive analytics might help civic leaders mitigate day-to-day problems and response to crisis.
It would be easy to imagine in this age of Teslas, Powerwalls, and Nest thermostats, that we are somehow on the brink of escaping traditional energy sources forever. Yet, oil, gas and coal persist - and continues to shape economies, nations and industrial policy. Dr. Kent Moors, a global expert on energy and a professor in the Graduate Center for Social and Public Policy at Duquesne University, where he directs the Energy Policy Research Group, has some ideas on why that may be. He has also had a fascinating life. You will hear how I try, unsuccessfully on a number of occasions, to get him to talk about his former life as a covert operative working for the State Department.
Industry 4.0, or the digitization of the world’s manufacturing and logistics ecosystems, represents an incredible opportunity to profoundly reinvent very traditional organizations and processes. In this podcast Frederik Janssen, who is the director responsible for strategy an innovation for IT infrastructure at industrial giant Siemens, outlines how agility has become a way of life in his team, and how important digital transformation is to their future. As manufacturing moves from mass production to mass personalized, IT leaders need to also reimagine what they do, and how they do it.
One of the hardest things for any algorithmic leader is knowing when do nothing at all. This is not an entirely new dilemma. Test pilots in the early days of the space program, struggled with the idea of not having manual controls - even when their own interventions led to deadly mistakes. So just when do humans make good decisions? To get to the bottom of that, I chatted with Jason Collins, a behavioral economist, who has written extensively on these ideas at the Behavioral Scientist, and currently runs the data science team at a major financial regulator. He previously co-led PwC Australia's behavioral economics practice.
The Life Insurance industry is a fascinating case study in the challenges, and the potential rewards of digital transformation. Traditional insurance carriers have been largely slow to transform themselves, with many policies hosted on a multitude of legacy platforms. But change is coming, in the form of new types of insurance companies, like Haven Life, a spin-off from MassMutual, which uses AI and machine learning to radically reimagine the customer experience. To learn more about this complex industry, I had coffee with Gautam Thakkar, who is the CEO of se2, a company that builds platforms for 21st century insurance carriers.
Mark van Rijmenam is one of the world’s foremost experts on the Blockchain, and its potential impact on the future of the firm. Named as one of the top 10 global big data influencers by Onalytica, he is the author of the book Think Bigger – Developing a Successful Big Data Strategy for Your Business. His latest book is titled Blockchain: How a Revolutionary Technology will Improve Business and Society. After reading some of his research papers, I was fascinated to have a coffee with him and talk about algorithms, smart contracts and what decentralized autonomous organisations might mean for tomorrow’s leadership teams.
Rusty Young has spent his life living, and writing about things that most of us would feel uncomfortable thinking about, let alone actually experiencing. Strangely enough, he and I first met at law school many years ago. But while after graduation, I left to join the digital industry, he travelled to South America where he met Thomas McFadden, a convicted English drug trafficker who ran tours inside Bolivia's famous San Pedro Prison, and ended writing about his story in his first bestselling book, ‘Marching Powder’. Rusty was then recruited as a Program Director of the US government's Anti-Kidnapping Program in Colombia, after which he released a new novel about Colombia's child soldiers called 'Colombiano’, and a documentary on the drug trade called ‘Wildlands’. Catching up with him in Sydney, we spoke about the global drug trade, how Cartels design their technology stack, and the economics of the world’s strangest prison.
Vince Frost is a world renown designer, author, creative impresario, and one of the most brilliant thinkers on human centered design that I know. He is the founder and Executive Creative Director of Frost*collective, Sydney. We met almost a decade ago, when I approached him to design my first book, ‘Futuretainment’ which was published by Phaidon. His inspired work on that book led to a design award by the Art Director’s Club in New York. Before starting Frost* Design, Vince was the youngest Associate Director at Pentagram. In 2004, he relocated to Sydney and, as Executive Creative Director of Frost*collective, has lead a wide range of projects for clients such as Deutsche Bank, Qantas, Frasers Property and the Sydney Opera House. His latest book is called, ‘Design Your Life’, and is well worth a read. Vince dropped around to my beach pad in Bondi for a coffee, and we took the time to chat about the future of design, and how everyone, even business leaders, could benefit from thinking more like designers.
Artificial intelligence and automation are disrupting the business of law, leading to faster, more accurate decision making and improved access to justice. But what exactly will this mean for the future of lawyers, and law firms? To find out I spoke with Paul Greenwood, CIO at Clifford Chance - one of the top ten law firms in the world, and a member of the "Magic Circle" of leading British law firms. Some of the issues we discussed include the impact of algorithms on complex document analysis, whether AI tools trained against a firm's accumulated knowledge might also be a source of competitive advantage, and how companies might be able to automate strategic decision making in the future.
I first met the writer Molly Flatt in Bogota, Colombia a number of years ago, but to continue our discussion on the future of books and publishing, we arranged to meet in an equally interesting, although somewhat less exotic, bar in Fitzrovia, London. A prolific journalist and researcher into digital trends, Molly is the Associate Editor for FutureBook, Digital Editor for PHOENIX magazine and Associate Editor for the Memo, and writes regularly for publications such as the BBC and the Guardian. Her debut novel is entitled The Charmed Life of Alex Moore.
Peter Sheahan is one of the smartest people I know, and the perfect choice for our first podcast guest of 2018. An expert on business transformation, he runs Karrikins Group with staff in more than 23 cities across seven countries. He is the author of seven bestselling books, including the recently released ‘Matter: Move Beyond the Competition, Create More Value, and Become the Obvious Choice’. When our paths crossed again recently, we caught up over a meal and spent some time debating recent market moves by players like Amazon and CVS, and what it really takes for established companies to fundamentally reinvent themselves.
The new luxury consumer has never been more different. They're younger. They're more connected. They're more global, and more demanding of brands than at any time in history. To understand the significance of digital for the future of luxury, I caught up with Mohamed Marfouk, Global Operations Director of LVMH at their headquarters in Paris.
In an age of multiplying devices, platforms and social media channels - it can be tempting to forget the classic lessons of marketing and branding. On a recent trip to Miami, I caught up with Bruce Turkel, an author and marketing guru who has helped some of the world’s leading brands including Hasbro, Nike, American Express and Citicorp. We chatted about the challenges of marketing in this new fluid digital environment, and why some things - like discovering the authentic truth of your brand - will never change.
Sometimes the hardest thing for any leader to do, is to actually do nothing and just listen. For Michael Bungay Stanier, a bestselling author and a world-leading expert on coaching - the best way to engage someone in a meaningful conversation is to know the right questions to ask. Speaking with me over a coffee in Toronto, Michael (who left Australia 25 years ago to be a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University) explained the 7 simple questions that leaders should start with, and that where explored in his latest book, ‘The Coaching Habit’. My own question was perhaps a little more troubling: why will coaching still be important in the algorithmic, AI-dominated companies of tomorrow?
I was in LA over Halloween, and so took the opportunity to look up one of my favorite genre-bending, sci-fi authors - Peter Clines. Peter has a number of brilliant books including ’14’, ‘The Fold’, and his latest, ‘Paradox Bound’, which he originally pitched to his agent as a cross between Neil Gaiman’s ‘Neverwhere’ and ‘Cannonball Run’. Growing up in Stephen King's hometown of Maine, his first epic novel at the age of eight was ‘Lizard Men From The Center of The Earth’. In the bright glare of the LA sun, we spoke at length about a wide range of geeky topics from time-travel to the occult, evil stars to parallel universes.
The war for the living room used to be simple: influence whoever was in charge of the family TV’s remote control. With the rise of the Internet of Things, smart speakers, and AI-enabled home automation systems - the home itself has become the next computing platform. To get a handle on what the future of smart homes might look like, I caught up with Alex Capecelatro in LA. Alex started his career as a research scientist for NASA, the Naval Research Lab, and Sandia National Lab. He later joined Fisker Automotive, ran his own startup, At The Pool, before creating Josh.ai, an AI agent for the home.
If, at first, you are unconvinced of Dr Fox’s biographical assertion that he is a ‘modern day wizard-rogue’, you will certainly, when presented in the flesh, be assured by his impressive beard. Bestselling author of ‘The Game Changer’ and ‘How to Lead a Quest: a handbook for pioneering executives’, Jason is a thoroughly unconventional thinker on leadership, creativity and designing 21st century work environments. We caught up in London to talk about how we might need to reimagine the idea of work, in the post-algorithmic rubble of the robot job apocalypse.
Healthcare is on the brink of a profound transformation, enabled by data, analytics and algorithms. As the health ecosystem moves from providing ‘sick care’, to an integrated, human-centric approach to helping people manage wellness - providers, payers and pharmaceutical manufactures will need to change. I spoke with healthcare analytics experts, D. Sahay and Rohan Fernando, from the global advisory group, ZS Associates, about how leaders can learn to make decisions based on data and algorithms rather than experience and excel spreadsheets.
Natalie Panek is an inspiring young innovator, with dreams of playing a dynamic role in the future of space exploration. A rocket scientist, she was recently named one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women by the Women’s Executive Network, a Forbes 30 under 30 2015, and “a vocal advocate for women in technology” by The Financial Post. In her spare time she has designed and driven a solar-powered car across North America, and builds space robotics.
I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about logistics. Supply chains might not strike you as a particularly interesting topic, but if you think about it, one of the first industries to be disrupted by our obsession with ordering everything and anything online, is the complex business of moving things around. To get a better handle on just what that kind of complexity entails, I met up with Rob van Egmond in Amsterdam, who runs a company called Quintiq. In Rob’s view, complexity is the natural state of 21st century companies. Trying to control it is futile. The key to mastery is reacting to it with agility.
From humble beginnings as street performance in a small Quebec town in 1984, Cirque du Soleil has grown to become the world’s most diverse, and dynamic brand of creative performances. On a recent visit to Las Vegas, which is home to seven permanent Cirque productions, I caught up with Jay Guilford, who is the creative content strategist for their team building program, SPARK. SPARK helps big companies embrace some of the innovation and creativity that is at the heart of the Cirque du Soleil shows, albeit without some of the accompanying acrobatics of course.
Montreal, it turns out, is ground zero for some of the best and brightest in the emergent AI community. Look closely at the newly hired AI ranks at Google, Uber or Facebook and you will lots of expat Canadians. Now, a new company called Element AI, is working to help other companies apply the very same cutting edge deep-learning research to commercial problems from manufacturing to logistics. One of the co-founders of Element AI is JS Cornoyer, who also started Montreal Startup and Real Ventures. Catching up at his co-working digs in downtown Montreal, we spoke about the future of deep-learning, and the kinds of empathetic skills that will be prized in humans in a post-automation future.
Andy Harries runs Left Bank Pictures - which, if you happen to love shows like the Crown, Outlander, Strike Back, Cold Feet or Prime Suspect - is probably responsible for much of your time spent staring blankly a screen. Andy and I met when I was running a strategy workshop for Sony Pictures Television in London. Catching up over a cup of tea, we chatted about how the rise of ‘OTT’ entertainment brands is changing the business of television, what it was like to raise teenager kids who became overnight YouTube stars, and the strange, dark corners of British creativity.
Starting work in the nineties, I quickly discovered that professional mastery had a lot to do with your ability to manipulate complex Excel spreadsheets. Analysts crunched numbers, programmers cracked code. These days, 21st century companies are trying to do the exact opposite - putting the power to create software and automate activities, in the hands of people closest to the work. Rick Willett, CEO of Quickbase, is one of the people leading this no-code revolution. Formerly at GE, and now focused on reinventing enterprise collaboration, we spoke about the future of work and the power of algorithmic decision making.
I caught up with Jamie Metzl for a coffee in Bryant Park, New York. A fellow futurist, geopolitical expert and sci-fi novelist - suffice to say, we had lots to chat about. Jamie is a Senior Fellow of the Atlantic Council, serves on the Advisory Council to Walmart’s Future of Retail Policy Lab, and even ran (unsuccessfully) for the U.S. House of Representatives. It seemed strangely appropriate that our topic of conversation - human performance and leveraging technology to live much longer - was with someone who himself completed thirteen Ironman triathlons, twenty-nine marathons, and twelve ultramarathons.
With more than 200 inches of snow each year, and a good eight hour drive from a major city, Michigan Tech didn’t see many recruiters from outside of the Midwest. That didn’t seem right to Garrett Lord. Why should talent be located just in geographies closest to tech companies? After driving to college campuses across the country, he realized that student access to opportunities was universally unequal, and so along with Scott Ringwelski and Ben Christensen, decided to form Handshake to reinvent the college recruiting business. I caught up with Garrett in Las Vegas, to talk about how data might change the way companies find, recruit and manage talent in the future.
Magnus is a cool guy. As a fellow futurist, speaker and writer, we had met another times professionally over the years, in a variety of cities - but most recently in Kuala Lumpur, we got to properly hang out, and talk about a wide range of seemingly unconnected, but hopefully interesting things. Magnus is Director for Trendspotting and Future Thinking at Stockholm School of Entrepreneurship, and an active member of TED. His most recent book Minifesto (2016) tells us why small ideas matter in the world of grand narratives.
Arthur Hayes has a big idea. He wants to build the Goldman Sachs of Bitcoin. Starting life as an equity derivatives trader, on his first day of trading, Lehman Brothers collapsed. A few years ago, he formed BitMEX, the Bitcoin Mercantile Exchange. BitMEX is trading platform that gives retail investors access to the global financial markets using Bitcoin, the Blockchain, and financial derivatives. BitMEX through the use of Bitcoin as collateral, allows anyone anywhere to trade any type of financial asset. The vision is that even the unbanked in emerging markets, with just a $1 to invest or save, might be served by this entirely new model of financial services.
I met William almost ten years ago when he was a technology analyst in Hong Kong, and I was consulting for Star TV. The Chinese Internet was already rapidly evolving then, and now, a decade later, the combination of a sophisticated technology, a mobile-first culture and relative isolation behind a national firewall, has led to a vastly different digital ecosystem. Based in Shanghai, William is now an Investment Partner at SOSV and the Managing Director of Chinaccelerator. William joined SOSV from SingTel Innov8 where he was the Managing Director supporting China investment activities. Previously William was a Partner at Softbank China & India Holdings, an early stage venture capital firm backed by Softbank of Japan and Cisco.
Whether it be Brexit, terrorism or a tumultous general election - the UK seems to be a crucible for many of the global forces that threaten to overturn the status quo. To get a better sense of what all that might mean for 21st century companies - I caught up with David Mattin in London. David is the Head of Trends & Insights at TrendWatching. Previously a writer at The Times, David’s work has appeared everywhere from Fast Company to the Guardian to Google Think Quarterly. We spoke about his latest research on ‘truthful consumerism’ and how leaders can try and navigate a time of such rapid, and unpredictable change.
Chris is a thought leader in the media industry. He previously ran strategy for the global content infrastructure business known as Akamai, and over the last 12 years, has sourced, negotiated and closed high level media and technology deals and partnerships for companies such as NBC Universal, Hulu, ESPN, ABCNews, Microsoft, 24/7 Real Media and Disney. Over breakfast in NYC, I did my best to gain a crash course in the new economics of attention, and the secret infrastructure that makes today’s streaming platforms possible.
Ted Persson is one of the most interesting and creative thinkers in the Nordic tech scene. Currently a Design Partner with Swedish private equity group, EQT, he previously founded digital agency Great Works, as well as Our/Vodka, a global vodka made by local people in cities around the world run by Pernod Ricard. We met a few years back while I was working on the board of his agency’s parent company, the North Alliance. Reconnecting in Stockholm, we talked about the secrets of Swedish startup success, how brands are changing the way they think about data, and the broader impact of AI on the creative professional.
Juan Senor is somewhat of an international man of mystery. We met in Guayaquil in Ecuador, but it was in the more salubrious settings of the Oxford and Cambridge Club in London that we re-connected most recently. A former foreign affairs reporter and business program host, conversant in six languages, and a partner in a consulting firm that helps newspapers reinvent themselves, Juan had just returned from an expedition in Antartica to study climate change. An appropriate context, perhaps, for our discussion about what the ailing print media industry might do to also save itself.
Jeremy Philips is the epitome of smart money. He is currently a General Partner of Spark Capital, which is behind disruptive innovators like Slack and Wealthfront, but many would know him from his provocative columns in the New York Times. Prior to Spark, Jeremy co-founded ecorp, Australia’s leading, publicly traded Australian internet company, and was also Executive Vice President at News Corporation, focusing on digital strategy and acquisitions. We caught up for a coffee in New York, to talk about the difference between true disruption and great execution, whether we should be frightened about the ‘frightful five’, and what it takes to gain competitive advantage in a networked age.
Nikolaj Nyholm is one of the most prolific European entrepreneurs and investors. When I first met him many years ago, he was on the verge of selling his pioneering image recognition company, Polar Rose, to Apple. Previously, he also founded Speednames/Ascio (acquired by Group NBT) and Imity (acquired by Zyb/Vodafone). Nikolaj’s new passion is gaming. His latest venture is RFRSH, an esports marketing and media rights company working with a growing number of the best player-owned esports teams including Astralis, Godsent, Heroic, and Norse. I caught up with Nikolaj at his brand new elite, training facility in Copenhagen to talk about the future of professional gaming, digital branding and the art of avoiding tilting.
I met Kjell Nordström a number of years ago in Oslo. He and his colleague Jonas Ridderstrale, who had written the international bestselling book, ‘Funky Business’, were the equally bald, brilliant rockstars of Swedish innovation. Fortunately, I was able to catch Kjell again, while I was visiting Norway. Currently a Professor at the Institute of International Business (IIB) at the Stockholm School of Economics, Kjell is an expert on global markets, big ideas and creativity. We spoke about his latest book, ‘Urban Express’, co-authored with Per Schlingmann, which details why the future belongs to cities, women and new types of global organisations.
Matt Pearson, along with Fleet’s other two co-founders, saw an opportunity to use nanosatellites to enable the world’s next industrial revolution, the connection of the estimated 75 billion devices set to come online over the next decade. Beginning in 2018, their plan is to launch more than 100 nanosatellites into space to create a free, global network. Just following a recent fundraising with Niki Scevak at Blackbird Ventures, Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes and other investors - I caught up with Matt in Sydney to talk about why the future of global communications is cheap, small and disposable.
I met David, many years ago, at a cafe on Bondi Beach. Originally from California, he had moved to Australia for work, and for the last 20 or so years, had made a name for himself as a fashion photographer, whose work had been featured in international editions of Vogue, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Style and Shape among others. Then, about eight years ago, everything changed when a friend was diagnosed with breast cancer. Soon after, David began The SCAR Project which documented survivors of breast cancer. Following this series, David continued to dedicate his work to capturing often unseen aspects of humanity, including The Unknown Soldier, The Alabama Project, Grief Camp, and Naked Ladies. Jay’s photography has been published in the New York Times, BBC, LIFE, Forbes, USA Today, and countless other publications throughout the world.
Dan Anthony and Sean McKeever are architects and leaders of NBBJ's design computation team. NBBJ is the go-to architecture firm for when the world’s biggest technology brands – Google and Amazon in the US, and Alipay and Tencent in China - want to build innovative, new workspaces. Over coffee in their headquarters in Seattle we spoke about parametric design and how algorithms are now being used, in conjunction with learnings from neuroscience, to optimize workspaces for productivity, collaboration and wellbeing.
Bradly Trevor Greive is an extraordinary person. He has written 25 books, which have sold over 30 million copies in 115 different countries, several of which have appeared in the New York Times bestseller list, including his classic title, ‘The Blue Day Book’. But that is only a small part of a resume that reads more like the bio of the world’s most interesting man. A certified Cosmonaut, a former Paratrooper Platoon Commander in the Australian Army, a Polynesian Rock-Lifting Champion, and a survivor of 17 surgeries to date - comedian John Cleese once described his life as ‘one long suicide attempt’. Meeting up in LA, we spoke on the importance of conservation in his work, why Bertrand Russell’s essay in praise of idleness is so important in the 21st century, and the challenges of surviving Hollywood.
I caught up with Ross Dawson, a fellow futurist and an Australian native, on a recent trip back home to Bondi Beach. Ross is a futurist, and the author of four books including the Amazon.com bestseller ‘Developing Knowledge-Based Client Relationships’, and the acclaimed book Living Networks, which foresaw the social networking revolution. Over coffee we riffed over some areas of common interest, in particular the impact of AI on the future of decision-making and work.
For as long as I’ve known him, Brady Forrest has been at the very epicenter of whatever the West Coast alpha geeks think is going to be the next big thing. I met him around 2008 when he was running the brilliant ETech conference for O’Reilly Media - which incidentally, was one of the first public tech talks that I ever gave. Since then he cofounded Ignite, a talk series which has been held thousands of times around the world - as well as Highway1, a hardware accelerator which has helped launch over 58 hardware startups.
A member of the infamous MIT Blackjack Team, Jeff Ma was the inspiration for the best-selling book ‘Bringing Down the House’ and the hit movie, ’21’. A successful entrepreneur and expert on analytics, he is also a pioneer in the ‘Moneyball’ movement working with professional sports teams like the San Francisco 49ers and the Portland Trail Blazers to help them make better decisions with data. After selling his latest business, tenXer to Twitter, Jeff now works there as Senior Director of Business Insights. We met up for a coffee in San Francisco to chat about what playing Blackjack can teach you about overcoming cognitive bias, the quantification of work and what it takes to be truly data-driven.
Daniel Kraft is a Stanford and Harvard trained physician-scientist, inventor, entrepreneur, and innovator. I met him some years ago at the Singularity University, where he was chair of the Medicine Track. Daniel is also the Executive Director of Exponential Medicine, a program that explores convergent, rapidly developing technologies and their potential in biomedicine and healthcare. On a recent visit to Silicon Valley, I caught up with him to talk about how traditional medicine is being disrupted by the digital age.
If you have ever picked up a copy of the New York Times, you have probably come across one of Carl Richards and his insightful, back-of-the-napkin drawings and posts that illuminate the basics of money. A financial planner, and author of The One-Page Financial Plan: A Simple Way to Be Smart About Your Money and The Behavior Gap: Simple Ways to Stop Doing Dumb Things with Money - Carl is a fascinating thinker on the future of wealth. We spoke about his latest research on uncertainty, financial planning for freelancers, and why human advisors will remain relevant even in an age of algorithms.
Richard Holden, a Professor of Economics at UNSW Business School, is one of the world’s leading experts on contract theory. He has also been a Visiting Professor of Economics at the MIT Department of Economics and Visiting Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School - and has written extensively on the boundary of the firm, incentives in organizations, mechanism design, and voting rules. Many years ago, he was also one of my debating rivals at university. After running into each other on a flight to Dallas recently, we caught up to discuss some of his recent research on why so much wealth is controlled by so few, the impact of smart contracts and the Blockchain on the future design of companies, and why now is a good time to brush up on our understanding of game theory.
Tamer Nakisci is an award-winning Turkish designer with a strong vision and fascination for the future. He started his career at Fiat Advanced Design Concept Lab – Milan in 2004. His design for a flexible, wearable "Nokia 888" concept phone over a decade ago inspired device designs that are only now becoming a reality. Most recently his work was featured in the 2017 Wallpaper Magazine design awards. We caught up in Istanbul to talk about the future of design, the challenges of creating technology that is formless and adaptable, and how creativity comes alive when you provide tools without instructions.
While in Sydney, I caught up with Peter Xing, a key figure in the Australian transhumanism movement, and an expert on business automation. We spoke about the road to building cognitive enterprises, why we need to shift from thinking about digitizing documents to smart contracts, and why the first step in any good digital transformation is defining processes in a way to make your company ‘machine readable’.
Art Morales is the CTO at Analgesic Solutions, a clinical research company focused on the conduct of clinical trials in pain. I caught up with Art to try and understand how emerging technologies like data, AI and algorithms will impact the way we both research and test new medicines in the future. One of the most interest areas of innovation is the cross pollination of ideas and frameworks from one industry to other. To that end, Art and his team are bringing in concepts from manufacturing and statistical process control to monitor and improve the effectiveness of clinical trials for pain medication. Upon completing his Ph.D. with Dr. Paul Schimmel at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Art started his career with Genome Therapeutics as a Senior Computational Biologist. He subsequently led a variety of teams at various companies including the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, where he was Global lead for Biology Platform Informatics.
Perry Oosting, who started his life as a gold and silversmith, is now the CEO of famed Swedish camera manufacturer, Hasselblad. It is hard to overstate the significance of Hasselblad in the world of imaging. Most famously, the iconic camera was used during the Apollo program missions when humans first landed on the Moon. I myself learned studio photography and black and white printing, while using a Hasselblad 500CM. The first time I looked down through the viewfinder with this cult camera held at hip level, was like catching a glimpse of a strange, beautifully inverted version of reality. I met Perry a number of years ago, when he was the CEO of luxury phone manufacturer, Vertu - and given his twenty year background with brands like Prada, Bulgari and Gucci, I was interested why he has decided to ban the word luxury at Hasselblad and what the future of the company might hold, given their recent strategic investment by Chinese drone manufacturer, DJI.
Mark Bowden is an expert in human behaviour and body language. His bestselling books include the bestselling Winning Body Language; Winning Body Language for Sales Professionals ; and Tame the Primitive Brain – 28 Ways in 28 Days to Manage the Most Impulsive Behaviors at Work. Bowden originally received a university degree in performance in the UK, and studied the gesture-control methods of Jacques Lecoq’s Laboratory of Movement in Paris. He then went on to work with leading practitioners of movement psychology, building upon the influence techniques of Dr. Milton Erickson. When we met up in Toronto, he explained to me how the ancient survival instincts of our brain wire us to interpret gesture, and what this means for the future of both human communication and also the design of machines that can understand and relate to us.
Ken Rutkowski is, hands down, one of the most connected people I’ve ever met. And not in that very East Coast, I know everyone, sort of way, But rather, in a friendly West Coast, I know just the person who can help you, manner. Many years ago I spoke at his weekly METal (Media, Entertainment and Technology Alpha Leaders) event which has become a key node in what Ken calls the ‘Creative Coast’, an emerging epicentre of innovation and disruption in Los Angeles. Ken Rutkowski founded ‘Business Rockstars’, which was the number one business radio talk show in America, heard on over 185 radio stations nationwide, reaching 3.5 Million daily listeners. Catching up in Las Vegas, we had a far ranging discussion about the power of podcasting, the future of radio, why Apple needs to become a content company, why LA is better than NYC, the merits of uploading your personality into the Cloud, why Ken has been using electroshock therapy to boost his IQ and whether or not the Chinese have figured out quantum encryption.
Ali Parsa, founder of Babylon Health, has created an extraordinary platform — an app-based service that cost-effectively connects top GPs with patients via their smartphones, and is the UK’s leading digital healthcare service. Babylon allows its users to book a video consultation with a GP in minutes, or message with a photo to receive an answer for simpler questions. The true aim of the service is to leverage realtime data, adaptive health monitoring and clinically curated machine learning to detect diseases more quickly and ultimately prevent them before they happen. Visiting him at his head office in London, we spoke about the future impact of AI on the provision of healthcare services, how data changes the way we think about wellness and why the digital delivery of medical advice will transform the lives of millions in the developing world. Ali is a former investment banker at Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch. He previously created Circle, a multi-million pound business running private hospitals across Britain. He was named by the Times among the 100 global people to watch in 2012, and by HSJ among the 50 most influential people in UK healthcare.
Ron Tite is a very funny guy - not to mention, a very creative one. Named one of the 'Top 10 Creative Canadians' by Marketing Magazine, he’s been an award-winning advertising writer and creative director for some of the world’s most respected brands, including Air France, Evian, Hershey, Johnson & Johnson, Kraft, Intel, Microsoft, and Volvo. Once a professional comedian, he now helps brands develop their content and storytelling strategy. Executive Producer & Host of the Canadian Comedy Award-winning show Monkey Toast, Ron is also a featured marketing expert on the new Mark Burnett-produced business reality show, Dream Funded. His latest book, ‘Everyone’s An Artist (Or At Least They Should Be)’ explores why the most successful executives and entrepreneurs have learned to think like artists. We caught up in Toronto to talk about the power of reinvention, counterintuitive thinking and how comedy teaches you to rebel and break the rules.
I had an interesting coffee with Eric Schoenberg in New York recently. He is an adjunct professor who teaches about family wealth at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and also a member of a group known as the Patriotic Millionaires, who believe counter-intuitively, that he and other wealthy people, should be made to pay more tax. Facts like that twenty Americans own more wealth than half the population bother him, and are a reason why he believes that the US system is in need of reform. Eric saw first hand the effects of greed and wealth on human decision making. Having been involved in the first dotcom boom during the nineties at Broadview International, and the experience had led him to conducting research on the psychology of money and asset market bubbles. Since then he has taught behavioural economics and leadership at Columbia Business School, NYU's Stern School of Business, and the Haas Business School of the University of California at Berkeley. We reminisced about the strange digital tulip-mania of the late 90s, and why in the midst of a bubble people seem want to take on more risk even though they feel like they are making a lot of money.
Memory has also fascinated me - from the stories of the memory palaces of famous classical orators and artists, to the vast armada of 21st century tools that allow us to capture, process and share moments in our lives. In London for a few days, I met up with Dr Julia Shaw, who is a senior lecturer and researcher in the Department of Law and Social Sciences at London South Bank University. Author of "The Memory Illusion”, and a frequent speaker at technology conferences including a tedX event at Burning Man this year - she is more curiously known as a ‘memory hacker’. Julia’s research focuses on false memories, and in 2015 she published a study with Stephen Porter in which she succeeded to get 70% of the participants to falsely remember a crime from their past. Over a cup of tea in the lobby of the Edition Hotel, she explained the art of manipulating memory, how the way we remember things is shaped by modern technology and algorithms, and why AI designers are so interested in the imperfect nature of human cognition.
With every new connected device, messaging application or digital service that enters our lives - it becomes increasingly difficult to resist the seductive lure of technology on our attention. For Natasha Schull, a cultural anthropologist and associate professor in the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, the addictive nature of devices, whether slot machines or smart phones, is no accident. In her recent book, ADDICTION BY DESIGN: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas, she explored the relationship between technology design and the experience of addiction. Her next book, KEEPING TRACK: Personal Informatics, Self-Regulation, and the Data-Driven Life concerns the rise of digital self-tracking technologies and the new modes of introspection and self-governance they engender. Meeting up in Soho, New York - we spoke about the nature of addiction and what makes the design of a particular technology so enthralling, the strange trance-like states that gamblers experience, the quantification of work and life, and why smartphones are a kind of ‘Skinner box’.
If you are a fan of animated comedy, chances are you have laughed at a joke written by Mike Reiss. Mike Reiss is the four-time Emmy award-winning producer, a 28 year veteran of ‘The Simpsons’ and has contributed to more than two dozen animated films — including four ‘Ice Age’ movies, two ‘Despicable Mes’, ‘The Lorax’, ‘Rio’, ‘Kung Fu Panda 3’, and ‘The Simpsons Movie’ – with a worldwide gross of $8 billion. He was the showrunner behind Season 4 of ‘The Simpsons’, which Entertainment Weekly called ‘the greatest season of the greatest show in history.’ Mike has also seventeen children’s books, including the best-seller ‘How Murray Saved Christmas’ and the award-winning ‘Late for School’. I caught up with Mike at his apartment in New York City to learn about the dark arts of writing comedy, the impact of the digital age on content, and why China and Latin America are such important export markets for entertainment.
I met Seth at this secret, underground gathering of thinkers in New York, known as ‘The Influencers’ where he was giving a disturbingly funny talk entitled ‘you can tell a lot about a man by the sex bot he makes for himself.’ Seth Porges is a journalist covering a wide range of topics from pop culture to emerging technologies. He has written for everyone from TechCrunch to Maxim, and is a regular commentator on numerous televisions shows on the National Geographic, Discovery and History channels. I probably should have asked him about the reference in his Wikipedia profile about his work as a test pilot on the maiden voyage of an experimental pulse jet-powered carousel, but we ran out of time talking about why pinball was once a moral hazard in New York City, the challenges of translating social interactions in virtual reality and the future of robotics.
When Roy walked into my apartment in Hong Kong. it felt like I was about to get a spirited lesson from the blind sensei Stick, from the comic series Daredevil. I had grown up watching Roy as a kid, playing characters in the Bruce Lee and Jackie Chain Kung Fu movies I loved. Since retiring from film, Roy has gone on to become a global expert in creativity and innovation, founding Innovea, a company specializing in high performance and well-being for both business and education sectors. Roy also teaches as an assistant professor at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s School of Design where he focuses on creative and higher order thinking as both a teacher and researcher. In this podcast episode, we shared a fascinating discussion on the power of meditation and mindfulness, and its links to creativity and break-through thinking.
Talking to Robyn Benincasa about performance - a world champion adventure racer, a CNN hero and a full time firefighter - was a bit like interviewing Sarah O’Connor about her thoughts on Judgement Day. Robyn is the ultimate adventure addict. She holds three Guinness World Records for distance paddling, and has competed in the extreme sport of adventure racing from the jungles of Borneo to the Himalayan peaks of Tibet, the rivers of Fiji to the rainforests of Ecuador and the desert of Namibia. These experiences have given her a unique perspective on what it takes to build successful teams, and what leaders need to become, if they want to inspire commitment rather than simply securing compliance.
Ted C. Fishman is a global expert on populations, demographics and emerging markets. When we met up in Chicago, he slipped through the crowded hotel lobby to greet me, in a wonderful Indonesian batik shirt - like a covert character from a Graham Greene spy novel. Ted is a veteran journalist, essayist and former member and trader of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. His most recent book, Shock of Gray, The Aging of the World’s Population and How it Pits Young Against Old, Child Against Parent, Worker Against Boss, Company Against Rival, and Nation Against Nation looks at how the aging of the world is propelling globalization, redefining nearly every important relationship we have and changing life for everyone young and old. He also wrote the international bestseller, China, Inc.: How the Rise of the Next Superpower Challenges America and the World, which describes the effects of China's emergence as a world power on the lives and businesses of people across the globe. In this podcast, we had a wide-ranging chat about the future impact of shifting population demographics on global growth, the rapid urbanization of China and how technology has impacted daily life there, as well as Ted’s latest journeys and insights about the Indonesian market.