Gerd Leonhard


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About Gerd Leonhard - Keynote Speaker, Futurist & Humanist, Author, CEO The Futures Agency, Film-Maker:

Gerd Leonhard’s passions are the future of humanity, culture, society - and business in the face of exponential technological progress. In his keynotes, talks, presentations, and seminars, Gerd addresses topics such as digital ethics (the ethics of technology), artificial intelligence (AI), the future of work and jobs, rebooting education, the digital transformation of business and society, the future of politics - and many more issues focussing on the next 5-10 years.

In a world dominated by technology, data and algorithms, robots and intelligent machines - what will it mean to be human? Are humans and machines really destined to ‘converge’? What do we need to do, today - to make sure that human happiness and collective flourishing remain the most important objectives? Is our current economic system suitable for a future where technology is virtually unlimited?

Gerd’s latest best-selling book is Technology vs. Humanity - now available in 10+ languages. He is also a film-maker, to view his videos - please visit Vimeo and Youtube.

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What Gerd Leonhard Talks About:

Scientific break-throughs, exponential technological progress, economic growth and jobs often dominate the discussions when we ponder the future. However, as the world is going rapidly digital, Gerd believes it is our humanity that needs the most attention – and it is our humanity that will make all the difference in a world dominated by algorithms and smart machines. Our future is to become more human, not less – and the biggest danger today is not that machines will eliminate us, but that we become too much like them!

Consider how quickly the world is changing: data is now really the new oil, artificial intelligence is becoming the new electricity – and the Internet of Things could well be the world’s new nervous system. Digital giants and social media platforms have replaced banks and energy conglomerates as the most powerful companies in the world. Algorithms, AI and bots are gearing up to run the show in every industry. What will happen to humans when machines become truly intelligent? What about privacy, secrets, mystery, serendipity, emotions, intuition, imagination, consciousness – and… free will?

This presentation expands on the core themes explored in Gerd’s book Technology vs. Humanity.

AI has become a global buzz-phrase that hogs our attention everywhere – yet the very idea of AI is being frequently misinterpreted, misunderstood and misrepresented. Hopefully Gerd’s presentation will clear up this confusion! From a non-academic perspective Gerd explains the differences between what he calls IA (intelligent assistance), AI and AGI (artificial general intelligence) – and what each of them could mean for our near-future. Gerd depicts what is real – and what’s not so real (yet) and where things are going in the next 5-7 years.

Examples are usually drawn specifically from a client’s domain or industry. This presentation also includes some elements from the Technology vs. Humanity talk, as outlined above – and often addresses the impact of AI on work, education and jobs, as well.

Today, finally – climate change is quickly becoming the dominant narrative: the future of every business and industry, every country, and every one of us will be impacted by what action we do, or don’t take today. Time is running out and dramatic changes are on the horizon – the future will belong to those that can hear it coming.

First, we must face the fact that wide-ranging and disruptive carbon taxes are inevitable. Yet after the initial shock waves – and if done right, carbon taxes might not only inject Trillions of $/€ into climate change adaptation and mitigation measures (a huge opportunity in itself) – but are also going to fund an estimated 100 Million new jobs in all sectors related to sustainability.

Second, the much debated shift to stakeholder-value (rather than shareholder-value) is likely to reboot stock-markets around the world in the next 5-7 years, as we transition from the quickly outmoding, single bottom-line (profit) – to what I call the quadruple bottom-line: people, planet, purpose and prosperity. Sustainable capitalism may be within reach in the next decade!

Thirdly, Gerd believes that 2020 marks the beginning of a New Renaissance as responsible investing – and rapid divestment from fossil fuels, in particular, is quickly becoming a key topic with every fund and every family office, around the globe. As part of this talk, Gerd will also venture beyond climate and energy issues to also address related topics such as the humanly sustainable use of technology.

Gerd has spoken a lot about happiness in his talks since 2015, and it’s an important chapter in his book Technology vs Humanity.

Trust isn’t digital. Machines don’t do relationships. Happiness is not a download – and it can’t be automated or digitized. Yes, technology is great at giving us more or less hedonic pleasures such as free phone calls, access to unlimited music, TV Shows & films – and networking opportunities for business or shopping online. Yet at the same time, unhappiness appears to be rising around the world (as are mental health issues and opioid addiction) – and the power-users of social networks are said to have the highest suicide rate of any population segment. Is technology done wrong – ‘bicycles for the mind but bullets for the soul’?

Does ‘too much technology’ lead to unhappiness? Does too-much-tech prevent us from being open to true happiness? If so, how will we balance technology and our need for real happiness? As big tech offers its hedonistic pleasure traps, how can we protect and pursue those deeper forms of happiness (eudaemonia) – that involve what Gerd calls the ANDRORITHMS such as empathy, compassion, and consciousness? And what about digital well-being?

Technology is very good at giving us what we want – but very bad at giving us what we need. Technology is not what we seek but how we seek. We will not find real happiness on a screen or in VR, or in the cloud.

The first Renaissance was a European movement away from feudal dogma to human artistry and independent thought – led by polymaths such as Leonardo da Vinci. Today, the new dogmas, Technology, Data and Connectivity are endangering human agency – and threatening to literally reprogram us. Something must and can be done.

Based on almost two decades of global experiences and insights as a Futurist, Gerd now outlines his vision of a new human renaissance, essentially an embrace of human sovereignty over medieval dogma – and how we can reassert the human being over its artificial substitution and replacement. For this bold new talk, Gerd rediscovers the spirit of the Renaissance to offer you a new vision based on human genius and human values. Instead of a tech-dominated dystopia full of bots and ‘thinking machines’, Gerd suggests that the future can be one of liberated expression and human mastery.

We have reached peak ‘digital transformation’. If you haven’t heard about why you and your business need to ‘go digital’ or ‘transform into a digital organization’ – you just may have lived under a rock during the past 5 years.

But now that this initial “transform or die” hype is winding down, we are entering an era where it’s no longer just about upgrading your IT systems or investigating new business models – now it’s all about making sense, staging experiences, and creating tangible human benefits.

We must therefore TRANSCEND TECHNOLOGY so we can focus on what really matters – human flourishing and (customer) happiness. We must invest as much in humanity as we invest in technology – today’s unique opportunity is to re-humanize technology so that it serves a deeper purpose.

When humans are treated like algorithms the loss of trust is pre-programmed – and losing trust is something no organization can afford. If you don’t want to end up like some of the global social media platforms who are now facing a jaw-dropping loss of trust, regulation and anti-trust legislation – put the HUMAN back into the centre of everything you do, and the future will be yours!

Successful businesses always maintain a constant conversation about the future: what lessons need to be operationalized today in order to avoid future irrelevance or worse – extinction? For one thing, it’s essential to understand that everything that can be digitized, automated or virtualised will be. Cognification, automation, disintermediation and robotization and 7 other Megashifts – are now taking place across all industries, globally, not just in B2C sectors like media, content and marketing.

Exponential change is certain to be the #1 challenge/opportunity in the next 5-7 years. How can we and our organizations become better at understanding the new challenges and opportunities – and move faster to develop the mindset and implement the transformations that are required? How will a company prosper in a world that is quickly becoming hyper-connected and interdependent? What skills and mindsets will we need, and what should remain human even if it is inefficient?

The top 20 global technology brands and digital platforms are growing exponentially – while many incumbent enterprises and former household-name-brands are forced to ‘pivot’ and dramatically reinvent themselves, or face sudden disintermediation and irrelevance. Witness the media industry, or recently – the incumbent car industry giants in Europe.

In this eye-opening session, Gerd looks at how to evolve into a future-ready organization based on understanding and exploiting The Megashifts – a key meme first presented in Gerd’s book Technology vs. Humanity.

The Megashifts include digitization, automation, datafication, virtualization, robotization, and others (for a total of 11) – and understanding them is the ticket to future success. The Megashifts are fuelled by a multitude of game-changers such as The Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), deep learning and robotics, new human-machine interfaces (such as voice-control and intelligent bots).

In this riveting presentation, Gerd depicts the key trends, reveals the likely minefields – and identifies the key opportunities, dishing up a mixture of future-shock and awesomeness to stimulate some serious thinking.

Science fiction is increasingly becoming science fact. Witness the dramatic technological advances in robotics, artificial intelligence, human genome manipulation, autonomous vehicles – and quantum computing. Gerd reckons that in 10 years technology will be almost limitlessly powerful! It’s for these reasons he believes the ethical and humane use of technology can no longer be an afterthought – but that it’s in fact an existential challenge.

If we define ethics as “knowing the difference between having the right or the power to do something, and doing the right thing”, who then will decide what is right – and who will be “mission control for humanity”? Technology is morally neutral until we use it – and we will use it absolutely everywhere in the near future. Do we need a ‘Digital Ethics Council’?

Automation is everywhere, already: from electronic bridge-tolls to connected cars with dash-cams and self-parking capabilities, to digital wallets and mobile payment platforms, to networked medical devices and quantified-self applications, to sensor networks for traffic control and robotic nurses for the elderly – and this is only the beginning. The next 5 years will bring rapid advancements in all areas of AI, robotics and the Internet of Things – and almost all of them will bring more automation to every sector of our society (and am sure this will not always be a good thing, either).

Gerd believes in the near future we need to focus on human-only jobs and non-routine tasks that only humans can undertake – focussing on creativity, design, tacit pattern recognition, negotiation and other ‘soft skills’, on right-brain capabilities or on emotional context (EQ). However, unemployment is very likely to soar, regardless – as ever smarter and cheaper machines increasingly automate all routines. So will we see the rise of a minimum guaranteed income (i.e. get paid without working) in some developed countries such as Switzerland? The very concept of work and ‘earning a living’ will need to be re-imagined – and soon. The end of routine is not the end of human work.

In this brand-new session Gerd shares his observations and foresights on three sectors: science & technology, business & society, and mindset & philosophy – customized for every specific client and their industry.

Science & Technology
We are confronted with 9 game-changers: data, cloud, AI, quantum computing, the Internet of Things, blockchain technologies, 3D printing, augmented and virtual reality and genetic engineering (biotechnology).

Business & Society
The game-changers above result in 11 Megashifts that impact how we live – across the board: digitization, datafication, personalization, cognification, augmentation, robotization, automation, disintermediation, platformization, virtualization – and simulation.

Mindset & Philosophy
In response, we need to adopt a future-ready mindset and philosophy – based on the understanding the future is exponential, convergent, combinatorial, circular, holistic and human-centric (the 6 future principles).

“You have to think about the future while doing the present – so that the present is going in the right direction.”

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Gerd your presentation was a huge success. You managed to scare delegates to death and give them hope at the same time - quite a feat and exactly what they needed!

MGI Worldwide

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