Being a futurist in a fast-moving digital age can be tricky, so Gerd Leonhard doesn’t do predictions – he makes smart observations
When Gerd Leonhard speaks to an audience about the future, he sometimes likes to begin by playing black-and-white footage of the science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke. In the clip, Clarke, who wrote the screenplay for 2001: A Space Odyssey with Stanley Kubric, explains that anyone making pronouncements about the future has their work cut out.
Come up with something that sounds at all reasonable and you can be sure that in 20 or at most 50 years, the progress of science and technology will make it sound ridiculously conservative, Clarke says.
But Clarke concedes: “If by some miracle, a prophet could predict the future, exactly as it was going to take place, his predictions would sound so absurd, so far-fetched that everybody would laugh him to scorn.”
Gerd may describe himself as a “futurist”, but he heeds Clarke’s words. “I don’t do predictions,” he says. “I do observations. There’s a very big difference.” With some modesty, he adds: “It’s what anybody could do, if they had the time. But most people are too busy doing their jobs.”
Maybe. But Gerd was named in WIRED magazine’s list of the 100 top influencers in Europe, he has given keynote addresses around the world at conferences and been engaged by blue-chip corporate clients. And some of his observations are startling. His latest book, Technology vs Humanity, focuses on the relationship between us and the machines we’re creating.