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Facing Our Futures


Nikolas Badminton

In this week’s show, we’re joined by Nikolas Badminton, Chief Futurist at Futurist.com and author of Facing Our Futures: How Foresight, Futures Design and Strategy Creates Prosperity and Growth. We discuss what inspired Nik to become a futurist, what’s ahead for professional futurism, the backstory of Futurist.com, protopia and futures thinking towards 2100 and beyond.

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Katie King: Welcome back to The Futurist! I'm your co-host, Katie King, and joining me today is the always fabulous Brett King.

Brett King: Thanks, Katie. I'm a little under the weather today, so it's great to have you by my side. Today, we're thrilled to have an industry-leading futurist with us. Nick, welcome to The Futurist!

Nick: Thank you so much! It's fantastic to be here. We met in person a few weeks ago in Toronto, so it feels special to connect again so soon.

Katie King: And you're based in Toronto, right?

Nick: Yes, I'm originally from Britain, but I've been in Canada since 2008. I love Toronto – it's one of the world's great cities.

Brett King: And they do have fantastic Thai food there!

Nick: Absolutely! The Thai and Caribbean food in Toronto is top-notch.

Katie King: It was such a pleasure meeting you in person, Nick. By the way, we've got a signed copy of your new book, "Facing Our Futures," right here. I've already started reading it, and it's a fascinating read.

Brett King: For our listeners, Nick is a well-respected futurist and runs Futurist.com. Nick, it's such an honor to have you on our show today.

Nick: Thank you! I've been focusing on futures work for over a decade, and it's been an exciting journey. The world is becoming increasingly complex, and it's fascinating to try and predict what comes next.

Katie King: I noticed you worked on the "Age of AI" series, which featured Robert Downey Jr. Did you get to interact with him?

Nick: I didn't interact with Robert directly, but I was involved with the team in Vancouver that collaborated with Team Downey. My role was to help them understand AI and machine learning better. Our aim was to tell deeply human stories, emphasizing how technology can benefit humanity, rather than just focusing on the flashy aspects of AI.

Brett King: That's essential. We're considering creating a show based on our podcast discussions and potentially even a conference series. We'd love to have you involved.

Nick: I'd be thrilled! By the way, I saw that your book's foreword was written by the esteemed futurist, Glenn Heemstra. He's someone I greatly admire.

Katie King: Glenn is fantastic. Nick, what inspired your journey into futurism? Who were your mentors?

Nick: It started when I was eight. My father gifted me the "Osborne Book of the Future," which ignited my passion for understanding what the future holds. Over the years, I've continuously sought stories about potential futures, delving into technologies that could reshape our world. My university education focused on artificial intelligence, linguistics, and organizational change. Fast forward to the early 2010s, a close friend and I began organizing events and conferences centered around the future, eventually leading me down the path of becoming a full-time futurist.

Brett King: It's always fascinating to learn how futurists, like us, envision the world's evolution. How do you approach forecasting and understanding the future?

Nick: It involves constant scanning for signals and having ongoing discussions with a diverse community. In Vancouver, I initiated monthly meetups to discuss various subjects related to the future. Building and being a part of a community has been instrumental in shaping my perspectives on what the future might hold.

Katie King: That sounds incredible, Nick. The idea of community is so crucial, especially when navigating the unknown. It's always better to have multiple perspectives.

Nick: Absolutely, Katie. Collaboration is vital. No one person or even a single organization can claim to have a complete understanding of the future. The more perspectives we can get, the better we can prepare for the challenges and opportunities ahead.

Brett King: That resonates with me. The financial industry, for instance, has transformed rapidly over the past decade. Traditional banking is not what it used to be. Do you think fintech will continue to play a major role in shaping our economic future?

Nick: Without a doubt. Financial technology, or fintech, is changing the game. I believe the blend of AI, blockchain, and user-centric designs will continue to revolutionize how we think about money, transactions, and even the very concept of trust in an economic system. It's not just about streamlining processes; it's about redefining them.

Katie King: Speaking of redefinition, I've read a recent article you authored about the future of education. With the advancements in VR and AR, how do you foresee the landscape of education changing in the next decade?

Nick: Great question, Katie. I think the next frontier in education is personalization. With AR and VR, we can offer immersive and tailor-made experiences for each learner. Imagine history lessons where students can "walk" through ancient civilizations or science classes where they can interact with molecules on a scale never before possible. Plus, with machine learning, we can adapt lessons to each student's pace and learning style. The potential is vast.

Brett King: It's an exciting time, indeed. And with these advancements come ethical considerations. How do we ensure these technologies are used for the benefit of humanity and not just for a select few?

Nick: Ethical considerations should be at the forefront of every technological advancement. It's about democratizing access and making sure that as many people as possible can benefit from these changes. It requires collaboration between technologists, policymakers, educators, and even the general public. Everyone has a stake in the future, and everyone should have a say in shaping it.

Katie King: Beautifully said, Nick. We're almost out of time, but before we wrap up, any final thoughts or words of wisdom for our listeners?

Nick: Just this - always be curious. The future is a vast, unfolding story, and we all have a role in writing it. Embrace change, seek knowledge, and most importantly, always be open to new possibilities.

Katie King: Thank you, Nick, for such an insightful conversation. We appreciate your time and expertise.

Brett King: Yes, thanks, Nick. And to our listeners, don't forget to check out Nick's book "Facing Our Futures." Until next time, keep looking forward! founding futurist and always will be.

So when I took over the platform, the idea was to evolve it into a hub for thought leadership in the futures domain. It's not just about me, it's about a collective of thinkers, from a range of disciplines and perspectives. The platform is designed to be a place where people can come to learn about futures thinking, to collaborate, to explore new ideas, and to challenge each other. It's about promoting a futures mindset to a broader audience.

We've been running a series of webinars, interviews, and we are building out more interactive features and tools that help people engage in futures thinking. My vision for Futurist.com is to create a space where the curious, the hopeful, the skeptics, and the dreamers can come together to shape the future. I believe that the more diverse voices we have in the conversation, the richer the futures we can envision.

And as for what's upcoming, we're planning a series of online courses and workshops that will be available globally. We're also looking to collaborate with universities, institutions, and other futurists to create a rich tapestry of content and experiences.

The whole idea is to democratize futures thinking. It's about empowering individuals to take ownership of their future and the future of the communities they belong to. And like I said earlier, I genuinely believe that everyone should think like a futurist. So Futurist.com aims to provide the tools, resources, and community to make that happen. even a million years have you gone that deep into sort of thinking about the evolution of humanity and where we could end up?

Nick: You know, I think that the challenge with looking too far out, like thousands of years, let alone a million, is that the variables become almost infinite. Predicting specifics becomes near impossible. What I try to focus on is understanding the deep trends and shifts in human behavior, technological advances, and societal structures that can be amplified over time. I've probably looked as far out as a few centuries and considered potential scenarios like post-singularity worlds, or civilizations that have become space-faring, multi-planetary entities. But the farther out you go, the more it becomes speculative fiction rather than grounded foresight. That said, speculative fiction has its place in inspiring new ways of thinking about our future.

Brett: That's a great point. Often, the best futurists are not just making predictions but asking the right questions and posing possible scenarios to stimulate thought and action. Speaking of which, given the many possible futures you’ve explored, what's the one technological or societal advancement you personally hope to see within your lifetime?

Nick: Honestly, I would love to see a genuine breakthrough in clean, sustainable energy generation that can be widely adopted globally, perhaps something like nuclear fusion becoming a reality. It has the potential to solve so many of our current problems, from climate change to resource scarcity. Alongside that, I hope to see a global shift in values where we prioritize long-term societal well-being over short-term profits. If those two things were to happen, I believe a lot of the dystopian futures we fear could be avoided. have more inputs and more data and more knowledge to go deeper and understand more complex systems. It's not like we'll just reach a point where suddenly everything is known and we've hit a point of infinite intelligence.

With AI, while there will be some jobs that will be automated and disappear, the shift won't just be in the form of "job loss". It will be in the form of job transformation. New jobs, tasks, and industries that we can't even fathom right now will emerge, just like they always have throughout history. The challenge will be in equipping and reskilling the workforce to adapt to these new roles and the changing landscape.

It's also important to note that the application of AI and technology isn't just about replacing human labor. It's about augmenting human capability, enhancing our ability to solve complex problems, and pushing the boundaries of what we can achieve. So while certain repetitive, mundane tasks might get automated, the need for human ingenuity, creativity, empathy, and critical thinking will not diminish. If anything, these qualities will become even more vital in a world saturated with technology and data.

I think as we move towards 2035 and beyond, the societies that thrive will be the ones that view AI and technology as tools for enhancing human potential, rather than just replacing human labor. And in this future, education and continuous learning will play a pivotal role, ensuring that everyone can participate and contribute meaningfully.

But yes, the pace at which technology is advancing is unprecedented, and the breadth of its impact is vast. It's crucial that we have these conversations now and plan for a future that is inclusive, ethical, and sustainable. It's about integrating the best of what technology offers with the best of what humanity brings to the table.

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