Gerd Leonhard

Futurists, Social Media, Technology

Travels from Zurich, Switzerland

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Gerd Leonhard Profile

Listed by WIRED Magazine as one of the top 100 most influential people in Europe , Gerd Leonhard helps organizations prepare for the many “Megashifts” that will change humanity more in the next 20 years than in the previous 300 years. He is a leading voice on a wide range of topics including digital transformation and the discovery of “digital native” business models.

A musician by origin, Gerd connects left and right brains for a 360-degree coverage of the multiple futures that present themselves at any one time. Delivering the ‘Realopia’ that one can work on immediately, Gerd coaches, consults, and influences around the world.

Gerd is the co-author of the best-selling book The Future of Music and the author of 6 other books including The Humanity Challenge and Technology vs. Humanity. He is also the host of the web-TV series TheFutureShow and the CEO of TheFuturesAgency, a global network of over 30 leading futurists.

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    Futurist, Author, Keynote Speaker, Think-Tank Leader & Strategist
    Gerd Leonhard is a widely-known and top-rated futurist, an influential author, an acclaimed keynote speaker and a strategic advisor. He is the co-author of the best-selling book The Future of Music, and the author of The End of Control, Music 2.0, Friction is Fiction, and The Future of Content. Gerd is also the host of TheFutureShow and, as well as the Founder of GreenFuturists (a high-level group of leading futurists with a focus on developing sustainable business models).

    Gerd is considered a leading voice on a wide range of topics including next-generation digital business models, the opportunities and challenges of a networked society, a sustainable business and cultural ecology, social media and communications, TV / film, radio and broadcasting futures, mobile content and commerce, innovation, leadership and entrepreneurship, consumer trends, human-machine futures and AI, big data and automation, next-generation advertising, marketing and branding, and the development of ‘green futures’ scenarios. In 2006, The Wall Street Journal called Gerd ‘one of the leading Media Futurists in the World’.

    Gerd’s keynotes, speeches and presentations are renowned for their hard-hitting and provocative yet inspiring and personal motivational style. With over 1,500 engagements in 50+ countries since 2001, Gerd has addressed over 300,000 executives and professionals, and is highly regarded as a global influencer. His diverse client list of over companies includes Unilever, Lloyds Bank, WWF, YouTube, Nokia, The Guardian, Google, Sony, Telkom Indonesia, Siemens, RTL, ITV, BBC, France Telecom, Orange, Deutsche Telekom, MTN, The Financial Times, DDB, Ogilvy, Omnicom, the European Commission, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, VISA and many others.

    Gerd’s background is in the music business; in 1985 he won Berklee College’s ‘Quincy Jones Award’ and subsequently spent years working as a professional guitar player, composer and producer. He then caught the Internet-bug and became a digital music and media entrepreneur, serving as Founder/CEO of several Internet startups, based in San Francisco. In 2002, following the .com meltdown and the 9/11 crisis, Gerd returned to Europe and found his new calling as author, futurist, keynote speaker and strategic advisor.

    He now travels around the globe to speak at major conferences and events, company retreats, seminars and in-house trainings on the Future of Business, Sustainability, Media, Content, Humanity, Technology, Marketing, Advertising and Branding and many related topics. Since late 2011, Gerd has been expanded the scope of his work to include some of the most pressing global issues such as sustainability, energy and the global shift “from ego to eco”.

    Gerd is a fellow of the Royal Society for the Arts (London), a member of the World Future Society, and with his company The Futures Agency an institutional member of the World Futures Studies Federation. A native German, Gerd resides in Basel, Switzerland.

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Gerd Leonhard's Speech Descriptions

Gerd Leonhard is a global presence at home in any culture or vertical, and capable of transporting his audiences in a completely different place. His keynotes, presentation talks, free-form interactions, and seminar engagements are honed by thousands of hours of experience and schooled in profound knowledge across the human arts and sciences.

Gerd presents the multiple futures facing every industry or organization at any one time, and helps you identify and discover the true future which belongs to your group’s destiny and backstory. Each speaking engagement from Gerd is customized to market, audience, and immediate context – meaning no two audiences have ever experienced the same Gerd. This also means Gerd is always learning and refining his vision and arguments, enriching his highly persuasive style with story dynamics that involve at a deeper experiential level.

Human-machine relationships: future scenarios.
Humans and ultra-smart technology i.e. 'intelligent machines' are increasingly interconnecting. The Internet of Things is here, and 'Singularity' is quickly becoming a buzzword that rivals Social Media. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is certain to play a role everywhere, and robots are dropping in price dramatically while gaining quickly in functionality and skills. Exponential technological progress is evident everywhere—but how will we—as linear beings—cope with this increasing empowerment of software and machines, the tremendous gain in the flow of real-time information, and the far-reaching implications that these developments will have? How will we keep up with thousands of real-time datafeeds, the ever-increasing volume, variety and depth of input, the tsunami of incoming communications and the rapidly improving smartness—and increasingly deep intelligence—of software, devices and machines? Will humans need to be 'augmented', soon, in order to keep up, and if so, where will this take us? What will happen to our ethics in a world of ultra-smart intelligent agents, artificial intelligence and the coming 'trans-humanism'?

Disruptive technological change and what it will mean for the future of the professions—the next 5 years.
Technological change is brutally exponential: we are at '4' and the next step is '8', not 5. The rate of change and disruption in the next few years is going to be unprecedented. Traditional innovation tactics will clearly not be sufficient in this new environment—and neither will most traditional metrics of growth and success. Within the next few years, the Internet will go dramatically mobile, social and video, encompassing everyone and everything, becoming like water, air or electricity. Cloud computing will become as normal as email (yet a lot more secure), the Internet of Things will connect Billions of smart devices in less than 7 years (think cars, traffic lights, sensor networks, wearables, drones…), the amount of data being generated every single day will be 1000 x what it is today, human-computer interfaces will go from type to touch to talk to blink to think, and computers will become invisible, ultra-intelligent, self-learning, hyper-networked and increasingly more human-like.

3 Billion people will enter the global middle class in the next 10 years, and most of them will be connected to high-speed mobile networks using cheap yet very powerful computing devices. Entertainment, education, money, heath and work will all become fully digital and mobile. 100s of Millions of low-level jobs will be automated away as smart software, artificial intelligence, automation and robots take over, and make many tasks infinitely more efficient. A similarly dramatic 'per-unit'-price reduction that has plagued the music, publishing and the movie businesses in their transition to digital is very likely happen to law firms, consultants, accountants and professional service firms, as traditional competitive advantages such as size and location are quickly eroded by rampant technological advances. 'Managed Dissatisfaction' (to quote the CEO of Netflix) will be eradicated in almost all industries—and there are a lot of them in professional services.

It is crucial to understand these developments, today, to make them tangible, to experiment, to review, to question and to be very critical, for it is us that will create our preferred futures by action or by inaction. Instead of attempting to fortify traditional advantages or prevent their ultimate slide into total irrelevance, professionals must look to create those powerful 'new generatives' (*Kevin Kelly), focus mercilessly on customer/client delight and offer a constant stream of added values that will make them utterly indispensable in the future. In this context, it will be crucial to embrace yet to humanise and transcend technology and to hone in on what makes us truly human rather than a 'better machine' such as pattern recognition, creativity, problem-solving, complex understanding, improvisation, emotions and plasticity. We must therefore let go of the 'machine-work'—and most its traditional metrics, KPIs and success measurements—to truly reinvent what our professions can mean in the future.

Privacy versus surveillance society?
Almost all of us are habitually sharing personal data on the Internet, and exponentially so now that the Social-Local-Mobile-Video-Cloud is available almost everywhere. Our data is inevitably shared while we search the web or use mobile apps, share updates, rate a vendor or restaurant, use our mobile devices to navigate, buy something with a credit card, use a customer incentive card or just post a short comment on social media platforms. Almost everyone everywhere is constantly tracked—and not just online but in 'meat-space' as well—with ultra-smart software engines, digital cameras, browser cookies and mobile tokens, face- and gait-recognition programs or toll-paying tags and license plate scanners.

Supposedly, in return for making our personal data freely available in such depth and width, many of us enjoy free access to our favourite online services, social networks and other connective super-nodes such as LinkedIn, software-in-the-cloud and the countless free media platforms such as Youtube, Twitter or even the free version of Spotify. GMail has beaten Outlook, Android has been RIM—free and 'paid with attention' has beaten paid, hands-down, it appears. We now have become content, ourselves—most 'consumers' seem still quite happy to trade their privacy for convenience and access to powerful tools that used to be the privilege of the super-geeks.

But beware, as we are only at the very tip of this iceberg: going forward, truly hyper-intelligent means of capturing, combining and analyzing data will make those that control them exponentially more powerful than we can even begin to imagine today; exceeding the power that even the likes of BP and Exxon-Mobil have over us, today (yes: data is the new oil:). Many free services will be even more addictive than today and become so utterly irresistible that we may indeed start feeling lost without them—mobile devices have truly become 'extensions of man' (as McLuhan said some 40 years ago). Consider the sheer convenience of GoogleNow which 'steers' you through your day using the data you provide to the various Google-bots versus such as GMail and Google calendars, instead of having to actually key-in your queries yourself, or imagine what could happen if you wore GoogleGlass while visiting a trade-show or a museum.

So will we become utterly dependent on our external devices, on connectivity and on constant streams of accurate data, and will we therefore be happy to strip-off our privacy and quite possibly become a bit like Google's self-driving car which can't actually move an inch without receiving its latest data-feed? Will total surveillance—and related concepts such as the 'quantified employee' that is constantly monitored with software tools and via wearable computers and cameras—become our new reality, or will need some sort of 'digital non-proliferation agreement' i.e. some global digital rights bill to stem this tide of creepiness? Where is this going and what do we need to watch out for?

Mobile marketing, branding and commerce futures: scenarios & wild-cards- the next 5 years.
Just about everything is gravitating towards mobile: advertising, publishing, television, commerce, banking, health and of course communications and marketing. Today, there are already just about as many mobile phones around the world as there are people—and most of them will be connected to the Internet in the next 5 years. Almost all major innovations now have strong mobile components, witness self-driving cars, face-recognition applications, NFC/RFID retail services etc. The exponential growth of mobile technologies has already surpassed what we considered science-fiction just a few years ago (and that goes for the positive as well as for the negative aspects such as the loss of anonymity and privacy). Clearly, though, mobile technology will not just be a panacea for commerce and marketing; rather, some careful balancing is crucial, as well, and new social contracts will need to emerge.

SoLoMo (social-local-mobile) is becoming as normal as SMS (used to be), and this will bring mind-boggling new opportunities as well as challenges to every single player in marketing, research, branding and communications. Disintermediation (think record labels, publishers, travel agents etc) and automation based on artificial intelligence will increase significantly, around the globe, re-booting what agencies will do. The marketing / branding / advertising industries are facing a wave of disruptive opportunities in the coming VUCA world: data has indeed become the new oil, and mobile devices is where most data originates from—as much as 75% of all Internet traffic will take place on mobile devices, within 5 years, and soon over 50 Billion mobile devices will be connected to each other, as well (the Internet of Things / IoT).

On one hand, mobile devices are about radical user (fka consumer) empowerment and increased personal involvement: the faster the networks and the cheaper the access-to-the-cloud the more we will see significant cultural shifts that will dramatically redefine how and what we buy, what we share and with whom, how we pay and what we like or don't like. On the other hand, we are experiencing increasing dependency on mobile devices and the always-on P2P lifestyle they provide us with, and even 'digital addiction' is becoming more frequent while overload symptoms abound everywhere, already. So how will a brand get heard, and reach its audience, when 5 Billion people are inter-connected and living in a constant jet-stream of messages, updates and notifications?

Social networks are already winning big in mobile and are quickly becoming the de-facto new broadcasters, combining their many-to-many strengths with the traditional one-to-many mode of the traditional networks—and mobile devices will deliver cable-like content, too—but without the cable. As a result, 30-50% of most advertising budgets are likely to shift to So-Lo-Mo (social, local, mobile) and video, ushering us into the era of what I call the TeleMedia convergence. Telecom companies, mobile network operators, device makers, content creators and media companies, social networks and Internet giants are already starting to form a new ecosystem that will completely reshape what marketing is, to begin with—and all within 5 years.

The allure of 'free' stuff on the Internet: great deals or Faustian bargains?
Many of us are enjoying the unrestrained and global flow of free content on the Internet: feels-like-free news, music, videos, books, magazines and TV shows have become a global standard. Youtube is free even though much of its more professional content does in fact cost real money (and effort) to produce. Music is free i.e. 'like water' when using ad-supported services such as Pandora or the free versions of Spotify or Deezer, or of course, on Youtube which has become the global, free 'jukebox in the sky', with over 1.2 Billion users. News is free (seemingly) ever since GoogleNews aggregated it, various most unfruitful attempts at paywalls not withstanding. Facebook provides free stories, updates and all kinds of content provided by our friends and connections.

Very soon, almost 5 Billion connected consumers will be feasting on 'free' content via mobile devices, tablets and internet-connected TVs, and everything will be available in any language (with automated real-time translation) and on any platform, and sooner rather than later even to low-income demographics. But is 'free' still the right word for what is happening here? The average Internet user is already worth $49 per year in advertising, according to some recent Google statistics, and the likes of Google and Facebook and others are already making Billions of dollars based on the very fact that we are all happily supplying our data, our opinions, our 'likes' and our own stories to them. As the Twitter-inspired tagline aptly summarizes: 'if you are not paying you are the content'.

Is this deal still a good thing for us i.e. 'the people formerly known as consumers', and will it work at all for those that are professional content creators such as writers, journalists, musicians, authors and film-makers? Or is this becoming a 'faustian bargain' for both users and creators; are we just selling-out because of our obsession with 'free'? Are we in fact paying way too much 'with our data'—as Jaron Lanier puts it in his 2013 book 'Who owns the Future', and are we becoming willing victims of the 'siren servers' that are attracting and addicting us with their good looks and nice songs while they reduce the market value of creative content to 10% of what it was before? Where is that balance between abundance and scarcity, and how will we define value in the future when even physical goods can be easily replicated anywhere with 3D printers?

Rebooting capitalism and the future of consumption: will 'sustainable' become the 'new profitable'?
Over the past 2 centuries, the old industrial and then even the early information-age paradigm of 'profit and growth at pretty much any cost' has remained at the very core of capitalist economics—and seemingly no viable alternative to capitalism, itself, has emerged. Growth is what everyone desires and what every nation seems to strive for; and GDP / GNP curves is how we traditionally measure growth—anything but an upward trend is immediately punished on stockmarkets and in country-credit-worthiness ratings. Yet, Robert F. Kennedy already stated in 1968 that 'GNP measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile'—and this message rings even more true, today. Indeed, looking back at the 2009 financial crisis, and forward at what the immediate future will bring (e.g. the stalling of exponential growth even in the BRICs and CIVETs), the concept of ever-lasting growth seems increasingly unsuitable as even the former 'world leader of ultra-capitalism', the United States, is struggling to somehow make their perpetually-pioneering form of capitalism more sustainable.

For many of us here in Europe, the U.S. seem to be heading full-throttle towards the cliff in pretty much every aspect such as infrastructure, national debt, financial service regulation, education and as a global leader, in general. The still-prevailing American spirit of inventing-your-way-out seems like the only thing that remains... but is that enough? Does this overall dysfunctionality of the leading capitalist nations mean that we must then redefine what GDP/GNP growth actually means, and how it should be measured? Is 'Gross National Well-Being (or Happiness, as is proposed in Bhutan) a better way to really measure lasting and sustainable progress, going forward? Will it even be desirable to grow GDP (however we shall eventually define it) by 5-8 % every year, as the BRICs have promised but now fail to deliver, or are we all barking up the wrong tree by looking for growth based on mere consumption and continued acceleration of earning and spending? Are we not simply borrowing from the future (i.e. our children) when we chose to proceed with increased consumption of those supposedly free, common goods i.e. the so-called externalities such as fossil fuels, water and air, no matter what the consequences? How will the planet's ecosystem deal with 8-10 Billion people (by 2025) that may all strive to live just like Americans or other well-off 'modern' Westerners did until now?

Research shows that if everyone lived like people do in the United States (no blame there, just for comparison purposes:) we would already need 3x the planet to accommodate them, today. So where is is this going? Will we need to lead 'asset-lighter' lives based on smaller footprints, less consumption and less binging on what we have earned with our work? Are we really going to go 'from ego to eco' or is that wishful thinking? What will happen if we just continue with 'business as usual'? Will technologists really find a way to undo all the damages we have already done?

The automation of everything: the rise of smart machines, the coming Internet of Things, AI (artificial intelligence) and the impact on jobs and employment.
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 I am sure this will not always be a good thing, either).

The same pyramid that seems to describe the mobile device revolution (i.e. "sync-me, see-me, know-me, be-me?") is likely to be extended into all levels of society and into all aspects of the human-machine relationship. Many futurist studies such as Oxford's Martin School are pointing out that we may be losing as many as 1 Billion jobs within the next 15 years due to advanced software agents, digital / virtual as well as mechanical robots, artificial intelligence and networked super-computers. We are therefore quite certain to need less cab drivers because of self-driving cars, less check-out clerks because of mobile payment options (NFC, RFID, Bluetooth etc), less data analysts doing their data-crunching because of new, ultra-intelligent and predictive search technologies, and so on. The bottom line is that we will probably need a lot less humans to take care of the simple and more mechanical tasks, and a lot more higher educated people doing jobs that only humans can do.

What has started with huge and cumbersome robotic welding machines in car factories is now moving into the very mainstream of our lives, into our living rooms, into our pockets and into our 'external brains' i.e. our mobile devices—and this will impact us on all levels. What will happen to 100s of millions of people that are currently gainfully employed for such 'simple labor'—not everybody can be (or wants to be) a designer, a therapist or a programmer.

At the same time that those low-level jobs will go away, Europe already has almost a million jobs that remain vacant because there are not enough suitable candidates to be considered for them, so education and training is a major issue here, as well. In the near future (within 5 years) we may just need to focus on getting ready to do human-only jobs, i.e. on jobs that only humans can undertake—jobs focusing on creativity, design, pattern recognition, negotiation and other 'soft skills', on right-brain capabilities or on emotional context. However, unemployment is very likely to soar, regardless, as ever smarter and cheaper machines increasingly automate simple work processes. 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.

Digital obesity, digital detox, and the coming 'joy of missing out': will 'offline' become the new luxury?
Increasingly, people are complaining about 'the tyranny of connectivity, about getting bloated with information and being overloaded with data, media, updates and notifications. There now is so much of everything, and it all 'tastes' so good, and the price is right (well, mostly... zero), so we just keep eating more of it. The noise of online content and the buzz of conversations is deafening, and it seems that the signal-to-noise ratio has never been lower.

Some recent reports have even alleged that many professionals now work up to 20% more since the rise of so-called social media and mobile computing—being always-on has become the default attitude, and 'being reachable' has created a perpetual hamster-wheel scenario for many of ultra-connected professionals. This exciting global firehose of new communication possibilities is certainly also translating into more messages, more media i.e. more movies, more music, more cultural choices and, yes, more traveling—and we still have only 24 hours each day and only a single human body to digest all of this. Are we risking to become 'digitally fat', data-bloated and over-saturated with too many good digital snacks that are being pushed at us—and where will this take us when the flow of 'big data' actually accelerates 100x in speed, variety and volume?

Much of our information-diet already is comparable to permanently living in a 1st class airport-lounge and constantly feasting on only the best of everything. It can easily be observed that de-teching and disconnecting is already becoming a popular choice on its own, and will certainly merit increasing consideration, going forward (think: 'the digital amish'). Guaranteed disconnectivity in hotels and retreats, rural, nature-centric living, offline/eco-tourism and digital-disruption-free zones will be everywhere, giving at least some of us a new illusion of being 'free' of connectivity. Just like physical obesity is a serious and major problem (with reportedly some 42% of the U.S. population being afflicted by it), being digitally obese may lead to brain malfunctions, sleep disorders, general mental confusion and many other quite serious side effects which need to be considered. So does technology still mean pure empowerment for consumers, mostly, or is it really becoming a tool for a new kind of enslavement—or both? And if we had to consider this question, could we actually live 'off the grid' and still function in a networked society? How do we strike the balance?

Looking backwards from the future: the next 5 years in Technology and Innovation (and where to invest, today).
We are heading into an era of dramatic disruption as well as some pretty amazing opportunities: exponential technological progress is fueling a multitude of key trends such as The Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence, the total mobilization of society and commerce, big data-driven business intelligence and prediction, the reimagination of privacy and security, bionics, robotics and new human-machine interfaces, the complete reinvention of advertising, the global convergence of telecom and media, and the rise of cloud-everything (i.e. content, money, education, health, transportation etc). At the same, we are heading into a new definition of 'capitalism' which is based on interdependence and ecosystem-thinking rather than on control, independence and nicely walled gardens. Gerd will depict the key trends, minefields and opportunities and will dish up a mixture of shock and awesomeness that will catalzye some serious thinking.

Technology and the Future of Education, Learning and Knowledge.
Education seems to be next on the list of to-be-disrupted sectors of our society, following music, media, film, TV and journalism. Incumbent educational institutions are witnessing a tidal wave of disruptive innovations driven by technology as well as by globalisation. Free online offerings are exploding, globally, and video platforms such as Youtube and are starting to offer every imaginable learning and instruction video. A huge amount of information, instruction and training resources will very soon be available to anyone with a cheap mobile device and an internet connection, and most of it will be offered for 'free' i.e. paid with attention (see youtube and facebook).

However, mere information does not equal knowledge which does not equal actual experience. Still, 'learning' as we know it will be totally redefined very much like 'listening to music' has been redefined by the Internet. Will true knowledge—and beyond that 'wisdom'—still require us to look beyond the mere flow of information, and if so what will the future of Universities and other educational institutions be, within 5-7 years? When digital education is 'free' and simple to find and access, will universities have to adapt and become part of a larger digital education ecosystem rather than actually owning or running it? Who will pay for education, then, and who will be allowed to offer official certificates? What should the future role of governments and public funds be? What can we learn from the BRIC countries, and will they lead the way into the future of education?

Re-defining the meaning of knowledge and learning in a networked society.
Digital technologies and the so-called social-local-mobile (SoLoMo) society are quickly and radically changing the definition of learning, training and education, whether at work, at home or at traditional learning institutions. There are many drivers behind this change and it is crucial to understand them if one is to ponder the future of educational institutions. Disruption is certain but new opportunities abound for those that can develop prescient foresights and act on them. On one hand we are witnessing the global explosion in cheap but powerful tablet devices, on the other hand we can observe the rise of the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) as the new leaders of innovation and change.

This new 'networked society' has massive consequences (and not all are intended): crowdsourcing, collaborative creation and user-generated-content, telepresence and remote working, augmented reality and new human-machine interfaces, real-time and flow-based media environments, automated real-time translation and the rise of online learning hubs such as Khan Academy and Ed.Ted. Things are changing faster than ever before. The next three to five years are certain to bring rapid and global change to pretty much all segments of society, business and culture. Yet, it is not really about technology, in the end—it is how people's habits and social behaviours are changing because of it, and what challenges and opportunities lie ahead as a result.

Disruption, innovation, transformation and growth: the next 7 years in technology, marketing and business.
The 'digital default' is near: everything and everyone is getting connected, everywhere, anytime, at increasingly lower cost. The mobile phone has become our external brain already, and devices are now truly 'the extension of man'. The coming 'networked society' will change the very definition of ownership and property (look at the media business), control and innovation—very soon, 'business as usual' will be a thing of the past, and many business opportunities will become transient rather than permanent or even sustainable. In this era of increasing convergence, many new opportunities are waiting to be discovered by those that are agile, forward-looking and dare to disrupt.

At the same time, we are clearly heading into a 'VUCA' era, too: volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity are seemingly everywhere, fuelled by exponential technological progress and the cultural changes that come with it. 3 Billion new users (aka consumers) will be connected to the Internet in the next 7 years. Language issues will evaporate with automatic translation, gesture and speech control. Digital money is a certainty, redefining the entire financial industry, while big-data appears to really become the next 'big oil', making every business potentially hyper-intelligent and real-time. Nano-technology, genomics, robotics and neuroscience are making giant leaps that will cause huge shifts in the ecosystem of health, pharma and medical care. Many jobs will be automated-away while new, human-only jobs will grow dramatically but will require totally different skills. Hyper-competition will be replaced by hyper-collaboration as speed and value becomes the primary objective for many incumbents; new ecosystems will blossom based on dramatic interdependence. Branding strategies will change completely as advertising and marketing becomes 'content'; deep transparency, likeonomics and relationship-building directly-with-the-consumers becomes a prime concern.

The future of the internet: big data, big brother, big tech, big telco and big gov...?
Technology is progressing exponentially, and what sounded like science-fiction only 3 years ago is now becoming a reality: Google Glass, self-driving cars, predictive search and anticipatory services, ultra-smart electronic agents and voice / gesture controlled devices, digital classrooms and affordable telepresence. Connectivity is becoming like water—some would say, even a civil right—and ultra-smart mobile devices are like the next cigarettes: low-cost, omni-present, hyper-social and ultra-addictive. Data is indeed becoming the new currency of the global economy, and everyone seems to scramble to become the next Exxon-Mobil of data.

Whoever controls the digital oil-fields, the pumps, the pipelines, the refineries and the filling stations, is bound to become even more powerful than the oil companies. 'Datawars' are becoming almost more frequent than real wars (see the recent NSA revelations), and yet the rapidly dawning Internet of Things and the rise of machine-to-machine networks will even magnify every challenge we have encountered until now—with increasing power will comes increasing responsibility. Add the rapid developments in neuroscience, human-machine interfaces, artificial intelligence, robots and nano-technology, and we are looking at the most amazing commercial opportunities as well as some quite vexing ethical challenges in the next 7 years and beyond. Gerd will share his insights and key foresights on the future of the Internet, telecommunications and telemedia, data, privacy and technology, depicting the most crucial scenarios that are likely to await us in the immediate future, globally. In addition, he will suggest some 'wild-cards' that we may need to play to make sure that this new digital ecosystem is still putting human benefits first.

Future Media Scenarios: the next 5 years.
In this session, Gerd outlines and shows the key trends that are impacting media companies around the globe, encompassing technological, social, demographic, political and economic megatrends. Using his unique approach of 'coming backwards from the future' Gerd will present both the opportunities and the challenges that lie ahead, with the goal of helping the participants discover, invent and design their unique, preferred futures. Some topics include:

    • The digital default: 5 Billion mobile content users (aka consumers) by 2018
    • Internet, SoLoMo style: from paying with attention—aka getting content for free—to paying cash for added values and relevance (and how the much lower digital 'unit price' can still add up)
    • The future definition of 'distribution': ownership vs access
    • The total convergence of broadcasting and 'broad-banding': TV & Radio
    • The future of advertising—the end of disruption: a $1 Trillion shift.
    • Exponential technological innovation: augmented reality, gesture and voice control, artificial intelligence (AI), automated language translation, screenification
    • Why 'Big Data' is the new currency of the digital age, and what it means for media companies
    • Newly emerging digital business models for publishing and print media (innovation), and how to adapt them (transient advantages)
    • Examples of dramatic digital media innovation that is likely to be successful in the future: disruption is a the centre of innovation
    • How convergence is finally a real and present opportunity: telecom and media, devices and services, products and experiences
    • Demographics and global trends that will impact media (older consumers, shift of growth to the South and the East, risk-averse cultures)
    • Consumer habit and expectation changes (trust expectations, real-time anywhere anything, radical transparency, sustainability, customer delight etc)

The future of leadership in a digital world.
In the near future, more and more products will become services, and many services will then become experiences, across most sectors of our society, as we are currently already seeing in television, books and transportation. As Mark Andreessen likes to put it: 'software is eating the world'. Add the rise of 'digital darwinism' i.e. a much increased efficiency that almost always results from this total digitisation of society, and you will truly have a VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity) world. For the purpose of redefining leadership, this rather scary VUCA world world will require a flipped approach that might be based on principles such as velocity, unorthodoxy, co-creation, and authenticity. As John Hagel said 10 years ago, "the future jobs of leaders is not (just) to make money, it is to make meaning".

In this 2020, digitally hyper-networked society of 5 Billion connectedusers, of over 50 Billion connected and increasingly smart devices, of real-time, real-place big-data, ubiquitous artificial intelligence, new ways of human-machine interaction and a much increased level of automation everywhere, our future jobs and the very way we work is likely to re-emphasise uniquely human, right brain capabilities such as imagination, design, negotiation, critical thinking and social intelligence—and this will have dramatic impact on what defines leadership in the near future. It will be all about radical openness and liquid, irreverent creativity, awakening imagination and a kind of human-only ingenuity in your team members, about generating actionable foresights and quickly recognising patterns among an ever increasing noise, and about focusing on what humans do best—because all the real economic and cultural value will be created here.

Privacy failure.
Is privacy really dead? Would a world without anonymity and personal secrets really be desirable? Should we simply accept that our communications, opinions, images, movements and actions are 99% public by default? Will wearable computing devices such as Google Glass, or medical self-monitoring devices and smart watches as well as the coming Internet of Things (IoT) make it even harder to adhere to some kind of collective privacy standard? Will we really want to live in world where 'everything that happens must be known' (a quote from Dave Eggers' fabulous book 'The Circle)? Gerd Leonhard believes that in a world where almost everything is watched, recorded and analysed and where all information spreads like wildfire, we urgently need to learn how to strike a balance between openness and transparency and some newly defined privacy, and that we should frequently review our data-sharing paradigms to avoid entering into truly Faustian bargains. Allowing for mistakes and imperfections is what makes us human, but how can we uphold this concept if we are being monitored and 'quantified' all the time?

The future of knowledge and learning.
The perceived value of data, basic information and fact-based human knowledge is becoming increasingly commoditised by the efficiency and sheer power of digital technologies. Any Internet user can now look up, find out and tap into almost any information, anywhere, anytime. The traditional principle of just-in-case learning is being challenged by the just-in-time learning approach that the Internet affords. As a result, human ingenuity, creativity, social or emotional intelligence and a new kind of wisdom will probably matter increasingly.

Are we returning from the old left-brain emphasis to a kind of right-brain renaissance, and will we see a new triumph of creativity, storytelling and imagination? Or will machines and software 'eat our world'? What skills do we need to teach ourselves, or our children so that they can prosper 5-10 years from now? How will they be successful in those jobs that haven't even been invented yet? What will happen to educational institutions, schools, colleges and universities, and will degrees and certificates still be as valuable as they are today? If learning is a lifelong 'flow' and in-demand instead of just-in-case, how will our educational systems evolve?

The future of work and jobs.
In the future, most repetitive or machine-like tasks and jobs will be largely offloaded to ultra-smart software and intelligent machines, whether in the manufacturing, financial services, government, transportation or technology sectors. By 2025, up to 45% of jobs might be automated-away in many sectors making a redefinition of 'work' and jobs an urgent priority for governments, industry and educators alike. Gerd believes that the trend away from the jobs-that-robots-can-and-will-do will also free us up to re-focus on those tasks that only us humans can do. Skills or character traits such as creativity, pattern recognition, imagination and storytelling will once again become increasingly important as machines are not yet suited to tackle them, at least in the foreseeable future. This trend towards the right brain will of course pose significant challenges to those who were used to doing pure 'human computing' tasks such as statistics and data analysis, or that were employed in mostly repetitive manufacturing environments. In the future, we are very likely to see what Gerd calls 'workupation' and quite possibly a lot more debate on the concept of the guaranteed minimum income in response to rampant 'technological unemployment'.

The automation of everything.
Many activities and tasks that were previously done manually are increasingly being done automatically, i.e. by machines and by smart technology i.e. software. Witness what Google maps or Waze does compared to printed maps or even navigation devices, and what Google Now does compared to old-fashioned task lists and paper-based calendars. Automation is everywhere, from driving and traffic to dating to health services to search, social media, data-storage and cloud computing.

Automation often offers unprecedented convenience, speed and tantalising ease of use—imagine if an Amazon drone could indeed deliver your desired goods within 30 minutes, or if Google could generate automated research reports with a click of a button. But should everything be automated- or otherwise mediated—just because it can? Should everyone have their DNA tested before going on a serious date just because it my be almost free (and automatic) to do so? Is the already rampant 'outsourcing of our brains' to mobile devices and cloud-based services really a good idea, once taken to the extreme? Last but not least, the process of automation also has huge implications for jobs, work and education (see episode 3)—where will this trend take us in the next 5-10 years?

Offline is the new luxury.
Today, there is almost no distinction between being 'online' and 'offline' anymore. Access to the Internet is becoming like water or electricity; always there and—at least in most developed countries—no longer requiring any special mention. As mobile broadband proliferates around the globe and the BRICs leap into connectivity, we will be looking at something like 5 Billion highly-connected users in 2020. What used to be a luxury may in fact become both simply 'normal' as well as a new kind of burden or even a liability.

The push-back against over-connectivity and Internet / mobile device addiction is already palpable everywhere, and the quest for 'digital detox' is becoming more common. While our entire lives will be embedded in connectivity and digital media, without a doubt, it will also become a new kind of luxury to simply be 'in the moment' and not have to share, connect, communicate or otherwise suck on the digital firehose of content and data. Gerd believes that we will need to debate and create a new social contract to help us define to what extent will we allow digital connectivity into our lives. Paying for privacy will certainly become a new business, as well.

What People are Saying about Seeing Gerd Speak

Rating Entries

“I would like to personally thank you for the magnificent, interesting and open minding presentation that you gave us in Miami! The customers gave wonderful feedback of you as a speaker and the content of your presentation (score was 4.7 out of 5). It was a true pleasure working with you, and hope to do so in the future as well.”

(Event booked by

“Gerd’s thought-provoking presentation was the highest rated keynote session at our conference. He incorporated feedback from our planning calls and customized a program that was meaningful and relevant to our audience. I am pleased to offer a personal endorsement of his work.”

“Gerd Leonhard kept the audience mesmerized with examples of how Web 2.0 was changing the way in which we interact with audiences, whatever our business, and how to harness the power of the Internet to reach them. One of the concepts he preaches is that for any business to truly espouse the value of internet communications, it has to relinquish control of how its brand or products engage the ‘people formerly known as consumers’. He spoke about user-generated content, pull versus push media, new business models for digital content, the culture of participation in media, copyright versus usage right, and the consequences of mass media becoming personal media.

The event was attended by CEOs, entrepreneurs, the media and advertisers. In addition to the public presentation, Gerd also found the time to make three customised presentation which focussed on Caribbean/financial perspectives, marketing and pr, and copyright and the future of music in a YouTube world. He dispensed advice freely to any who sought it for their businesses, and there were quite a few of us”
DDB Release from Rostant Advertising/DDB

“We hired Gerd as speaker for our OMD Germany Future / Client Day. He talked about the future of advertising and media. The performance couldn’t have been better. The feedback of our guests was great. Gerd perfectly combined his knowledge and expertise with his unique talent to inspire and entertain the audience. The up front coordination went perfect. Feedback on question never took longer than a few hours. He is always looking for conversations and takes as much time as needed. The presentation he held was a tailor-made compilation for our audience. All in all it is very obvious that he has a huge passion for what he is doing. If you need a speaker you have to talk to Gerd!”
Omnicom Media Group Germany

“Gerd Leonhard wrote The Future of Music, which basically said that the record business was terminally ill. I read it and thought he was right, so I hired him as a consultant. He’s shaped our thinking. None of us know what the future looks like, so we can invent it, be part of it. Fifty five per cent of the new people we’ve brought in haven’t worked in traditional record companies.”

“I’ve worked with Gerd on a few occasions now and each time have found it a great experience. His level of knowledge, style of delivery and focus on our particular needs was excellent. Highly recommended.”

“Gerd Leonhard is brilliant at getting the context right, in a world that is overflowing with a variety of content. His views on the future of copyright, music and film distribution and the media in general always open eyes and ears. Sign him up for your conference and you’ll definitely get a wealth of ideas!”
Critical Distance

“What a performance! Your presentation was one of the most persuasive I have yet seen about the benefits of relaxing our approach to the digital media world.”

“Gerd is one of the few people who is able to see clearly beyond the current state of the music industry, experiments in digital music business and squabbling over copyright issues.”
Giant Steps Media Technology Strategies

“We engaged Gerd to make the key note address at the AGM of our trade association – Music Publishers Association. The theme was the past present and future of music publishing – Gerd’s presentation was challenging, exciting, engaging, thought provoking and was extremely well received. I was very impressed by the quality of the preparation and the coruscating powerpoint presentation.”
Music Publishers Association (UK)

“Gerd is as good as it gets. Anyone who’s working with digital media should look to Gerd for advice, direction, a glimpse of the future and hard work befitting a multinational enterprise or a start-up in a garage. Gerd is terrific, my highest recommendation.”
OneHouse LLC

“Gerd is one of the few people that “gets it!” He has a correct a clear vision of where the entertainment business is going. Evry month there’s an important development in the industry that validates his appraoch and pedictions”
Noank Media

“Gerd Leonhard is turbocharged for innovation! He’s a fountain of new ideas and clear thinking about the future”
Hearts of Space

“With the music and broadcast industries intent on digging in their heels to stem the tide of progress, maintain business as usual and the unsustainable “status quo”, Gerd Leonhard’s fresh, innovative and future oriented thinking is one of the few optimistic lights sign- posting the way forward”
Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts (LIPA)

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Books by Gerd Leonhard:


The Future of Content
Futurist Gerd Leonhard has been writing about the future of content i.e. music, film, TV, books, newspapers, games etc, since 1998. He has published 4 books on this topic, 2 of them on music (The Future of Music, Music 2.0). For the past 10 years, Leonhard has been deeply involved with many clients in various sectors of the content industry, in something like 17 countries, and it’s been a great experience, he says. “I have learned a lot, I have listened a lot, I have talked even more (most likely:) and I think I have grown to really understand the issues that face the content industries—and the creators, themselves—in the switch from physical to digital media.”

This Kindle book is a highly curated collection of the most important essays and blog posts Leonhard has written on this topic, and even though some of it was written as far back as 2007—”I believe it still holds water years later. I have tried to only include the pieces that have real teeth. Please note that the original date of each piece is shown here in order to allow for contextual orientation.”

Leonhard’s intent to publish this via the amazing Amazon Kindle platform, exclusively, and at a very low price, is to make these ideas and concepts as widely available as possible while still trying to be an example of what digital, paperless distribution can look like, going forward.


Friction is Fiction: The Future of Content, Media & Business
Futurist and Thought-Leader Gerd Leonhard shares his thoughts on the Future of Content, Media and Business. Friction is Fiction presents a constantly updated compilation of Gerd’s best essays, writings and most popular blog posts. The central meme is that the Internet has completely disrupted the traditional notion of generating higher income by simply taking advantage of possible friction points and hurdles within transactions or business processes, i.e. by controlling the ‘people formerly known as consumers’. The Future is all about winning the trust, and turning attention into revenues.

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