Conversation with Mark Pesce on the future of virtual events, organizations, and society

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Fellow futurist Mark Pesce is an old friend. We first actually connected when he spoke at my Future of Media Summit 2008, but I had long before being inspired by his work, writing about Virtual Reality Markup Language (VRML), which Mark co-developed, in my first book.

We happened to live 100 meters from each other in Sydney’s Surry Hills for a few years, and for many years now our work and positioning as futurists and keynote speakers has been highly aligned.

I obviously had to interview Mark for The Virtual Excellence Show, and it was indeed a highly stimulating conversation. Watch the video, and see below for some summary points.
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In times of uncertainty showing vulnerability is the mark of a true leader

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The world has always been uncertain.

Now perhaps it is more uncertain than ever before, not least in that new uses of technology are shifting the structure of society, business, and government, amplifying the manifold unknowns of the COVID-19 pandemic and how it might play out.

In the past many leaders sought a sense of control, and in relatively steady-state environments they were sometimes able to achieve that.

However for many years already, leaders who have not been comfortable with the reality of a lack of control in a highly complex world have been sidelined or found themselves presiding over rapidly shrinking organizations.
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How virtual audiences for sports, music, and conferences create a positive feedback loop of engagement

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Since the advent of coronavirus here has been a lot of work put into building virtual events.

However we are now realizing that having virtual audiences is an essential part of creating great events, energizing sportspeople, speakers, and performers and creating a positive feedback loop that is at the heart of a great in-person event.

We have already seen examples of this in soccer, notably of Danish team Aarhus teaming up with Zoom to put massive screens of fans in the audience.

Today the US NBA and Microsoft announced that digital stands comprising fans displayed on 17 foot screens would help bring basketball games to life.
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How to drive change by focusing on exponential opportunity, not threats

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Among the insights that John Hagel shared in our recent conversation on The Virtual Excellence Show was how to frame change for leaders.

From his decades of experience he says that you must focus on opportunity. Emphasizing threats simply increases resistance to change.

What makes this easier today is that fundamental shifts in the economy mean that opportunity can be exponential, generating even more compelling reasons for positive action.

However to seize those opportunities companies need to fundamentally recreate themelves, their old configurations are not adequate, deep change is essential.

See the video for John’s insights on this, or see below for a full transcript of the video.
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Experiential technologies will be at the heart of the future of physical retail

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Despite the deep challenges of the last decade, now overlaid with the dramatic impact of the pandemic, physical retail absolutely has a future. Much of that future will be through integrating useful technologies into the in-store experience to compete with the purely online experience.

This morning a segment on the Sunrise national breakfast show on the future of retail, shown below, included some thoughts from me on this (around 0:55 and 2:30).
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Human-technology interfaces will drive our future: here are four innovative new wearables from Google Research

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One of my oldest and most central themes in my work as a futurist is interfaces. How humans can and will interact with technology will shape not just our future, but indeed who are.

We have only relatively recently begun to move beyond keyboard, mouse and screen interfaces to voice and a handful of early-adopter gesture controls.

The tech giants well understand the importance of providing the most compelling interface.
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Going beyond Zoom hell to avatar-based meetings in virtual spaces

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Since March many people feel they have been caught in a ‘Zoom hell‘ of back-to-back video calls throughout their waking hours.

While this would have seemed futuristic a few decades ago, it already feels deeply tired. We have all experienced the problems with engagement, attention, and effective collaboration on video-conferencing calls.

One of the most interesting directions for the next phase of virtual meetings is avatar-based meetings in augmented and virtual reality.

In this very interesting excerpt from my conversation with futurist and AR/VR expert Cathy Hackl on The Virtual Excellence Show, Cathy discusses the realities, potential, and pragmatics of avatar meetings, including a demonstration of one of the current offerings in the space, and her own experiences using the technology.
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Reinvention and the virtuous circle of learning by doing: the case of The Virtual Excellence Show

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For the last couple of months I have been selectively sharing conversations, tutorials, and highlight videos from The Virtual Excellence Show on this blog, but I haven’t written anything about the show itself. This is the story of the show and the most important things I’ve learned so far.

The last time I spoke in-person at a conference was in late February of this year, with in following weeks all my other engagements cancelled in rapid succession. It quickly became apparent that there would be no more physical events for the foreseeable future.

I do have other ventures but the majority of my revenue for the last couple of years has been as a professional speaker, so, as many others, I saw my current livelihood simply evaporating.
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How technology is changing dating and remote relationships in pandemic times

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I was recently interviewed on the Studio 10 TV program about the future of dating and relationships. See the video below:


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Imagine… a global economy optimized around everyone’s unique ability to contribute

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Every one of the almost 8 billion people on this planet is unique.

And everyone can contribute to the world and humanity in a unique way. Most of us spend our lives trying to work out quite how.

The past of work has been one of using and paying for a tiny and specific portion of people’s capabilities.

The future of work should be one that is able to uncover, express, and reward everyone’s unique capabilities and their ability to contribute to society.
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