Science and Leadership for the Future: Introduction

Ross Dawson recently gave a keynote address on Science and Leadership for the Future to a small group of major media and corporate clients of New Scientist magazine.

Given the context, he was able to delve a little deeper into the issues than he would for most audiences. The video of his presentation was sliced into a number of brief segments. Below is the video of his introductory presentation. Please click here to view the complete presentation.

Full Transcription: Science and Leadership for the Future – Introduction

Ross Dawson:

Imagine that you could live at any time in human history. When would you choose to live? You could potentially live during the Renaissance when there was an explosion of arts and creativity, or you could live during Roman times when they really knew how to throw a party. But I personally think that now is the most extraordinary time in human history to be alive, and that is created by a whole array of trends, but it’s particularly the advances of science and its application in technology that are creating today the pace of change in, not just the world around us, but also literally who we are as people. We are creating ourselves. This future is not happening, it is created. There are people who we know, and indeed ourselves, we are creating that future. We are the leaders who are creating that future based on the science and the technologies that amplify our powers, amplify our imagination, amplify the possibilities of what we can create.

If we look at this video, we can see three sets of people – three twins. Professor Ishiguro of Osaka University used to have to commute an hour to do his lectures. And he said, “I don’t want to spend that time commuting, so I’ll create a copy of myself who can do the lecture for me, and I’ll be able to operate that at a distance.” Today, if you look closely, you can tell the difference between the original person, Professor Ishiguro in the middle, one of his Danish compatriots on the side, and a colleague of his. But we are getting close to the point where we cannot tell the difference between the robots and the humans. That is the extent of the capabilities. The richness of humanity is something that we can actually reflect in what is created in these doppelgangers.

In the United States Military training academies, in leadership training, they talk about VUCA – Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. These are the domains in which leaders of today must work. Not in just the domain of complexity. This is the world where we must understand the underlying scientific drivers and be able to interpret these in a way where we can make more effective decisions. So, my definition of a futurist is someone who helps people and organizations to think effectively about the future in order to act better today. We cannot predict the future, yet we can gain insights which will enable us to be more effective.

So, what I want to do quickly this morning is look, firstly, at some of the underlying shifts which are shaping our world – how science is changing our world. Go on to look at some of the ways in which we can think effectively about the future. Look at the science of networks, which is such a critical underpinning to so much of the world and the structure of the science of today. Look at a couple of the domains where we have starting to see some of the technologies change the structure of business society and interfaces in robotics. Go and look at strategy, as in how this thinking about the future brings us back into being able to build and implement more effective strategies. And finally, some thoughts around leadership which will enable us to enact that.

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