“The bad news is that everything is broken. The good news is that we can fix it. And the ugly news is that it’s gonna get really messy.” – Mark Stevenson
has described himself as a “reluctant futurist” and “pragmatic optimist”. He has been described by others as a rare visionary, with “an ability to express even the most complex scientific problems in terms easily understood by a layperson.” An expert on global trends and innovation who is also a gifted story-teller, occasional comedy writer and former stand-up comedian, he has been noted as “one of those rare visionaries who fascinates an audience and makes them laugh in equal measure.”
Mark is author of the internationally best-selling An Optimist's Tour of the Future
, which has been translated into 10 languages and was described by Wired
magazine as “a very coherent and entertaining journey through the world of future technology. In his latest book, the award-winning We Do Things Differently: The Outsiders Rebooting Our World
, Stevenson is on a mission to answer the question, “What’s next?” as he confronts the realities of the future we create for ourselves. “We’re all futurists really,” he says
, “as human beings are the only creatures that can systematically imagine something that hasn’t happened yet.”
Stevenson’s life is dedicated to “future literacy” or understanding the questions that the future is asking us, and trying to create a culture that enables us to answer those questions in a way that makes the world more sustainable, equitable, humane, or just. He argues that many of the world’s most pressing dilemmas are a result of the use of old models that fail to keep up with modern challenges. “Everything is broken,” says Mark.
But instead of being depressed about the future, he says, we have an opportunity to fix it
. “The idea of dreaming big dreams, that you can make the world better, is outside of culture right now. It’s seen as naïve,” Mark says
. By helping people become future literate, he wants to help them get “facts straight about what’s on offer, and then work out what [they’re] going to do to steer the world to a better outcome.” Believing that most people are basically good, he notes that history has a moral direction because “the more intertwined we are, the harder it is to hurt somebody else without hurting yourself. We’re a co-inspirational network, us humans, our fates are correlated.”
From education to energy supply, and healthcare to food production, Stevenson is one of the world’s most respected thinkers on the interplay of technology and society and has worked with a wide range of clients including government agencies, non-profits, and corporate and arts organizations on adapting their culture and polices to better respond to the questions the future is asking.
In his latest book, We Do Things Differently
, Mark traveled the globe to meet with innovators who are challenging the status quo and changing the way we relate to the world to make it more stable, equitable, and humane. Mark has also written for The Times of London
, The Wall Street Journal
, and The Guardian
, and is widely respected for his ability to translate complex issues into easily understood concepts.
His advisory roles include Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Earth Challenge
, “an innovation incentive designed to award scalable and sustainable ways of removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere;” the policy and regulation division of the GSMA
, representing the interests of mobile operators worldwide; future-literacy hub Atlas of the Future
; music industry reboot The Rattle
; and resident futurist at The National Theater of Scotland
Stevenson is a cofounder of the cultural change agency, We Do Things Differently
, where he dedicates his time to helping international organizations understand their role in creating a better future through big picture thinking, innovation, and engagement; and Flow Associates
, a cultural consulting agency that works with different organizations to help them create effective and sustainable experiences and services.
He is also the founder of The League of Pragmatic Optimists, an organization “where people who want to make the world better can meet, generate ideas and projects, get inspiration and find collaborators.”
Mark’s comedy work has been performed on the BBC’s Radio 4, and his play, Octopus Soup, co-written with Jack Milner comes to London in 2018. In describing the role of his comedy background in his work as a futurist, Mark notes
, “I was always fascinated by pop songs and good comedy. I love a sentence that is beautiful as well as useful. Stevie Wonder can distill an emotion that’s complex and difficult into three lines you can sing and dance along to – that’s extraordinary skill. I have always been interested in how great art, great writing, comedy and songs can communicate the truth in an engaging way without trivialising it.”
Join us in conversation with this entertaining and lucid thinker!