Ben Hammersley: So as you just heard, my name’s Ben Hammersley, I once invent­ed the word podcast—I’m sor­ry, I apologize. 

So I work as a futur­ist. And a futur­ist’s job is to live a few years in the future and then come back and tell you all about it. And so that’s what I was going to do today, but then I thought well actu­al­ly, no. I was here yes­ter­day. And I was talk­ing to lots of peo­ple, and I was going to some of the talks, and I was hang­ing out out­side and play­ing the pin­ball machine next to the cof­fee thing, which is very good if you wan­na play with that.

And I was think­ing I actu­al­ly this audi­ence is slight­ly dif­fer­ent. You are slight­ly dif­fer­ent to the usu­al audi­ences that I have. You’re taller, for one thing. More than half of you are women. Which is awe­some. And you’re also quite sophis­ti­cat­ed. And so I thought well actu­al­ly, what is it these peo­ple want? What is— Like, if I was a prod­uct design­er and I was design­ing my talk, what would I want? What does the user want? What do you want, right. 

And I already had a talk writ­ten. And…I delet­ed it. Which was prob­a­bly a bad idea twenty-four hours before giv­ing it. So, instead I thought well what do these peo­ple want? And actu­al­ly they want to learn about the future. 

Okay. So usu­al­ly, if you’re a futur­ist, one of the ways—what a lot of peo­ple in my pro­fes­sion do is they’ll stand on stage like this and they’ll show about 150 slides of very cool tech­nol­o­gy. Usually very shape­ly tech­nol­o­gy. Sometimes there’ll be some sky­scrap­ers with trees grow­ing out of the top. There’ll be a lots of sort of bio­mimet­ic stuff from Brazil and things like that. And there’ll be about 150 slides as I said and they’ll just sit there and they’ll go through it and it’ll be very—it’ll be almost pornographic. 

And you won’t learn any­thing but at the end of it you’ll be quite excit­ed for Christmas. And I call that the Victoria’s Secret Offering. And I’m not going to give you that today. Sorry. There’s some cool stuff out­side, alright. When you get cof­fee, go and have a look outside. 

But instead, what I want to do is I want give you the tools to do my job. This is obvi­ous­ly killing my entire career in Scandinavia, but nev­er­the­less. Let’s do this. Okay. So are you ready to become a futur­ist? Fuck yeah. Okay! 

Line graph showing a power curve going up and to the right.

Right. This is the most impor­tant graph that you’ll ever need to use as a futur­ist. Every sin­gle futur­ist has one of these as the first slide in their deck. It does­n’t real­ly mat­ter what this is. An expo­nen­tial curve, up and to the right. This rep­re­sents all of tech­nol­o­gy. The past thir­ty years of tech­no­log­i­cal evo­lu­tion is described in this. This could be any­thing. This is proces­sor pow­er. This is mem­o­ry per dol­lar. This is Internet pen­e­tra­tion. This is the num­ber of peo­ple play­ing Angry Birds. This is the num­ber of iPhones. Whatever it is, up and to the right, an expo­nen­tial curve. It is insane­ly impor­tant to under­stand this. Because no one. does.

Let me show you where this came from. The most impres­sive expo­nen­tial curve—up and to the right—was invent­ed by this man. He’s called Gordon Moore, who is the cofounder of Intel. And in 1964, he looked at the sales brochures that Intel were pub­lish­ing of the chips that they were mak­ing, and he real­ized there’s was an inter­est­ing pat­tern. Every year, for the same amount of mon­ey, Intel could fit twice as many com­po­nents on to one of their microchips. 

And he wrote an arti­cle about this in a mag­a­zine. And because he was an engi­neer he did­n’t use an expo­nen­tial graph, he used a log­a­rith­mic graph, which makes a nice straight line. This is very annoy­ing when you show this on a slide. Because not only do peo­ple not under­stand expo­nen­tial graphs, they cer­tain­ly don’t under­stand log­a­rith­mic graphs. But nev­er­the­less, this shows a dou­bling of the num­ber of com­po­nents that can fit onto an inte­grat­ed cir­cuit every year. 

This is called Moore’s Law. And it’s per­haps the most impor­tant thing that you can under­stand to under­stand all of the mod­ern world. Because what Moore’s Law says is that every year for the same amount of mon­ey, com­put­ing pow­er dou­bles. Now, every­body in this room…even the old peo­ple at the back, every­body in this room has lived the major­i­ty of their lives if not all of your lives in a world where Moore’s Law has been the most impor­tant thing, right. You under­stand this fun­da­men­tal­ly. It is part of your being. You know that every September, Tim Cook from Apple will stand on stage like this and instant­ly make the phone in your pock­et shit. Right. This is an iPhone 10, and up until September I thought this was the best phone ever made. I now real­ize it’s ter­ri­ble and I need to buy a new one. This hap­pens every year because of Moore’s Law, the dou­bling of capa­bil­i­ty for the same amount of money. 

Now why is this impor­tant? Well it’s impor­tant because human soci­ety does not under­stand a dou­bling of capa­bil­i­ty. Because for thou­sands of years before, our tech­nolo­gies did not get twice as good every year. In the old Viking days, swords did not get twice as stab­by every year. Horses did not get twice as fast every year. 

Now why is this? Well it’s because we use dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies to make the next gen­er­a­tion of dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies, right. You don’t use a sword to make anoth­er sword. 

You use a horse to make anoth­er horse. That’s true. That’s true. But. But, they didn’t…they stopped get­ting faster. The upgrades…they’re terrible. 

So this is a real prob­lem, because as a futur­ist, you get paid more for hav­ing a fur­ther away fore­cast hori­zon. The fore­cast hori­zon is how far out into the future you can talk sen­si­bly. Now when my indus­try was invent­ed in the 60s by the Rand Corporation in Santa Monica in California, about a mile—literally a mile up the road from where I live… When they invent­ed it, their fore­cast hori­zon was about twen­ty years. And actu­al­ly if you read the reports that they wrote in the ear­ly 60s, they were pret­ty good. Pretty bang on. They were pret­ty clever. 

Today though, our fore­cast hori­zon is roughly…three years. Anybody who is mak­ing tech­no­log­i­cal pre­dic­tions for more than five years away is entire­ly bull­shit­ting. To use a tech­ni­cal phrase. 

Listing of Moore's Law, Swanson's Law, Koomey's Law, Haitz's Law, and Bell's Law

So this is a real prob­lem for us if we want to be futur­ists. So how do we do this? Well what do we do? Well, we have to use what we call rule-based sce­nar­ios. This gives a lit­tle bit of rig­or, a lit­tle bit of sci­en­tif­ic fact for you to base all of your imag­i­na­tion on. There are many rules that you can use. The first one is Moore’s Law, the one we said. This is a very com­plex slide, please do not read it. But there are many oth­er rules that we can use. But rough­ly they all say the same thing: that for any tech­nol­o­gy that you can think of, it kind of gets twice as good rough­ly every year. From proces­sor pow­er, to bat­ter­ies, to band­width, to screen res­o­lu­tion, to screen size, to solar pan­els, to all of those things. 

So you take these gen­er­al rules of thumb and then you apply them to real-world obser­va­tions. You spent a lot of time out in the real world, look­ing at the way that peo­ple do stuff. Not nec­es­sar­i­ly look­ing at tech­nol­o­gy, but look­ing at the way peo­ple act in the world. The way that peo­ple’s day-to-day lives are chang­ing from week to week, from month to month, and from year to year. 

Now why do we do this? Well because as futur­ists, we have to rec­og­nize that along with tech­nol­o­gy we have enor­mous amounts of simul­ta­ne­ous change, because with tech­nol­o­gy you have soci­ety and cul­ture all chang­ing at the same time. Twenty years ago, rough­ly, when this con­fer­ence was first start­ed, it was an incred­i­bly tech­ni­cal con­fer­ence. You had to have a beard for you to be allowed in the room. But now it’s both tech­ni­cal but there’s also a huge amount of soci­ety and cul­ture as well. Because all of these things are equal­ly as impor­tant, and feed off each oth­er. If it was just techies in the room, they’d be utter­ly irrel­e­vant. If it was just social sci­en­tists in the room, they’d be utter­ly rel­e­vant. If it was just peo­ple mak­ing cul­ture in the room, also irrel­e­vant. You add them all togeth­er, you get the real thing. 

And so as futur­ists we have to pay atten­tion to all of these things, and at the same time we have to be look­ing to see what the peo­ple are doing in the streets. Let me give you an exam­ple of this in action. So about two years ago I did a project in Los Angeles where we were look­ing for new tech­nolo­gies and try­ing to extrap­o­late them out to wider impli­ca­tions. And we noticed as we walked around the streets of LA, just before—actually…this time of year, just before Christmas, there were lots of peo­ple rid­ing about on those lit­tle hov­er­boards. Do you remem­ber those? The lit­tle skateboard—like, hor­i­zon­tal skateboard‑y things that kept explod­ing, right. 

Now these were real­ly inter­est­ing for a cou­ple of reasons—well for many rea­sons. From a tech­no­log­i­cal point of view they’re incred­i­bly inter­est­ing because their bat­ter­ies were strong enough to hold enough charge to car­ry a heavy dude like me up and down the beach. That was new. They also had elec­tric motors which were pow­er­ful enough to car­ry a heavy dude like me up and down the beach, pow­ered by one of those bat­ter­ies. That was new. And at the same time, with oth­er research we were see­ing com­put­er vision and AI happening. 

We also saw in many cities around the world this new urban­iza­tion, that young peo­ple were mov­ing back into the down­town areas. Especially in Los Angeles. Downtown LA twen­ty years ago, it was utter­ly aban­doned. It was basi­cal­ly a slum. It was pret­ty rough. Gangland. Now it’s insane­ly fash­ion­able. Hipster. Gentrification. The whole thing. And so there’s this return to down­towns. And at the same time we found that there was a gen­er­a­tional rejec­tion, specif­i­cal­ly in North America, of car ownership. 

So we took all of these dif­fer­ent things—the tech­no­log­i­cal, the cul­tur­al, the social, we added them all togeth­er. And we wrote a report, and the report said some­time very soon, all these things are going to come togeth­er, and they won’t be explody hov­er­boards from dodgy Chinese fac­to­ries. Instead they’ll be some form of inter­est­ing urban plat­form, inter­est­ing urban product. 

A row of electric scooters parked on a sidewalk.

About a year ago these start­ed to appear on the streets of Los Angeles and also oth­er major cities around North America and now the world. You don’t have these in Stockholm yet I don’t think. You do. Well there you go. Brilliant. 

You know what these are, right? Now, here of course, the next six months, prob­a­bly not that cool. But in the sum­mer these are awe­some. They rad­i­cal­ly change the way a city thinks, actu­al­ly. They rad­i­cal­ly change the way a city oper­ates. And if you have thou­sands of these, which we do in Los Angeles right now, the local coun­cils have to start think­ing about the way the roads work, because they have to put in more bike lanes because more and more peo­ple are using these. Now this is real­ly cool, because this leads us on to the next stage of the tech­no­log­i­cal revolution.

A young girl walking in the near distance, followed by a robot composed of two wheels and a platform for standing upon.

Here is a pic­ture of my daugh­ter (she’s the one at the top) walk­ing to school being fol­lowed by her robot. The robot is a Loomo. It’s a pro­to­type robot from Segway. Now, you may rec­og­nize this if you have a Segway. You may have seen some some of the Segways that’re about about this high and you can stand on them and you can ride them around. Well Segway who make those also have a robot­ics arm and they make a robot that uses the same self-balancing technology. 

Now why is this inter­est­ing? Well, this con­tains all of those tech­nolo­gies that were in the hov­er­boards and all the tech­nolo­gies that’re in the mope­ds…and the Lime and Bird and all those scoot­ers. Adds in arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence, which has dou­bled and dou­bled in pow­er every year. Adds in com­put­er vision. And so we can stand on this and we can ride it around, and then when I step off it I can turn round and I can talk to it. And I can say, Loomo,” that’s it’s name, Hey Loomo, fol­low me.” And it goes beep beep, I will fol­low you now.” And then when I walk down the street it fol­lows behind me. Or it fol­lows behind Ripley my daughter. 

Now this is pret­ty use­ful, because it means I can take her to school every morn­ing on one of these robots. But it’s also incred­i­bly use­ful because when I go shop­ping I can ride the robot to the shops and then on the way home I can buy a cof­fee, put all the shop­ping on the side of the robot, and walk home and the robot will fol­low me. 

Now why am I telling you this, oth­er than to tell you that I’ve got a robot and you don’t, ha ha ha. Why am I telling you this? Well, this is because as futur­ists, you have to think about these impli­ca­tions of these tech­nolo­gies for the next…you know, two, five, twenty-five years. What are the implications? 

Well, the first impli­ca­tion is this stuff already exists. Which means that if today you look at that and you go oh that’s a bit rub­bish, next year it’ll be twice as good or half the price. The year after that, twice as good or half the price. Year after that, twice as good and half the price. Again and again and again. Which means in three or four or five years’ time, those things will be incred­i­bly cheap and pret­ty good. 

And then you start think­ing well what are the use cas­es? Well sure, crazy hip­ster dudes that live on the beach with tat­toos and a 4 year-old, pret­ty use­ful. My grand­moth­er who real­ly likes to go to the mar­ket to buy her food, but can’t car­ry the bags any­more? Super use­ful. When I go on hol­i­day and I’m going through the air­port and my lug­gage just fol­lows behind me… Because it rec­og­nizes my…ass I guess, and fol­lows me, right. Also very useful. 

And if that’s the case and that’s the case, well if I was an archi­tect and I’m design­ing an air­port or a super­mar­ket, or if I’m a town plan­ner design­ing pave­ments in the shop­ping dis­tricts of cities, then I need to pay atten­tion to this stuff. Because when I build a large build­ing it’s going to have a twenty-five year lifes­pan. Which means that today, now you know about these robots. If tomor­row you were employed to design or help design an air­port, you have to make sure there are no steps any­where. Not nec­es­sar­i­ly because tomor­row peo­ple are gonna have these things. But because in five years’ time peo­ple are gonna have these things and if you’re the one who has an air­port with steps in it, every­body’s going to hate you. 

So as a futur­ist, your clients are gonna be look­ing to you for things that are gonna hap­pen in five years’ time, and you can see what those are from the small clues we have today about this rolling for­ward of tech­nol­o­gy, that it dou­bles in pow­er and dou­bles in capa­bil­i­ty every year. And we can see this sort of evolution. 

Now. This is all very well, Ben. I feel ener­gized. I’m ready to change my career. Let’s do this, all of us togeth­er. Fifteen hun­dred of us—let’s do this. Let us start our own futur­ist town. We should become a cult.” 

But no. Because there is a prob­lem with this. In California in Silicon Valley, there is this gen­er­al feel­ing that tech­nol­o­gy is des­tiny, right. That if you can invent some­thing then it has to become true. One of the under­ly­ing psy­cholo­gies that’s sort of behind Zeynep’s talk just now, that comes from Facebook, is if Facebook invent­ed it then there­fore it’s pos­si­ble there­fore Facebook have to use that tech­nol­o­gy, right. They have this feel­ing that if it exists, they have to use it. And hold­ing back on some­thing that they could do for the sake of peo­ple feel­ing a bit freaked out by it, it’s not cool, as far as Silicon Valley is con­cerned. And so some­times we sort of fall for that hype, right. We fall for this idea that if a tech­nol­o­gy exists, it’s going to happen. 

And this isn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly the case. There are actu­al­ly some ques­tions that you have to start ask­ing about your pre­dic­tions, just to check them. To make sure that they’re sen­si­ble. So here are some of these ques­tions. These are very good ques­tions if any­body ever makes a sort of pre­dic­tion about some­thing in front of you. You can run through these ques­tions in your head and you can prob­a­bly, or almost cer­tain­ly, find a prob­lem. And that prob­lem will either end the argu­ment right there or start a new con­ver­sa­tion which will invent some­thing better. 

So for exam­ple: How do we get from here to there? Now this is a par­tic­u­lar­ly good ques­tion if we’re talk­ing about utopi­an visions. Science fic­tion films of the past twen­ty years have had enor­mous amounts of utopi­an visions of cities. You might be able to bring some to mind of a city for exam­ple that’s under a dome, and every­body’s dressed like they’ve just come from the Gap. And every­thing is incred­i­bly clean, and beau­ti­ful. And there’s usu­al­ly some rebels, right. And those beau­ti­ful dome cities where every­thing’s clean and beau­ti­ful? Total non­sense. Because there’s no way for us to get from here to there. 

At the same time, though, there are also lots of oth­er films which are incred­i­bly dystopi­an, where every­thing has gone to hell and it’s all crazy and like cyber­punky and a bit Blade Runner, all that sort of stuff. And again, those are wrong, too. Because we have the sec­ond ques­tion: Why would we stop there? If we got to a shit­ty place why would­n’t we keep on going and try and get out the oth­er side? Again, ques­tions that we have to ask. 

If we’re talk­ing about about build­ings in a specif­i­cal­ly new hous­ing and urban devel­op­ments, one good futur­ist ques­tion to ask is would it make a good slum? The best parts of the best cities of the world have gone through mul­ti­ple cycles of being incred­i­bly rich, and then incred­i­bly poor, them incred­i­bly rich, and then incred­i­bly poor. In the same areas. And many new hous­ing devel­op­ments, many new expen­sive hous­ing devel­op­ments around the world, would make ter­ri­ble slums. Which means they’re doomed. 

There are many more of these. The most famous, and the most you know, enter­tain­ing one of course is, does it facil­i­tate pornog­ra­phy? If you see a new tech­nol­o­gy and you can’t work out how to make porn with it, it prob­a­bly won’t work. Very important. 

These are all ques­tions we have to ask. We have to be crit­i­cal, we have to be thought­ful, we have to be mind­ful about tech­nolo­gies. Not just get excit­ed that a thing exists, but start to ask real­ly impor­tant and dif­fi­cult ques­tions about them. And about their lifespan. 

As I say here, think­ing about tech­nol­o­gy means think­ing about cul­ture, which means think­ing about pol­i­tics, which means think­ing about tech­nol­o­gy, which means think­ing about cul­ture, which means think­ing ab— And around and around and around we go. 

And if you are in any way, in any part of your job, respon­si­ble for think­ing about any of these things, you have to think about all of them. This is real­ly the les­son of the past decade. If you’re think­ing about any of these things you have to be think­ing about all of them all at the same time. 

Let me give you an exam­ple of this: dis­rup­tive tech­nolo­gies. We hear the word dis­rup­tive” all the time and it’s con­sid­ered to be an incred­i­bly brave thing. But the ques­tion you have to ask your­self, is some­thing real­ly, tru­ly dis­rup­tive? The Google self-driving car, for exam­ple. Positive evi­dence that Google can make soft­ware but can­not design a car for shit. 

Self-driving truck. Is it dis­rup­tive? No. It’s not dis­rup­tive in any way because it does­n’t change any­thing thing about the indus­try. All it does is replace a human with a robot, but it does­n’t change any­thing. Genuine dis­rup­tion in the trans­port mech­a­nism would be a self-driving bus. Or lots of bus­es. Or a change in plan­ning facil­i­ties which means you have high­er den­si­ty hous­ing that’s clos­er to work so you can walk to work. Or trains that work. Or some­thing like that. Genuine dis­rup­tion would be bicy­cles. Not cars. Self-driving cars are not a dis­rup­tive tech­nol­o­gy. They are in fact the last stage of a fail­ing tech­nol­o­gy. We have to think about tech­nolo­gies in the way that they relate to all oth­er things. 

What you think is nor­mal, as I say, isn’t new, at all. And if it’s new it won’t be nor­mal. Now it’s not a bad thing that we don’t get this. Malcolm Gladwell in his last-but-one book posit­ed this the­o­ry that said that for you to become a mas­ter at some­thing you had to do it—you had to do delib­er­ate prac­tice, thought­ful delib­er­ate prac­tice in some­thing for 10,000 hours. For us to be any good at dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies, any good at under­stand­ing the Internet, this would mean that every­body would’ve had to have spent an hour and a half a day every day for the past twen­ty years. 

Now…Twitter does­n’t count, right? So, nobody’s done that, yet. We haven’t had enough prac­tice. And so there are some things that we need to think about before we can move on and think sen­si­bly about tech­nol­o­gy. We have to think about chang­ing morals. Here’s a thing you can do if you want to be a real­ly good futur­ist. It’s called The Grandparent Game. Everybody here has grand­par­ents or great-grandparents who have social beliefs which you find incred­i­bly offen­sive. Probably they’re mad racist. You don’t have to answer but it’s true, right? 

Next time you have a big fam­i­ly din­ner… If we were in America it would be Thanksgiving on Thursday, but Christmas or what­ev­er, right. This is a good thing to do after the sec­ond bot­tle of wine. Ask every­body what beliefs you hold that your grand­chil­dren will find incred­i­bly offen­sive. What things do you think which you hold to be absolute­ly true, will your grand­chil­dren or your great-grandchildren think you’re an absolute ass­hole for thinking? 

And if you can start to think in that way, you’ll start to be able to think about the way that tech­nol­o­gy is evolv­ing and the way it’s chang­ing pol­i­tics and so on. We call this the Overton Window. The sphere of polit­i­cal debate that is pos­si­ble with­in soci­ety. And the Overton Window shifts all of the time. And being able to pre­dict the way that the Overton Window is shift­ing, by think­ing through those sorts of ques­tions, is anoth­er way to think about the effect of tech­nol­o­gy on the world. 

Now I have pre­cise­ly a minute left so I’m going to go super quick. Hold on. 

The prob­lem that we have about tech­nol­o­gy today is that the over­all over­ar­ch­ing cul­ture of inno­va­tion is the idea that inno­va­tion is brought to you by a sin­gle per­son: the mes­si­ah. The young man in the hood­ie who comes out of the desert with a tablet with the mag­i­cal code on it. And every orga­ni­za­tion and specif­i­cal­ly every gov­ern­ment has had this idea in their head for twen­ty years. That some­body will come along with a new app which will save them. 

This is not the case. In fact, the real case for gen­uine inno­va­tion is that every­body, the whole com­mu­ni­ty has to do it all at the same time. But most orga­ni­za­tions can­not do this. Because most orga­ni­za­tions do not live in the present. When it’s 2018 in this build­ing, in the city hall next door it’s 2006. So we have to get our­selves right up to the present day before we can move forward. 

So for my last thir­ty sec­onds I’m going to show you how to do that. This is a technique…that I want you to take home with you…and use…mindfully and pow­er­ful­ly because it’s incred­i­bly pow­er­ful. Are you ready to learn this technique? 

Am I allowed an extra minute on my clock? Awesome. It’s just cof­fee after me, so you’re fine. Okay. 

We call this tech­nique con­stant legacy-free rein­ven­tion.” Here’s how you do it. The next oppor­tu­ni­ty you have, and let’s say tomor­row, from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed… And this will slow you down tomor­row, okay. You’re not gonna get as much done tomor­row but this is real­ly worth it. From the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed, I want you to think about every sin­gle action that you take, every sin­gle phys­i­cal action you take, and ask your­self two ques­tions about every sin­gle phys­i­cal action. 

The first ques­tion is, what prob­lem am I solv­ing by doing this action? I am drink­ing from this glass of water because I am thirsty. I am brush­ing my teeth because some­thing died in my mouth overnight. Whatever it is, right. I am send­ing this email to move this project for­ward, right. Whatever phys­i­cal action you’re tak­ing ask your­self that ques­tion. What prob­lem am I solv­ing by doing this thing? 

The sec­ond ques­tion is, if I had to solve that prob­lem today for the first time and I had to use mod­ern tools, how would I do it? 

Now this is going to slow you down, as I said. Because at every point you’re gonna have to get your phone out, you’re gonna Google stuff, right. But when you do that, what you’ll find is that for many of the things that you do, the sheer act of ask­ing the ques­tion what prob­lem am I solv­ing by doing this?” you’ll find that a good per­cent­age of the things you do, you have no real rea­son to do them. So you can stop. Now that’s a good inno­va­tion. Just don’t do it any­more. For the remain­ing stuff, quite a lot of that stuff you will find a new and bet­ter way of doing it sim­ply because you nev­er both­ered look­ing before. 

Now when you do that, and if you do this on a reg­u­lar basis both indi­vid­u­al­ly and inside your fam­i­ly and inside your orga­ni­za­tion, inside your neigh­bor­hood, when you do this, very rapid­ly over the next few weeks and months you will find that you’ll bring your­self right up to the present day. And you’ll bring your orga­ni­za­tion, your family—whatever it is—right up to the present day. 

And when you’ve done that, when you bring your­self right up to 2018, 2019, what­ev­er it is, then you’ll find that your view of the future and your abil­i­ty to make strong and smart and insight­ful strate­gic deci­sions will be much much improved. Your life will be bet­ter. You’ll think clear­er. Your skin will clear up. You’ll grow two inch­es taller. And every­body will love you. But more impor­tant­ly, you will be able to think clear­ly about the effects of soci­ety on tech­nol­o­gy and tech­nol­o­gy on society. 

We face enor­mous amounts of prob­lems brought about by the lack of con­tem­po­rari­ness of think­ing. We have entrust­ed in many cas­es our future to peo­ple who are con­fused by the present. So for those of you in this room today, your mis­sion is not to sit back and wait for things to hap­pen. Your mis­sion is to bring your­self right up to the cut­ting edge and stay there, and lead every­body else into the future. And if you start off today, lead­ing into the future is real­ly easy. You just do it one day at a time.

If you can do that, when we meet again next year this room is gonna be super awe­some. Thank you very much. 

Moderator: Thank you Ben Hammersley. My idea for the Overton Window, and I think I can already pic­ture my grand­kids ask­ing me, You used to eat cows and pigs?” Like meat, right. Are you… I mean, there’s all these things that we take for grant­ed today that we grew up with that are going to be total­ly so old-fashioned and weird. I think that’s a good way of think­ing of it. 

But, so in Sweden we have an ongo­ing dis­cus­sion about old peo­ple main­ly who do not want to use the Internet. They don’t want to be part of mod­ern soci­ety. They don’t want inno­va­tion. They wan­na use forms and call peo­ple and do things the old way, dammit. And you whip­per­snap­pers with your Internet and your blip­pi­ty blop­pi­ty, you should­n’t come here and change things. How do we deal with like, this nat­ur­al stretch in soci­ety where you have a huge part of the soci­ety that moves on and moves into the future, even if as you say slight­ly a bit slow­er than maybe this room? How do we deal with hav­ing that mass of peo­ple and not leav­ing half the pop­u­la­tion behind? Because like, you had scoot­ers for instance. Electric scoot­ers. They flood the cities, and then the city goes, No. We’re gonna ban the elec­tric scoot­er because they’re tak­ing up too much space.” And so how do we mar­ry these two worlds togeth­er? If you could just answer that in fif­teen, twen­ty seconds? 

Ben Hammersley: Sure. So, I think you’re falling into the Californian trap, right. In that in some cas­es… Not all of the ca—definitely not all of the cas­es. But in some cas­es, those old peo­ple who want to do every­thing on paper, they might be right. Making some­thing dig­i­tal does not equal mak­ing it good, right. Doing it on an iPhone does­n’t make it—making it futur‑y” does­n’t make awe­some. Doing it in a VR head­set basi­cal­ly makes it suck, right? 

Moderator: It might be cool but not great.

Hammersley: Right.

Moderator: Yeah.

Hammersley: And so these newly-qualified futur­ists here, they under­stand. Because they were lis­ten­ing, right. They under­stand that for every­thing like that, you have to ask your­self, if I was doing this for the first time and I had to do it with all of the tools avail­able, or with choos­ing all of the tools avail­able, how would I do it? And that implic­it­ly means choos­ing the cor­rect tool for the job. Absolutely, there are many things where doing it on your phone, or doing it online or what­ev­er, is by far the best way of doing it. But there are oth­er things which are much bet­ter done on paper, or in anoth­er way. And there’s con­sid­er­able research com­ing out now for exam­ple in the edu­ca­tion field, where we’re real­iz­ing that writ­ing stuff down by hand, even tem­porar­i­ly, even if you just write it down and then throw it away, right. Writing stuff down, you learn it bet­ter, for example. 

Moderator: More than typ­ing, you mean. Or more than—

Hammersley: Something like 20% bet­ter than typ­ing, yeah. The mea­sur­able­ness is very marked, right. And so…now it’s not sur­pris­ing, as I was try­ing to say, it’s not sur­pris­ing that we don’t ful­ly under­stand that. Because we haven’t been doing the dig­i­tal stuff long enough to go, Well actu­al­ly, we’re kind of experts in this now. We know it sucks in this par­tic­u­lar area.” 

But as more and more research is done, and as all of these beautifully-qualified peo­ple are now able to think about these things in a bit more crit­i­cal way, they’ll be able to say, Hang on a sec­ond. When I go and see a lec­ture and I type my notes I don’t remem­ber any of it. [crosstalk] But when I go see a lec­ture and I write stuff on paper… 

Moderator: Well shit, what am I doing with this thing. [sound of tablet being dropped on table]

Hammersley: Prec— See, wel­come my friend. 

Moderator: Well, it might not be a futur­is­tic robots to take your child to school, but it’s at least a plas­tic R2-D2

Hammersley: I saw Zeynep get this and I was like they’d bet­ter give me one.

Moderator: Thank you so much for an inspir­ing talk.

Further Reference

Internetdagarnda 2018 archive