Amy Webb: Biography highlights
Amy Webb may not be a superhero – but she does have a powerful ability to anticipate trends and emerging technology that will disrupt tomorrow. And she can envision and help prepare for the impact they’ll have on business and society. Now she’s teaching others, including corporate leaders, innovators and governments, to do the same.
Full biography of Amy Webb
Founder of the Future Today Institute, Webb is a renowned futurist and strategist. For her, it’s not simply an interest; it’s a profession and a passion. Nor is “forecasting the future” about creating fantastical scenarios. Webb doesn’t simply make speculations or predictions; her work is evidence based, drawn from mapping and modeling quantitative and qualitative data collected in the present to understand what’s coming (5-20 years from now). Her upcoming book “The Big Nine: How the Tech Titans and their Thinking Machines Could Warp Humanity” (PublicAffairs, March 2019) will examine how Artificial Intelligence is being shaped by a handful of big companies, and how the rest of the world should respond.
Named to the 2017 Thinkers50 Radar list of management thinkers most likely to shape the future – and winner of its 2017 Distinguished Achievement Award – Webb is already making an impact on today’s Fortune 500 and Global 1000 companies, government agencies, large nonprofits, universities and startups worldwide. Focusing on the intersection of technology, business and society, she takes a purposefully broad lens to her work. When thinking about the future, most only look at their industry and direct competitors. Webb is adamant about looking at multiple, adjacent landscapes. “You have to be able to see the top of the forest in order to see where all the trees are and how they connect,” she says.
Webb’s “clear, insightful and humorous” style, in writing and in speaking, makes it easy to understand why audiences are drawn to her and her work. “The Signals Are Talking: Why Today’s Fringe Is Tomorrow’s Mainstream” (Public Affairs, December 2016) – Webb’s most recent best-selling and award-winning book – delves deep into her forecasting methodology. Professors at major universities include “Signals” in their courses and teach her forecasting tools. Numerous mainstream media, including the Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, MIT Sloan Management Review, New York Times and Fast Company, have featured Webb’s forecasting methodology and her work as a futurist. Her viral TED Talk, based on her memoir, “Data, A Love Story,” has been viewed more than six million times, was translated into 32 languages, and has been featured as in-flight (Delta) and hotel (Marriott) entertainment. Webb’s upcoming book about the real future of artificial intelligence (2019) promises even more data-rich perspectives and actionable intelligence.
Every one of Webb’s engagements – from keynotes to hands-on workshops – is highly customized. She uses original research and insights specific to an organization, industry or conference. And attendees typically receive a digital folder full of resources, tools, and actionable ideas to help them think like a futurist and prepare and plan for the exciting changes on the horizon.
Webb designed and teaches the futures forecasting MBA course at the New York University Stern School of Business. She was a 2014-2015 Visiting Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, where her research on the future of education reform received a national Sigma Delta Chi award. Every year, she lectures about the future of media and technology at a number of universities, including Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris, Temple University, Tokyo University and National University of Kyiv. In 2018, a Digital Certification developed by Webb and based on her published research at Harvard was adopted by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications, as part of the national U.S. curriculum on educating journalists and communicators.
Webb is a 2017-18 Delegate in the prestigious U.S.-Japan Leadership Program. She is also a member of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, where she has served as a Blue Ribbon Panel Emmy Judge for emerging technology categories. She sits on several advisory boards, including the SXSW Accelerator, and she is a consultant to Hollywood writers and producers on future technologies included in their movies and shows.
Watch Amy in action
The Big Nine is provocative, readable, and relatable. Amy Webb demonstrates her extensive knowledge of the science driving AI and the geopolitical tensions that could result between the US and China in particular. She offers deep insights into how AI could reshape our economies and the current world order, and she details a plan to help humanity chart a better course.'
'The Big Nine makes bold predictions regarding the future of AI. But unlike many other prognosticators, Webb sets sensationalism aside in favor of careful arguments, deep historical context, and a frightening degree of plausibility.'
IEEE Global Initiative on Ethics of Autonomous and Intelligent Systems
'Webb's potential scenarios for specific futures are superb, providing detailed visions for society to avoid as well as achieve.'
'Once every three months, Amy walked into a room of Time Inc's top editors and told us about the future. These are among the most cynical, seen-it-all-before people in the media world but for two hours they sat spellbound as Amy told us what was coming around the bend, how it would affect us, and, most important, how we could capitalize on it. Nobody missed these sessions. Ever. An incredibly engaging and efficient speaker, Amy shares big ideas quickly and in a way that made sense to those of us who weren't digital first thinkers. I would walk out feeling like I did after my best college seminars: My brain sparked with new ideas, paradigm shifts, and opportunities.'
'Amy Webb's foresight in the technology space is both inspiring and extremely valuable for businesses. She distills complex concepts into relevant digestible tidbits that provide insight to subject matter experts and newbies alike. Beyond mere encyclopedic knowledge of digital products and services, Amy Webb's most valuable asset is her mystical awareness of which strategies and concepts are on the cusp of transforming consumer and enterprise life as we know it.'
'The Big Nine is an important and intellectually crisp work that illuminates the promise and peril of AI. Will AI serve its three current American masters in Washington, Silicon Valley and Wall Street or will it serve the interests of the broader public? Will it concentrate or disperse economic and geopolitical power? We can thank Amy Webb for helping us understand the questions and how to arrive at answers that will better serve humanity than our current path. The Big Nine should be discussed in classrooms and boardrooms around the world.'
and author of The Art of the Long View
'The Big Nine is thoughtful and provocative, taking the long view and most of all raising the right issues around AI and providing a road map for an optimistic future with AI.'
CQ Roll Call
'When you listen closely to Amy Webb, you hear how the future might unfold for us humans. It's worth listening. Amy's at the forefront of understanding how technology continues to permeate every aspect of our lives and how those interactions - with each other, with the world, with our things - inform what we care about and who or what we should follow and use and embrace. Nobody else is doing what the Future Today Institute does for brands. Amy and her team have both unusual discernment and healthy skepticism. What sets their work apart is how adeptly they use research, peppered with trademark humor and candor, to offer insights we can all use. Like right now. If you're looking for help solving the puzzle of what's next (and what to do about it), there's no better guide than Amy Webb.'
'What Amy Webb does better than anyone else: She stays on top of complex technical innovations, information and geek-speak and distills them into relatively simple concepts and practical applications. This last is particularly significant - Amy helps you grasp what the semantic web or mobile broadband, for example, mean to you and your world, why you should care, and how you can use it. I've seen her present several times in the past few years and each session has been forward-looking and highly relevant to media and tech professionals. She's a terrific communicator, direct, smart and honest.'
Amy's speaking topics
The Great AI Awakening
'Can machines think?' That sentence begins Alan Turing's famous 1950 paper on machine intelligence. For as long as we've had computers, we humans have been trying to anthropomorphize them. Conversation between humans and machines, and ultimately machines with each other, is the foundation upon which modern AI is being built. Right now, we are on the brink of a great AI awakening, says Amy Webb. So what happens when we get what we've always said we want? What happens when the machines really do learn not just to think - but are trained to out-think us humans? She answers these questions and helps you prepare for and harness the great AI awakening.
The Future of the Internet of Things
In the near future, we will be surrounded by invisible infrastructure enabling your house to talk to your car and your car to talk to your wearable devices. Amy Webb quickly explains what the IoT is and why it's so important; she then launches into scenarios that tie the IoT directly to your field. She discusses what to expect as the IoT matures and how your industry - and you, yourself - will fit into the ecosystem. It's a field worth tens of billions of dollars - but there's a catch. What are the second, third and fourth order implications of the IoT? What happens when all the devices in our lives start talking to each other? Webb discusses the promise, power and potential peril of the future of IOT.
Ten Reasons Future Generations Will Call Us Barbarians
We use 'barbarian' to describe people who are uncivilized; it's easy to imagine humanity's primitive ancestors as horrible, ignorant savages. But consider this: won't future generations think the same of us? What are we doing today that people in the far future will think are barbaric? To start, we farm our meat instead of growing it. We discriminate based on race and gender, rather than our intellectual, emotional, financial and physical capabilities. We take blunt-force pills intended for the general population, not hyper-personalized chemical compounds delivered via nanobots. In this eye-opening session, Amy Webb flips what feels comfortable and familiar on its head as you journey deep into the future.
The Real Future of [X]
You've undoubtedly studied trends within your own industry, but how can you prepare yourself and your business for what's next in a world of constant disruption? In this custom, provocative presentation, Amy Webb contextualizes trends from within your [X] - your industry and interests - and explains how they fit into a more holistic vision of the future. She will showcase the latest emerging technology research for any of the following industries (to name a few) and explain how scenarios unfold 10 years into your future:
- News Media
Scenes from the Year 2028
Soon, technology will begin to intersect with our daily lives in weird and wonderful ways. We don't often think about that intersection, and yet emerging technology will be used to design the future of humanity. In this mind-bending session, Amy Webb will offer a provocative series of snapshots from our near and far future. How will we communicate? Where will we live? Will sophisticated algorithms and artificially intelligent systems replace the relationships we have with other humans? What will our technology do for us? To us? The possibilities are exciting, inspiring - and a little scary.
Hacking Matchmaking Sites
In her online dating speech, Amy Webb explains how she hacked the system. Matchmaking websites use algorithms to pair people together. Amy found these algorithms do what they are designed to do; the problem is the people who fill them out. There is a level of superficiality to the data as any information people write or select is based on their own perceptions.
Instead, Amy created her own criteria and data points, which she prioritized using tiers and a scoring system. She also created several fake profiles to collect more data and learn what the popular women on these sites were doing differently. Using the information she discovered, Webb redid her online dating profile and soon met her husband and the father to her daughter.
The main takeaway from Webb's online dating speech is that one can create their own algorithm for love or life. It's important to play by your own rules and to be picky.
How to Think Like a Futurist
The world's most successful leaders must manage the present and innovate for the future. This requires a new kind of strategic thinking. Drawing from her bestselling, award-winning book, 'The Signals Are Talking,' Amy Webb explains how leaders can harness a futurist's strategic tools for the benefit of their organizations. In this presentation, you will learn how to think like a futurist, how to rethink risk, and how you'll know when to act. As a backdrop, Webb will share future scenarios of emerging technologies from your industry and those adjacent to it: artificial intelligence, self-driving cars and biohacking - helping you discover your own ability to not only forecast what's on the horizon, but how to create your own preferred future today, in the present.