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Futurist Amy Webb – Bio

Amy Webb is one of America’s leading futurists and an award-winning author. She is the founder of the Future Today Institute and publisher of the annual FTI Tech Trends Report.

TL;DR* Version

I'm a futurist and the founder of the Future Today Institutewhich researches emerging technologies at the fringes and tracks them as they move towards the mainstream. The method we use to see the future is described in my new book The Signals Are Talking, which details what technological changes are ahead, what impact they'll have on business and society, and how you can forecast the future yourself.  I was recently named to the Thinkers50 Radar list of the 30 management thinkers most likely to shape the future of how organizations are managed and led.

Writing helps my research and thinking, so I write a lot. I contribute to a number of publications, including Inc. Magazine, Slate,  Washington Post, the Harvard Business Review and elsewhere, and I've appeared on NPR, CNN, Fox, 20/20, The View, Frontline, Marketplace and a number of podcasts. 

I also like to collaborate with academics, researchers and students. I developed and teach the MBA course on strategic foresight and futures forecasting at the NYU Stern School of Business. I was a 2014-15 Visiting Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. I've been a commencement speaker, a distinguished lecturer and am on the board of the ACEJMC, the accreditation council for journalism and communications schools.

Before starting my company 11 years ago, I was a journalist based in Japan (Newsweek) and Hong Kong (WSJ). Before that, during high school and college, I had a number of jobs: I was a piano and clarinet instructor, the Deputy City Clerk of Bloomington, Indiana (as well as a Justice of the Peace), a Guardian ad litem, a teaching assistant in game theory and economics, and I had a small business doing tech support for computers.

I often get asked how one becomes a futurist. Our work is sometimes called "strategic foresight" or "futures forecasting," and you don't need a license to practice. Futurists—the good ones—aren’t alchemists, or oracles or fortune tellers. In some ways, they’re a lot like journalists. Except that rather than reporting on what’s already happened, they report on what’s starting to happen on the fringe. Accurately identifying trends and understanding how they’ll shape tomorrow is really more of a science than an art. It involves gathering quantitative and qualitative research, looking for explicit and implicit patterns in that data, interrogating possible tech trends, figuring out a trend's trajectory, developing and testing scenarios, and finally building a strategy for what to do next. The Wall Street Journal recently wrote about my forecasting methodology, and it will give you a sense of what's involved. 

Many of us use a methodology that we either created from whole cloth or adapted from someone else. I’m influenced by earlier futurists Hayashi, Jantsch, Gordon and Helmer, with Clarke and Toffler providing a hefty backdrop of inspiration. Identifying new trends isn’t as simple as reading few tech blogs and looking to see which startups are getting investment. Understanding the future means carefully observing, from unusual places, the changing nature of the present.

In my role at the Institute, I work with Fortune 500 and Global 1000 companies, the U.S. government, media organizations, venture capitalists and foundations. I'm an experience junkie, so when I'm not working I'm usually traveling somewhere off the beaten path or trying out a new activity. I live in Baltimore, with my extremely patient husband and our extremely curious daughter.

Full Bio

Amy Webb is an author, futurist and Founder of the Future Today Institute, a leading future forecasting and strategy firm that researches technology and answers “What’s the future of X?” for a global client base. Now in its second decade, the Institute advises Fortune 500 and Global 1000 companies, government agencies, large nonprofits, universities and startups around the world. Amy Webb was named to the Thinkers50 Radar list of the 30 management thinkers most likely to shape the future of how organizations are managed and led.

Webb is an adjunct faculty at the NYU Stern School of Business, where she teaches a popular MBA-level course on futures forecasting. She is the author of three books, including The Signals Are Talking: Why Today’s Fringe Is Tomorrow’s Mainstream (PublicAffairs, December 2016) which explains how to predict and manage technological change. It was selected as one of Fast Company’s Best Books of 2016, won a 2017Gold Axiom Medal for the best book about business and technology, was an Amazon’s best book of December 2016 and was a #1 Bestseller. Signals has been translated into a number of languages.

Webb's research focuses on how technology will transform the way we live, work and govern. Her future forecasting work has been featured in the New York Times, Harvard Business Review, Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Inc. Magazine, Fast Company, CNN, NPR, and more. Her research has also been cited in several academic papers.

Webb holds many professional affiliations and collaborates with a number of institutions. She was a 2014-15 Visiting Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and her research on the future of education reform received a national Sigma Delta Chi award. Amy a 2017-18 Fellow in the United States-Japan Leadership Program, and was a Delegate on the former U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission. 

For the past 15 years, Amy has been dedicated to helping inform and shape the future of journalism. Amy is a new member of the accreditation council of the ACEJMC, where she is helping to recalibrate accreditation standards for journalism and communication programs throughout the country. Her research while at Harvard centered on the future of journalism and journalism education, which resulted in the publication of her second book, How to Make J-School Matter (Again) (Harvard University,  2015). She was a David Letterman Distinguished Professional Lecturer at Ball State University in 2016. Every year, Amy lectures about the future of media and technology at a number of universities, which have included Harvard University, Institut d'études politiques de Paris, Temple University, Tokyo University and National University of Kyiv.

Amy is a member of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (Interactive Media Peer Group – Emmy award judge). She serves on the Board of Directors for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and serves on several startup and advisory boards, including the SXSW Accelerator.

Writing about emerging technology, digital media and the impacts/ opportunities they present is a focus of Amy's work. She is the tech columnist and a contributing editor at Inc. Magazine, where she writes about the future of technology and business. She regularly contributes to a number of publications all over the world. In 2013, Amy published Data, A Love Story (Dutton/ Penguin), a bestselling memoir about finding love via algorithms. Data has since been translated for a worldwide market and is being adapted for film. Her TED talk about Data has been viewed more than 5 million times and has been translated into 32 languages.

Amy originally attended the Jacobs School of Music to study classical clarinet and has an M.S. from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She has continued to study classical piano. She also earned Nikyu Certification in the Japanese government-administered Language Proficiency Test and speaks fluently. In addition, she earned the rank of Shodan (first-degree black belt) in Aikido, but a serious accident during training a few years ago forced her to retire.

Amy began her career as a writer with Newsweek (Tokyo) and the Wall Street Journal (Hong Kong) where she covered emerging technology, media and cultural trends.

Photos by Mary Gardella. For links to high-resolution versions of the photos below, please download bio.
Photos are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Downloadable Bio

*TL;DR  = Internet slang for "too long; didn't read."