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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 quantitative futurist. I have never limited myself to one field exclusively, because I believe that the global challenges faced by business and society are interconnected across disciplines. My academic background includes game theory, economics, statistics, political science, computer science, sociology, music and journalism. I speak Japanese, and I spent my 20s living in Japan and China.

My upcoming book, The Big Nine: How The Tech Titans and Their Thinking Machines Could Warp Humanity (PublicAffairs/ Hachette, March 5, 2019), is a call-to-arms about the broken nature of artificial intelligence, and the powerful corporations that are turning the human-machine relationship on its head. AI’s destiny is in the control of nine big corporations in the U.S. and China. The American portion of the Big Nine—Amazon, Google, Apple, IBM, Microsoft and Facebook—have big ideas about how to solve some of humanity’s greatest challenges, but they’re beholden to the whims of Wall Street and have only a transactional relationship with Washington. Meanwhile, China’s portion—Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent—are very much tethered to Beijing and the demands of the Chinese Communist Party. All of us are caught in the middle, as our data are mined and refined in service of building the future of AI.

I'm a professor at the NYU Stern School of Business, where I developed and teach the MBA course on strategic foresight and futures forecasting. I'm also 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 recent 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. Starting in 2012, I began to publish my methodology and tools in the Harvard Business Review, Harvard University Nieman Lab, Harvard University Nieman Reports, and the MIT Sloan Management Report. In 2016, I decided to make all of my foresight tools and methodology, as well as all of FTI's research, open source and freely available to the public.

Writing helps my research and thinking, so I write a lot. I contribute research, op-eds and analysis to a number of publications, including the Los Angeles Times, Wired, Harvard Business Review, MIT Sloan Management Review, Inc. Magazine, and elsewhere, and I'm a regular guest on various broadcast shows (television and public radio) and podcasts. I also serve as a script consultant and advisor on movie and television shows that are set in the near and far future. Most recently, I worked on The First, a new drama on Hulu set in the year 2031 about the first humans to travel to Mars.

Before starting the Future Today Institute 12 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 teacher, the Deputy City Clerk of Bloomington (Indiana) and a Justice of the Peace, a Guardian ad litem, a teaching assistant in game theory and economics, a Senate Page, 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. Identifying socioeconomic, geopolitical, media and business trends is really more of a science than an art. The Wall Street Journal recently wrote about my forecasting methodology, and it will give you a sense of what's involved. I’m influenced by earlier futurists Hayashi, Jantsch, Gordon and Helmer, with Clarke, Fuller and Toffler providing a hefty backdrop of inspiration. 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 NYC and in Baltimore, with my extremely patient husband and our extremely curious daughter.


MY PROFESSIONAL AFFILIATIONS

  • Academy of Television Arts and Sciences

  • IEEE (professional member)

  • The Society for the Study of Artificial Intelligence and Simulation of Behaviour

  • Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence

  • Online News Association (ONA)

  • Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC)

  • Association of Professional Futurists


FOR PRESS/ CONFERENCE PLANNERS
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 is here.

Amy Webb Bio

Amy Webb is a quantitative futurist. She is a professor of strategic foresight at the NYU Stern School of Business and the Founder of the Future Today Institute, a leading foresight and strategy firm that helps leaders and their organizations prepare for complex futures. Founded in 2006, the Institute advises Fortune 500 and Global 1000 companies, government agencies, large nonprofits, universities and startups around the world. Amy 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 and was won the prestigious 2017 Thinkers50 RADAR Award. Amy’s special area of research is artificial intelligence, and she has advised three-star generals and admirals, White House leadership and CEOs of some of the world’s largest companies.

Amy is the author of three books, including The Big Nine: How The Tech Titans and Their Thinking Machines Could Warp Humanity (PublicAffairs/ Hachette, March 5, 2019), which is a call-to-arms about the broken nature of artificial intelligence, and the powerful corporations that are turning the human-machine relationship on its head. Her last book, The Signals Are Talking: Why Today’s Fringe Is Tomorrow’s Mainstream (PublicAffairs/ Hachette, December 2016), explains Amy’s forecasting methodology and how any organization can identify risk and opportunity before disruption hits. Signals is a Washington Post bestseller, was selected as one of Fast Company’s Best Books of 2016, won a 2017 Gold Axiom Medal for the best book about business and technology and was one of Amazon’s best books 2016. Signals has been released in multiple international editions and has been translated into a number of languages. Her bestselling memoir Data, A Love Story (Dutton/ Penguin 2013) is about finding love via algorithms. Her TED talk about Data has been viewed more than 6 million times and has been translated into 32 languages. Data is being adapted as a feature film, which is currently in production.

Amy is a Fellow in the United States-Japan Leadership Program. She was a Visiting Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, and her research received a national Sigma Delta Chi award. Amy was also a Delegate on the former U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission, where she worked on the future of technology, media and international diplomacy. 

Amy writes extensively about artificial intelligence, emerging technology, digital media and the impacts/ opportunities they present. She is the tech columnist and a contributing editor at Inc. Magazine, and she writes a column about the future of technology for The Nikkei (Japan). She regularly contributes to a number of publications all over the world, which include the New York Times, Harvard Business Review, Wired, Fortune, Mother Jones and others. Amy’s future forecasting work has been featured in the New York Times, Harvard Business Review, Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, CNN, NPR, and more. Her research has also been cited in several academic papers.

For the past 15 years, Amy has been dedicated to helping inform and shape the future of journalism. She is a member of the accreditation council of the ACEJMC, where she is helping to recalibrate accreditation standards for journalism and communication programs throughout the country. She is chairing a committee to develop a new, international digital certification program. Every year, Amy lectures about the future of media and technology at Harvard University as well as a number of universities worldwide, which have included Institut d'études politiques de Paris, Tokyo University and National University of Kyiv. She was a David Letterman Distinguished Professional Lecturer at Ball State University in 2016.

Amy serves on a script consultant for films and shows about artificial intelligence, technology and the future. Most recently, she worked on The First, a sci-fi drama about the first humans to travel to Mars (airing on Hulu and Channel 4). She is a member of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and has served as a Blue Ribbon Emmy award judge. 

Amy originally attended the Jacobs School of Music to study classical clarinet and served on the Board of Directors for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. She holds a B.A. in political science, game theory and economics from Indiana University and an M.S. from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She also earned Nikyu Certification in the Japanese government-administered Language Proficiency Test. 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. She lives in Baltimore and in New York City.


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