July 22, 2019
Interview with Richard Yonck
Getting in touch with Speaker Richard Yonck:
What is the one piece of advice you would share with a company planning for the future of their industry?
It’s been observed that we tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate its effect in the long run. Therefore, company leaders need to look less at their competitors and more to the startups in their industries, who are nimble and able to spot and quickly solve problems. In this era of rapid change, larger companies can be at a disadvantage, becoming too bloated and set in their ways to quickly address and adapt to new trends. Instead, we should look more to the innovators: the startups; the artists who have their pulse on societal changes; the younger generation and the trends they initiate. This is where you’ll find your future opportunities, as well as your future customers.
How did you begin your speaking career?
I have been reading about science and technology since I was a young boy and began writing professionally three decades ago. As I’ve engaged in conversations with readers in person and online, I found I really enjoyed those dialogues. This became the foundation for wanting to share what my research and writing have taught me through new channels. In the course of my speaking, I’ve found I especially enjoy the Q&A sessions, as I always learn something new from the exchange.
A lot of people formulate fear around the thought of AI, how do you help audiences overcome the fear of AI?
For the foreseeable future, AI remains a tool, or rather a broad set of tools that we use to engage our increasingly complex world. Obviously, AI has grown considerably more capable over the recent decades, which can be unnerving. But most of the risks this brings are not Terminator scenarios or the Singularity, but in how we choose to use and operate these powerful new tools. As we integrate AI into more of our systems and our world, we’re gaining immense benefits, but we’re also learning lessons about the challenges it can bring, most recently in terms of bias and privacy. As a result, we are now having conversations about the ethics of these systems and what we want to do about this. In light of this, it seems evident we all need to take a more active role in determining how AI is used and what controls are established in order to protect ourselves.
What inspires you most about this field?
I take inspiration from futures work because I believe in the potential of tomorrow. How we plan and prepare for it will affect the rest of our lives, as well as the lives of those who come after us. I see my writing, speaking and consulting as an opportunity to be in service to others and help them prepare and feel more optimistic about our collective future.
How do you stay up to date with the latest and greatest technology trends?
Keeping up to date with new developments is a multifaceted, multimodal process. It includes attending lectures, listening to other futurists and talking with peers, interviewing researchers and visiting labs, exposing myself to the arts, following current events, meeting with students, and listening to podcasts. And of course, reading journals, books, websites and more. There is a lot of reading.
What is your favorite science fiction movie? And why?
Though it’s difficult to choose a single sci-fi movie, I’d say my all-time favorite is probably the original 1982 Blade Runner. Besides being based on a story by the amazing Philip K. Dick, it’s a great study about what makes us human. Of course, as we saw with that movie’s replicants, it may not be so easy to know who is and isn’t human in the future.