Media futurist Gerd Leonhard is back! “Don’t worry, I’m not going to speak again,” he grins, introducing two speakers. David Smith is CEO of Global Futures and Foresight, which does ‘futurist research’ and consults for big brands. “His presentation is gonna kick your butt,” says Leonhard.Oh man, he’s going to talk quickly, he says. I’ll do my best. “I want to look at the people. Fundamentally the things that are driving change around the world is not just technology… It’s people. We. Us.”He brings up the infamous quote from British scientist William Thomson from 1899 – “Radio has no future. Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible. X-Rays will turn out to be a hoax.” And Smith points out that even when Boeing built a ten-seater plane, its engineer said “There will never be a bigger plane”.The point: we’re often very poor at seeing new horizons – nothing is going to stand still, but we often think it will. So radio – the New York Times said in 1939 that TV will never be a serious competitor to radio – “the average family hasn’t time for it”.And now tomato ketchup. I know. And Heinz took 130 years to figure out that it should turn ketchup bottles upside down. “What’s your tomato ketchup bottle in your world?” he asks. “What are your listeners, your fanbase, telling you they wanna do with your music?”Now onto global trends – a big list of 29. Global instability, volatile economy, global warming, work-life blend, social awareness, cult of celebrity, age of brands, rise of the robots… Lots. And it segues into a picture of an iPod dock cum toilet roll holder.Honestly? Liveblogging this kind of session often ends up as pure confusion, on the part of writer and reader. You had to be here…Okay, suppliers aren’t in charge of many markets any more – consumers have the power, and understanding their desires/demands should tell the suppliers what they should be doing.Now internet groceries – people thought it wouldn’t work in 2001, and now Tesco gets 300,000 orders a week and it’s growing 20% a year. Or internet banking – The Economist said in 2000 that it hadn’t delivered on its promise. Yet the UK has seen 500% increases in the number of adults doing internet banking in the last seven years.People can’t predict the future, in short. Even the experts who are supposed to be good at it.Now interactive posters. They’re the future! Interactive holograms and robots. Them too! “If you can put an artist holographically into 50 stadiums around the world, that’s 50 times the revenue potentially,” he says.Potentially.And finally, sharing, collaborating and interacting with assets is going to be strong drivers of behaviour in the coming years. “Guitar Hero gives you a clue about how we want to interact with our music… jamming together over the internet,” he says. “Our playfulness tells us how we want to interact with some things.”Oh, and virtual reality is going to be “awesome”, with sleek VR headsets so you can go to virtual gigs. If I say not, will I be quoted as a buffoon on someone’s holographic PowerPoint slide in 50 years time? Possibly so. Anyway, that’s it for David.And now Mark Earls from ** – “I can’t tell you what the future is going to be like… and I’m not an expert on the music industry.” This, presumably, is why he’s here though, to give an outsider’s perspective.”This industry doesn’t talk that much about people,” he says. “You’re not alone. Financial services is another one. But if you started to talk more about people, and understand more about what they’re doing, you would understand more about how to shape the future profitably.”Okay, the desire to “do stuff together” that people have, and how it ties in with football stadia, and how Mexican Waves work, and how it’s actually really sophisticated – you can’t get robots to do a Mexican Wave like humans would – at least not easily.Now an X-Ray of Homer Simpson’s skull is on screen, but Earls is talking about swimming cats. I am, frankly, floundering.But yes, other people shape our behaviour. “The stuff you are producing exists in the context of other people, and between other people,” he says. “Let’s stop thinking about The Consumer – somebody out there who pays for stuff – as the prime thing. People exist in a social context, and always have done. What they see other people doing shapes their behaviour.”So, give people stuff to do together. And give people something to believe in. Wasn’t that a Poison song? Brands like Apple, Dove, Ikea are asking themselves what they stand for. Barack Obama is the poster-child for this theory – he gave people something to believe in, and something to do with each other.But in the end, this isn’t about money, or even about music. It’s about people (he says). And that’s the end of the session.
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