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Former Intel Futurist Brian David Johnson: ‘The Future is Built by Acts of People’

Michigan’s future is an open book and how it plays out in today’s technologically-driven world will rely heavily on how well its leaders are prepared and plan for the next five to 10 years. That was the message Brian David Johnson, futurist in residence for the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University and former futurist at Intel Corp., delivered during the Conference’s opening keynote.

Johnson, who works with companies and institutions to anticipate, shape and adapt to the future, said in the next decade he anticipates major advances in artificial intelligence, robotics, autonomous vehicles, and an increasingly interconnected world driven by computational intelligence.

As these “smart cities” develop, Johnson said business, community and government leaders must adapt a new mindset about what is possible.

“The future is built by acts of people. What we need to be asking is, ‘What is the future we want? and ‘What is the future we want to avoid?’”

The answer to those questions is only limited by the human imagination backed by data and research, Johnson said.

“If you don’t push yourself to think of something far greater than what we have today, than we will never get there,” he said. “Define what you want to get done and how to accomplish it and you will change the future of Michigan.”

Whether it’s a company or an individual, Johnson said one of the hardest tasks for anyone is defining a vision.

“Once you do that, you will start seeing advances in policy changes, technological changes, education, etc.,” he said.

In responding to a question from moderator Lou Anna Simon, president of Michigan State University, about what Michigan must do to improve education in the state by 2030, Johnson said it begins with changing the story.

“There has to be a shift in culture that values both STEM education and the arts. There’s a place for both,” he said. “The more people that share a more diverse vision, the stronger off you will be.”

The keynote address was sponsored by Consumers Energy.