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Chris Kutarna  

Co-Author of Best-Selling "Age of Discovery: Navigating the Storms of Our Second Renaissance," Two-time Governor General's Medallist, a Sauvé Fellow and Commonwealth Scholar, Fellow of the Oxford Martin School

Chris Kutarna is a two-time Governor General’s Medallist from Canada, a Commonwealth Scholar and a Fellow of the Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford.

In 2006 Kutarna moved to Beijing, started a business, sold it, then paid himself for five years to do a doctorate in politics at Oxford and to write Age of Discovery. Prior to that, he spent time with the Boston Consulting Group in New Zealand and Australia.

Kutarna’s open letters, posted weekly, are deemed required reading by some of the world’s smartest people and shape the debate in media, boardrooms, and classrooms around the world. In his best-selling debut book, Age of Discovery (with Ian Goldin), he drew upon Renaissance wisdom to predict both Brexit and Trump.

Kutarna demystifies the new Age of Discovery which is upon us. All the signs - social media, populism, globalisation, the rise of China, AI, genetic modification and more - herald its arrival. Kutarna tears up the outdated mental maps that have served us so poorly in recent years - maps that led us to think that Brexit was impossible, that Trump was unelectable and that globalisation was irreversible. He tears up the unconscious biases that obscure our understanding of present political, economic, technological and social trends.

Speech Topics


“Trade in the Second Renaissance”

  • The three keys to a revitalized trade agenda, for policy-makers and business, that can overcome the anti-globalization rhetoric that has stuck trade development in its tracks:
  • New lens: The big picture behind “why trade matters” that has been missing from public discourse
  • New language: Why ‘globalization’ is dead, and the rhetoric that must replace it
  • New maps: Why our conceptual maps of the world need to be redrawn

“Leadership in the Second Renaissance”

  • Machiavelli, who coached Italy’s princes through the first Renaissance, famously observed that ‘Fortune favors the bold.’ But what he meant by that is not what people assume. His point was that in times of upheaval, “wait-and-see” is a dangerous strategy. Rapid change is quickly making existing structures, policies and processes obsolete. Only impetuous initiative can shock organizations out of present habits and discover necessary new ones. When disaster strikes, organizations “should not blame Fortune, but rather their own indolence.”
  • What this insight means to how we assess corporate and business risks
  • Examples of businesses that are flourishing through the application of Machiavelli’s wisdom, and of others that are floundering for failure to do so

“Navigating The A.I. Storm”

  • Translate AI gobbledygook into plain concepts you’re already familiar with, enabling you to bring all your intuitions and experience to bear when assessing AI opportunities, threats and investments
  • Actually teach you the key “algorithms” and “architectures” that power the most popular AI applications today, using nothing but a bag of everyday objects (no math required!)
  • Separate the self-serving hype of AI evangelists and VCs from the genuinely breakthrough applications and possibilities
  • Shatter our collective “AI delusion”—namely, that machine intelligence is superior because it doesn’t suffer from the same computational limits that humans do
  • Renew your appreciation for human intelligence and make plain the vital role of executive leadership and foresight to correct AI’s inherent shortsightedness. Chris will tear apart the most common AI assumptions and highlight the big mistakes that this artificial idea of intelligence has already led executives across many industries to make:
  • The assumption that math & statistics can fully capture human phenomena and social values. They cannot;
  • The assumption that the data we feed into algorithms, or the algorithm itself, is value-free and unbiased. They are not;
  • The assumption that rational calculation trumps emotional or intuitive judgment. It does not;
  • The assumption that the past is the best predictor of the future—especially in times of radical uncertainty. It is not;
  • The assumption that we should aim to optimize complex systems. We should not. Rather we should aim to keep the most number of options open, while still maintaining stability.

“Our Age of Discovery and How to Navigate It”

  • I open by recognizing that to understand the human story, yes, we need the best available facts and analyses, but we also need a strong imagination to weave the threads together into a coherent whole.
  • I expertly canvass major demographic, economic, and technological trends shaping the world today. I argue two broad conclusions: that this is the best time in history to be alive, and simultaneously the most fragile.
  • Having empowered my audience with a solid fact-base for this perspective on the present, I then equip them to navigate these twin truths successfully by drawing upon wisdom gained the last time humanity faced these twin, conflicting conditions: the Age of Discovery

“How to See the Future”

  • I explode two myths that commonly cloud our foresight: that the future is linear, and that it will be a technological utopia. ‘What's left is a simple, powerful truth: we never arrive to the future. Instead, whether through our action or inaction, we are creating the future ourselves—right now, and all the time.’
  • Pushing that insight beyond its trite motivational qualities, I apply it to set better expectations about our own future by studying what humanity created out of similar circumstances in the past.
  • With a depth that varies with the talk’s duration, I develop the comparison between the ‘First Renaissance’ and today and offer lessons from that past to help us navigate the present.

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