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Richard Yonck            

Lead Futurist & Artificial Intelligence Consultant for Intelligent Future Consulting; Best-Selling Author

Richard Yonck is a futurist, author and speaker based in Seattle, where he has been an advisor to businesses and organizations about emerging trends and future developments for over twenty-five years. Yonck focuses on helping explore the future with an eye to how this knowledge can assist with strategic planning, preparing for potential eventualities and promoting clients' preferred futures. As a speaker, he routinely challenges assumptions and preconceptions, while sharing keen insights about tomorrow's world.

An avid writer and thought leader, Yonck's books include "Heart of the Machine: Our Future in a World of Artificial Emotional Intelligence" (Arcade Publishing, 2017) which explores the emerging technologies making it possible for computers and robots to read, interpret, and even influence human emotions. It’s been a best seller in multiple categories on Amazon and is required reading at several universities in the U.S. and around the world. His latest book, "Future Minds: The Rise of Intelligence, From the Big Bang to the End of the Universe" (Skyhorse/ Simon & Schuster, 2020) is about the many ways our world is becoming more and differently intelligent and explores what this means for our future relationship with technology.

As a speaker, Yonck is a compelling guide to the changes and challenges we’ll face in the coming decades. Audiences of all sizes – from professional organizations, think tanks and business leaders to civic groups, educational festivals and public forums – have called his presentations “fascinating”, “inspiring” and “thought-provoking.” Yonck specializes in distilling complex technologies and developments in a way that’s suitable for audiences regardless of their familiarity with the subject matter being discussed. Exploring developing trends in artificial intelligence, finance and economics, healthcare, biotechnology and genetics, transportation, robotics, and more, Yonck identifies key factors to provide guidance and insights that helps listeners identify and work toward their preferred future.

Yonck has advised clients ranging from Global Fortune 500 companies such as Amazon, Samsung, and Xerox to organizations such as TIAA, American Cancer Society and the Washington State College Board. He believes that strategic foresight and futures planning can serve all organizations and individuals, large and small. He’s an impassioned advocate for science literacy and the many benefits of futures thinking and strategic foresight.

The former computing and AI contributing editor for The Futurist, Yonck has been published by and quoted in the New York Times, Scientific American, Forbes, Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Wired, GeekWire, World Future Review, BBC News, Salon, Sports Illustrated, Singularity Hub, Investor’s Business Daily and many others. A former executive board member of the Association of Professional Futurists, he’s also a member of the National Association of Science Writers and a TED speaker. His talk "How Technology Transforms Human Intelligence" can be found on the TED YouTube channel.

Speech Topics


Cyber Warfare and the Quest for the Super Soldier

Recently Russian leader, Vladimir Putin said of artificial general intelligence, “Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.” Though that may be true, it’s a safe bet the world’s military leaders are not putting all of their eggs in this one basket. In recent years, aggressions have stepped up on all sides as nations test new techniques of cyber warfare and feel out the vulnerabilities of their opposition. From the West’s Stuxnet malware attack on Iran’s nuclear program to Russia’s more recent infiltration of major U.S. power plants, this new form of warfare is heating up.

At the same time, dozens of research programs are developing ways to improve, enhance and harden their soldiers, whether mentally, physically or psychologically. From exoskeletons that bestow wearers super strength to brain stimulus that heightens attention and learning speed, systems are being developed that could one day lead to entire armies’ of super soldiers. How will the world respond in the face of such warriors? What will we do with them during periods of peace when we’re not at war?

Augmented Reality and the Future of Marketing

Imagine window shopping on the high street for clothes and accessories. As you pause to look at the merchandise, your view is overlaid with a range of information and offers, tantalizing you to come inside. You see yourself reflected in the window, wearing the latest fashions that grace the displays. How can you pass up the opportunity to enter the establishment and try it in IRL – in real life!

With major companies investing heavily, augmented reality is finally ready for widespread use. Its first killer app could very likely be in the retail space, transforming marketing, advertising and the shopping experience. How will we utilize this exciting technology, what should we be concerned about it and will it be more than just a passing fad?

Bitcoin, Cryptocurrencies and the Future of the Block Chain

In 2008, a paper authored by an individual or a group, known only as Satoshi Nakamota laid out the basis for the first decentralized digital currency. In doing so, they also developed the first blockchain database ledger, thereby solving what is known in the world of digital currency as the “double-spending problem.”

Since then, bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have taken the world by storm. However, the real game-changer was the invention of the block chain, a decentralized, cryptographic ledger that can be put to an untold number of uses. These include traditional trust and transaction instruments, such as loans, sales deeds of trust, and stock transactions, as well as new, digital era methods for automating trust for everything from livestock exchange and food quality protections in the developing world to ensuring adherence to trade embargos and arms reduction. What opportunities and risks can we anticipate from these innovative financial instruments?

Life in the Age of Human Augmentation

In recent years we’ve developed increasingly sophisticated ways of incorporating devices into our bodies: hearing aids, cochlear implants, artificial hearts, pacemakers, deep brain stimulators, artificial bones and joints, insulin pumps, and much more. But while these technologies have primarily been developed to replace lost function, we’re on the verge of using such devices to improve our natural abilities as well. Humanity is rapidly entering an era in which technology can not only repair and replace failed organs and lost functions, but actually augment and enhance them.

What can we expect in this new world of Human 2.0? Will it lead to indefinite life extension? Will a world already filled with economic disparity, give rise to physiological, or even mental, “haves” and “have-nots” as well? What dangers will we face when the very systems that allow our bodies to function are hackable? How do we protect our humanity in such a world?

Automation, Employment and the Future of the Workforce

According to recent research, as much as 47% of all jobs will be eliminated by artificial intelligence and other forms of automation during the next two decades. While two-thirds of Americans believe robots will soon perform most of the work done by humans, fully 80% believe their jobs will not be among those affected.

At the same time, an enormous number of new jobs will come into existence that have never been heard of before. Augmented Reality Docent. Autonomous Vehicle Wranglers. Training Data Auditors. Genetic Findings Interpreter. Digital Reputation Scrubber. VR Addiction Rehabilitation Counselor. These are but a few of the new jobs that will need a human hand, at least for the immediate future.

As we enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution, it’s increasingly evident that we aren’t prepared for the changes that await us. What can we do in the face of such socially disruptive forces? How can we survive in a world that no longer needs people for many traditional tasks. If re-education is to be part of the solution, how can we prepare for future jobs that don’t even exist yet? And once a path is chosen, what guarantee do we have the new occupations will still be needed once we’ve completed our course of study?

The Coming Era of Emotional Machines

Author of the best-selling book about the future of artificial emotional intelligence, Richard’s deep understanding of the developing emotion economy has made him a global thought leader on this subject. With the recent development of artificial emotional intelligence – or emotion AI, this new branch of computer science is developing systems that can read, interpret, mimic and even influence our emotions.

Because emotion is such a core aspect of the human condition, these technologies are being, or will be used, in everything from education, health care, the military, social robotics, law enforcement, autism detection and therapies, political campaigns, advertising, marketing and much more. What will be the repercussions of such technology? How will it alter our society and personal relationships? Ultimately, what can – and can’t – we do to protect ourselves?

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