Thomas Frey – Senior Futurist and Keynote Speaker
Google’s Top Rated Futurist Speaker
Executive Director of the DaVinci Institute
Author of the 2011 book “Communicating with the Future,” Futurist Speaker Thomas Frey is a powerful visionary who is revolutionizing our thinking about the future.
As the Executive Director and Senior Futurist at the DaVinci Institute, he works closely with his Board of Visionaries to develop original research studies, which enables him to speak on unusual topics, translating trends into unique opportunities.
As part of the celebrity speaking circuit, Tom continually pushes the envelope of understanding, creating fascinating images of the world to come. His keynote talks on futurist topics have captivated people ranging from high level government officials to executives in Fortune 500 companies including NASA, IBM, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, Lucent Technologies, First Data, Boeing, Capital One, Bell Canada, Visa, Ford Motor Company, Qwest, Allied Signal, Hunter Douglas, Direct TV, International Council of Shopping Centers, National Association of Federal Credit Unions, Times of India, and many more.
Because of his work inspiring inventors and other revolutionary thinkers, the Boulder Daily Camera has referred to him as the “Father of Invention”. The Denver Post and Seattle Post Intelligencer have referred to him as the “Dean of Futurists”.
Before launching the DaVinci Institute, Tom spent 15 years at IBM as an engineer and designer where he received over 270 awards, more than any other IBM engineer. He is also a past member of the Triple Nine Society (High I.Q. society over 99.9 percentile).
Thomas has been featured in hundreds of articles for both national and international publications including New York Times, Huffington Post, Times of India, USA Today, US News and World Report, The Futurist Magazine, Morning Calm (in-flight magazine for Korean Airlines), Skylife (in-flight magazine for Turkish Airlines), ColoradoBiz Magazine, Rocky Mountain News, and many more. He currently writes a weekly “Future Trend Report” newsletter and a weekly column for FuturistSpeaker.com.
- Member of the National Speakers Association
- Member of the American Library Association
- Professional Member of the World Future Society
Popular Keynote Topics
Over the past decade, Thomas Frey has built an enormous following around the world based on his ability to develop accurate visions of the future and describe the opportunities ahead. Having started seventeen businesses himself and assisting on the development of hun
dreds more, the understanding he brings to his audiences is a rare blend of reality-based thinking coupled with a clear-headed visualization of the world ahead.
Predicting the future has little value without understanding the driving forces behind the trends, subtle nuances that can be leveraged, and implications for both the people directly affected in the industry as well as others farther down the technological food change.
But his work is not just restricted to advances in technology. Rather, he takes a much larger view of the playing field including shifts in governance, system changes, evolving attitudes and human conditions, and much more.
Each year his talks touch the lives of tens of thousands of people. Here are some of his most popular topics, but don’t feel restricted by this list. Every year he designs dozens of custom presentation based specifically around the needs of a particular audience.
1.) Expanding Our Vision of the Future
Much like dropping a rock into still water and watching the ripples form in every direction, situational futuring begins with a central idea, which grows into a series of rippling thoughts, issues, and questions expanding in every direction.
Unlike the study of macro or megatrends, situational futuring is a micro-futuring process that begins with a single invention, tiny idea, or what-if condition and expands from there.
The process begins with an initial scenario and asking some of the standard who-what-when-where-how-and-why questions.
Probing deeper, questions formulated around things like timing, monetary implications, disruptive effects, symbiotic partners, who-wins-who-loses, wild cards, policy changes, and strange bedfellows will help expand your thinking even further.
This works particularly well in a brainstorming environment where thoughts and ideas can be quickly sketched out, described, or clarified so more can be added.
Inside these moments of micro-futuring is where the real treasures live. Companies wishing to expand their product line, service agencies seeking to streamline their processes, or design engineers wishing to gain a new perspective will all find this to be a valuable tool. - Keynote, Workshop
- ‘Situational Futuring’ and 44 Mind-Stretching Scenarios to Learn How to Use It
- Betting on Your Future Self
- The Singularity and Our Collision Path with the Future
- 33 Dramatic Predictions for 2030
- The Future Favors the Bold – 8 Backcasting Scenarios for Understanding the Future
- Every Disaster Has a Beginning: In Search of Anomaly Zero
2.) Micro Colleges and the Emerging Education Marketplace
The systems used to create colleges centuries ago seem justifiably primitive by today’s standards. Learning formulas for nearly every degree are based on hours, one of the least important considerations when it comes to assessing talent.
Colleges today cost far too much, and they take far too long.
Just like many other industries, traditional colleges are being tasked to do more with less. But at this point they don’t have a clear understanding of what “less” looks like.
MOOCs are offering a new way to produce and distribute lecture-style courses, but that only represents a piece of a much larger equation.
Because of their ability to instantly positions themselves at the critical cross-section of skill and commerce, far more new industries will be born through Micro-Colleges than through traditional colleges. - Keynote, Workshop
- Trimming the Fat – Introducing the Lean Micro-College Model for Education
- Preparing Our Minds for Thoughts Unthinkable: The Future of Colleges and Universities
- By 2030 over 50% of Colleges will Collapse
- Accomplishment-Based Education
- The Ivory Tower is Headed for a Fall
3.) Future Jobs, Future Industries
We are entering into a world where driverless vehicles will eliminate millions of driving positions; robotic systems will work relentlessly day and night eliminating millions of manufacturing, welding, painting, and assembly positions; and things that seemed impossible to automate in the past will have computers and machines replacing people’s jobs.
With these types of automation and AI (artificial intelligence) replacing human involvement, the discussion has focused on solutions like shared jobs, micro employment, and guaranteed income.
While those may be options, there’s also great danger in preparing for “slacker lifestyles” where people feel less significant, less certain about their future, and less connected to the value they have to offer. As a society we risk becoming soft and lazy.
There is great value in the human struggle, and when we fail to be challenged, our best-laid plans tend to fall apart at the seams.
Today, the amount of time it takes to build ships and skyscrapers, create massive data storage centers for all our growing volumes of information, or produce global wireless networks for all our devices has dropped significantly. But along with each of these drops is a parallel increase in our capabilities and our expectations. - Keynote, Workshop
- The Laws of Exponential Capabilities
- When it comes to jobs, why is this time different?
- The Growing Dangers of Technological Unemployment and the Re-Skilling of America
- 162 Future Jobs: Preparing for Jobs that Don’t Yet Exist
- Have we reached peak employment? 24 future industries that will lead to an era of super employment!
4.) Future of Systems and Infrastructure
Much of the world around us has been formed around key pieces of infrastructure. Most see this as a testament to who we are as a society, and part of the cultural moorings we need to guide us into the future.
In general, infrastructure represents a long-term societal investment that will move us along the path of building a more efficient, better functioning, society. And usually it does … for a while.
But infrastructure comes in many forms and as we build our elaborate networks of pipes, wires, roads, bridges, tunnels, buildings, and waterways, we become very focused on the here and now, with little thought as to whether there might be a better way.
Virtually every piece of infrastructure creates jobs, revenues streams, and investment opportunities, as well as new laws, regulations, and industry standards.
The longer a piece of infrastructure is in place, the greater the resistance there is to replacing it. Much like an aging tree, the root system that feeds it becomes enormous.
That said, the life-cycle of infrastructure is getting shorter, and teams driving the disruptive technologies are getting far more sophisticated.
Infrastructure projects represent huge paydays for someone, and the disruptors are determined to make it their payday. - Keynote, Workshop
- 2050 and the Future of Infrastructure
- Disrupting Government – Why Countries Will Soon Have to Compete for their Citizens
- Competing for the World’s Largest Infrastructure Project: Over 100 Million Jobs at Stake
- Computing’s Next Big Transformation – Semantic Intelligence
5.) The Future of Technology and Innovation
If Steve Jobs had never lived, would we still have the iPhone and iPad today? Similarly, if Walt Disney, George Lucas, and Pete Diamandis had all taken jobs on Wall Street instead of living their lives as true innovators, would we still have Disneyland, Star Wars, and the X-Prize Foundation today?
To put it more succinctly, if the visionary never existed, would we still have the industry?
Certainly, if Edison hadn’t invented the light bulb, someone else would have. In many cases, inventors have lost out on a patent because of mere minutes separating the timestamp on a patent. So the invention was destined to happen regardless of whose name showed up on the patent, right?
Not so fast.
The systems we create help define the kind of people who will naturally rise to the top. And these leaders of innovation have decidedly different approaches for making things work. So what would a new system for innovation look like?
This talk helps listeners climb aboard a fascinating journey into the forces of change and how they will affect tomorrow’s world of innovation. – Keynote, Workshop
- 192 Future Uses for Flying Drones
- Should Robots Have Their Own Bank Accounts?
- How Long Before I Can 3D Print a Replacement Body for Myself?
- Will There be Swarmbots in Your Future?
- Disposable Houses
- Tapping into the Waterways in the Sky
Throughout history, speed has been synonymous with greatness. In sports, those who ran the fastest were heroes. In times of war, those with the fastest chariots, ships, planes, and weapons had a significant advantage. In the business world, a company’s competitive edge has typically been formed around speed – quickest delivery, fastest transaction times, or speed of information.
With the aid of technology, we’ve found ways to speed up communications – voice, text, email, social networking, and even delivery systems. But we’ve only been able to achieve minor advances in the speed of physically traveling somewhere.
As we look closely at the advances over the past couple decades, it’s easy to see that we are on the precipices of a dramatic breakthrough in ultra high-speed transportation. Businesses are demanding it. People are demanding it. And the only things standing in our way are a few people capable of mustering the political will to make it happen. - Keynote, Workshop
Unlike our not-so-distant-past, the world’s most important information is no longer solely in books.
Whenever a great idea forms in our head, we look for a place to put it. Is it something useful, that we can turn into a product, add to a document, tell to our friends, include in a presentation, or attach with magnets to the front of our refrigerator?
Ideas, much like parasites, need a host. If we don’t manage to gaff them before we slip into our next stream of consciousness, they will be forever lost. Without a host, these squirming little idea-fish will have a very limited shelf life.
If we manage to cluster enough of them together, they have a bit more staying power, but they still need to somehow reach critical mass before they become noteworthy.
In the past we had very few options. We could jot them down in a notebook, mention them to friends, or make a few drawings or sketches. But even then, most ideas died of isolation. We had very few “places” to appropriately store these pockets of ingenuity.
Today our options have grown exponentially and good ideas can now go from zero to Facebook entry in 0.9 seconds. They can be fashioned into tweets, infographics, photos, podcasts, PowerPoints, LinkedIn discussions, Quora forums, YouTube videos, submitted to blogs, or turned into interactive charticles.
We literally have thousands of placeholders for our momentary flashes of brilliance. Much like planting seeds into the freshness of damp soil, these memes have the organic potential to spring to life bursting into a colorful bouquet.
However, even with our very best ways of posting and hosting ideas today, the reality is that most public and private companies tend to have a rather short life expectancy, and some concepts come with a far longer gestation period. That’s where the more stable storehouses of information at public libraries comes into play. - Keynote, Workshop
- The Disruptive Nature of the Sharing Economy: Finding the Next Great Opportunities
- The Future Library – A Liquid Network for Ideas
- Libraries That Create Their Own Economy: Opening the Door to Premium Services
- Future Libraries and 17 Forms of Information Replacing Books
- The Future of Libraries: Interview with Thomas Frey
- Next Generation Literacy
It’s hard to explain the epiphany experience, but it’s a euphoric high unlike anything else. Some have described it as “a orchestra from on high,” “a sudden realization,” “a epic breakthrough of the mind,” “an orgasm of the brain,” or “that Eureka moment!”
Bottom line is that epiphanies are very important. Every new product that get launched starts with an epiphany. Every new business, every unique service, every original marketing strategy, every novel piece of legislation, and every mobile app can all trace their origins to a single epiphany. They are essential for business and an integral part of a growing economy. Epiphanies are a critical part of society, and the better we understand them the better we can leverage them to benefit society.
That said, we have a number of special projects we’re working on at the DaVinci Institute, all based on major epiphanies. Here are a few currently in the planning stages:
9.) The Future of Agriculture
Can better food create better people? Will a better food supply lead to healthier, stronger, better thinking people? This is exactly the premise that is driving many of the advances in farming today.To understand agribusiness in the future, consider a model that conveniently exists right now – in the human-food interface. Metabolism is a term used to describe the various chemical reactions that take place in every cell of the body. Intermediary metabolism is a vast web of interconnected reactions by the constituent parts of the cell. Every metabolism is different. Gaining an ability to read and monitor a person’s metabolic reaction to the food eaten will cause the agriculture industry to evolve with great precision around the tiny niche demands of consumers.
- Agriculture the New Game of Drones
- Tapping into the Waterways in the Sky
- The Coolest Profession on Earth – Next Generation Agriculture
- The Future of Agriculture
10.) The Future of Money
Every transaction involves two sides – the payer and the payee. Throughout history businesses have lived or died on the timing and flow of money and deal brokers place a huge emphasis on controlling both sides of a transaction. All non-cash money transactions in the past involved a time float to allow time for the money to clear their respective accounts, and even cash transactions involved delays in getting posted to a bank account. Future transactions will be real-time and this seemingly minor change will revolutionize the shape and tempo of business. - Keynote
- Establishing the Central Bank of Bitcoin
- Should Robots Have Their Own Bank Accounts?
- Artificial Intelligence will be Crashing the Stock Market in 3, 2, 1…
- Introducing the Fully-Automated 24-Hour City
Other Possible Topics
At the DaVinci Institute we use our own systems for forecasting the future. As we learn about your industry and apply our research methodologies, we are able to create a vision of the future that will specifically address the interests of your audience. Past examples include The Future of…
Lifetree Cafe 2014
TEDxRESET 2012 – “Communicating with the Future”
Recorded for the Today Show Australia
ABC’s Weekend Breakfast with Andrew Geoghegan
TEDxUChicago 2011 – “Communicating with the Future”
We are a very backward looking society. We’re very backward looking in that we’ve all personally experienced the past. As we look around, we see evidence of the past all around us. The past is very knowable, yet we will spend the rest of our lives in the future. My job as a futurist is to help turn people around and give them some idea of what the future holds.
THE THOMAS FREY EXPERIENCE
A key differentiator with professional speakers is the audience experience. Thomas not only comes to each talk loaded with provocative knowledge and tantalizing visuals, he also includes just the right amount of humor, motivation, and topical trends in a way that are both immediately useful as well as enticingly entertaining.
Here is what you can expect when working with Thomas Frey for your next event:
Cutting Edge Thinking: Thomas pushes far beyond the limits of conventional wisdom, often talking about extreme futures and building intriguing “what if” scenarios as a tool for discussing far reaching implications. His presentations not only stretch the imagination but also challenge current thinking.
Engaging Delivery: Tom’s thought-provoking dialog and intense delivery enables audience members to grasp new possibilities and concepts while comprehending the salient touch points he presents. New ideas have a way of infusing audiences with energy and Thomas has the uncanny ability of touching on the most poignant trends, invigorating everyone who attends.
Custom Tailored Research: All talks are custom tailored to mesh with the goals of the event organizers as well as those who attend. While his mind may have been traveling to the far reaches of the future to put your presentation together, he’s very much present, ready to tackle the immediate challenges your audience faces, when he takes the stage.
Global Insight: Forever a student of the world, as his talks take him to many countries around the earth, Tom has developed original insights and first hand experiences that go far beyond the conventional stories of others. His talks provide up to the minute worldwide scientific data along with expert global trend forecasting.
Positive and Uplifting Themes: While it’s easy to wallow in the trouble filled underbelly of life, Thomas sees every problem as an opportunity and keeps all of his talks positive and upbeat, steeped in the wonderment of possibilities. These opportunities are every cloud’s silver lining, and we truly do have spectacular futures and fortunes that lie ahead.
“The future is truly a magical place. I have been there and would love to have you join me on my next journey.” – Thomas Frey
What People are Saying
- “Tom is very insightful and definitely an original thinker.” - Colorado Governor Bill Owens
- “Your presentation was absolutely wonderful.” – Former Colorado Governor Richard Lamm
- “Thankyou for your excellent presentation in Jacksonville. It was a pleasure spending time with you, and your “Future of Education” speech was extremely well received. 84% of our attendees rated the presentation Good-Excellent. Powerful number indeed. - Larry Fairman, Director, Florida Workforce Summit
- “You are an amazing keynote speaker. Your experience and knowledge contributed in a huge way to the success of our Sales Rally. You have given us vision and clarity to the confusing world of technology emerging around us, showing us where our business is going, and because of that, many participants now see the urgency to act for our company to maintain its position as a leader in the ICT market.” - Martin Geoffroy, General Manager, Business Development, Bell Canada
- “Tom is an exceedingly bright guy, a humorous speaker and a person who is quick to challenge conventional wisdom. He is a quick study who can develop an imaginative presentation around almost any conceivable topic.” – George Sharpe, Founder of the Greenwood Group and former Vice President of Product Development for Hunter Douglas
- “One of the most thoughtful and entertaining talks I’ve ever been to! Tom is a very deep thinker, both motivational and inspirational with his ability to build creative insights into the world ahead.” - Steve Masias – Former EEOC Director, City of Colorado Springs
- “Fascinating, idea-generating talk! You delivery was very funny, but at the same time thought-provoking and inspiring.” - Gary Taylor – VP Coldwell Banker
- “Your talk was wonderful! Very engaging. We were all still talking about it on Wednesday (two days later).” - Alison C. Ruger, Director, Standards Business Development, Information Handling Services
Tom in the News
- Papers, Columns, and other Writings
dr2tom (at) davinciinstitute (dot) com