Amy Webb, a quantitative futurist, wants everyone to know that you can’t predict the future, so just relax.
"It’s mathematically impossible to predict every single thing that can happen, so the pressure is off," she said. "If I can’t do it, you can’t either. The best we can do is make connections using data in the present."
As founder of The Future Today Institute and professor at New York University Stern School of Business, Webb’s job is to identify emerging trends, strategies, and scenarios that could happen in the future.
In discussing her concerns and insights on emerging technologies, Webb said she first wants people to understand that artificial intelligence is not happening in the future.
"It’s already here. It just didn’t show up the way you were expecting,” she said, noting there is a tremendous amount of misplaced optimism and fear.
"The general public is very misinformed about what artificial intelligence actually is, what it really does and how it stands to impact our futures."
With that, Webb offers a cautionary warning to the American workforce.
"Automation is coming, which means our workforce is going to change and you might be automated out of whatever job you have, but there are still opportunities to turn that around and learn new skills so you can be better prepared for the future," she said.
Another takeaway Webb said she has found is what she refers to as personal data records.
"Much often your data is not your own, even though it feels like you’re giving people permission to it," Webb said. "In reality your data winds up with a bunch of other companies who can further slice and dice it and use it however they want."
Still, Webb’s research, she said, shows regulation is not the solution to controlling technology.
"Regulating technology typically doesn’t work, so as you go to the polls and as you elect new leaders, keep this in the back of your mind," she said. "It sounds like a good idea but in practice it doesn’t work and what’s best for all of us is we need to take a much more sophisticated approach --guard rails, not regulations."
Her final takeaway is that the future hasn't been predetermined.
"It just doesn't show up fully formed," she said. "So if you want to have a better future for yourself that starts with making terrific data driven decisions today."