On last week’s episode of Metaverse, I was joined by Marc Palatucci, senior foresight associate at The Future Today Institute. Marc’s research specialises in all things from new realities on the metaverse, to digital fashion and the future of work and learning. He has served on the World Health Organisation’s learning strategy advisory group, and is a senior deputy to the World Economic Forum’s platform for shaping the future of media entertainment and culture. Marc co-leads the MBA course in strategic foresight at the New York University’s Stern School of Business, and also serves as Editor-at-large for Office magazine.
Marc’s interest in futurism first took root when he was a student at NYU Stern, taking a course on foresight taught by Amy Webb, the founder and CEO of The Future Today Institute. Intrigued by this new, different, and by definition, forward-looking field, Marc convinced Amy to let him work with her as a student, and has continued working with her ever since graduation. Having come from a more creative background, including experience with luxury fashion retail, Marc sought to meld his diverse range of interests with the practises of foresight, allowing him to parse out where we might be headed across a number of industries and business models.
Marc believes technology will be tremendously influential to our future. He explained how amongst the FTI’s “11 macro sources of disruption” – which encompass everything from wealth distribution to infrastructure to geopolitics – technology is 11th, treated differently because it is so ingrained in all of the other categories. Marc is fascinated by trends for technology to move from smartphones to wearables like smart glasses, a transition he calls “hands-on to heads up,” where we’ll be able to actually witness and observe our surroundings while also taking in content immersively, via AR.
As a global futures organisation, FTI functions similarly to a management consultancy, helping clients that range from Fortune 500 companies to government agencies to creative projects in Hollywood to “widen their aperture” when looking towards the future, pushing them past the usual 2-3 year fiscal projections to more creative predictions what might lie 10-15 years in the future due to emerging technologies – like the metaverse. In addition to their consulting work, FTI also releases a deeply researched 400+ page trend report once a year, which is freely available to everybody online. (The next one will be out in March, but you can read their trend reports from 2021 here.)
Offering strategic foresight advice to global institutions like the World Economic Forum and the World Health Organisation was a natural progression for Marc, as it’s these organisations’ role to “see the writing on the wall” and where things are headed. Working alongside Amy Webb for the World Economic Forum has become all the more important in the face of the pandemic: this has completely upended the way we look at the future of media and how we relate to it, from serial streaming to Zoom calls as part of everyday life. One of the World Economic Forum’s main interests is around privacy protection, how the metaverse and media will be controlled in the future, and by whom. This will require a huge amount of legal and economic development to stabilise these new forms of media and the way we interact within/with them. Regarding the WHO, Marc consulted around building a learning plan for global health literacy, which incorporated conversations around the metaverse, as it would allow customisable conversations to reach people where they are, in a way of communicating that would work best for them.
Naturally, as a sci-fi fan, I couldn’t resist picking Marc’s brain about his work consulting cinematic depictions of the future. At FTI, they like to help ground creative projects in the present day, then extrapolate based on current data to arrive at a “plausible vision of the future.” He explains how “the future” is technically a misnomer– there’s no single, monolithic “future,” but multiple different possible outcomes at any given moment. Hence, when consulting creatively, FTI likes to offer a few different outcomes to choose from. Marc noted that the “probable” future might not be the most compelling storytelling-wise, whilst “possible” futures might be a bit more interesting, but that the creative sweet spot comes in exploring “plausible” futures – ground where we can explore how today’s technology will have logically affected and transformed society. Marc thinks that anchoring concepts that could be far-fetched in the present day so that they really impact the viewer is one of the most critical things sci-fi creators can do.
My conversation with Marc ran the gamut, from covering socio-economical outcomes of technology on future societies to creative, immersive ways the new metaverse might allow us to interface with daily life and entertainment. To enjoy more of his fascinating insights, you can listen to our full discussion here.