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About the guest

Amy Webb

As founder and CEO of the Future Today Institute (FTI), Amy is an expert in strategy foresight, pioneering a unique quantitative modeling approach and data-driven foresight methodology that identifies signals of change and emerging patterns very early. Using that information, Amy and her colleagues identify white spaces, opportunities, and threats early enough for action. They develop predictive scenarios, along with executable strategy, for their global client base.

Amy also serves as a professor of strategic foresight at New York University’s Stern School of Business and a Visiting Fellow at Oxford University’s Säid School of Business. She was elected a Life Member of the Council on Foreign Relations and is a member of the World Economic Forum, serving on boards and councils, including the Forum’s Risk Advisory Council, the Global Futures Council, Strategic Foresight Council and AI Governance Alliance. Regarded as one of the most important voices on the futures of technology (with specializations in both AI and synthetic biology), Amy is the author of four books, including the international bestseller The Big Nine and her most recent, The Genesis Machine, which was listed as one of the best nonfiction books of the year by The New Yorker. To date, her books have been translated into 21 languages. In 2023, Amy was recognized as the #4 most influential management thinker in the world by Thinkers50, a biannual ranking of global business thinkers. Forbes called Amy “one of the five women changing the world” and she was honored as one of the BBC’s 100 Women of 2020.

Show notes

The Big Nine: How The Tech Titans and Their Thinking Machines Could Warp Humanity, by Amy Webb, 2019
The Genesis Machine: Our Quest to Rewrite Life in the Age of Synthetic Biology, by Amy Webb and Andrew Hessel, 2022
The Signals are Talking: Why Today’s Fringe is Tomorrow’s Mainstream, by Amy Webb, 2016
Data, a Love Story: How I Cracked the Online Dating Code To Meet My Match, by Amy Webb, 2014

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Brené Brown: Hi everyone, this is Brené Brown, and welcome to it’s a mashup. It’s a collab. It’s between Dare to Leadand Unlocking Us. We’re going to drop this podcast. I so desperately want you to hear it. We’re dropping it in both feeds. It’s the crossover. It’s like, when, I don’t know, I’m probably going to give my… Barrett is laughing at me already, y’all. But back in the day, it was always such a big deal when Fred and Wilma Flintstone showed up on Scooby-Doo, or one of the characters did a crossover with the other. This is that, and I’m so glad that you’re here for it. It’s the fifth episode in a series that we’re doing about I call it Living Beyond Human Scale: The Possibilities, the Costs, and the Role of Community. And when I say living beyond human scale, I go back to this quote by Jon Kabat-Zinn and you’ll hear it in the podcast too.

BB: His definition of overwhelm, which I think is so beautiful, is the world and my life are unfolding at a speed that my nervous system and my psyche can’t manage. And to me, living beyond human scale is everything, from social media, AI, 24-hour news, bringing us really traumatic, violent stories from every corner of the world right now. And so the point of this series for me, really, to be honest with you, it’s super personal, is to try to get to the place where we can actually inhale just, okay, like, what’s happening? What do I need to understand to be less afraid? If you listen to the podcast with S. Craig Watkins, I hope you do, like, he is a scholar who studied AI, UT Austin and MIT, he’s got a joint appointment at MIT as well. And he called me out halfway through the podcast and said, this is not unusual, but you’ve said scary like 20 times.

BB: And so this is a podcast series about things that seem very scary to me. And if there’s anything I’ve learned over the past 25 years of my work, it’s turn toward what’s scary and look it in the eye and try to understand it. And you’ll see my podcast yes, today, Amy Webb, you’re going to love this conversation. She said that it’s like driving on ice right now. Intuitively, you want to slam on the brake and steer out of the ice, but you’ve got to not step on the brake and turn into the ice. And so I think that’s really a great metaphor for what this podcast series is about. We are not socially, biologically, cognitively and spiritually wired for some of the shit going down right now, probably most of it. So, that’s the series. Esther Perel, William Brady, S. Craig Watkins, Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times journalists, Jennifer Valentino-DeVries, and Michael Keller, just really trying to understand.


BB: So, let me tell you a little bit about who I’m talking to today. She’s got a job that if I didn’t have this job, and I wasn’t an Episcopalian priest, singer, songwriter, this would be what I would do. Amy Webb is the founder and CEO of the Future Today Institute. She’s an expert in strategy foresight. She has pioneered a unique kind of quantitative modeling approach and data-driven foresight methodology that really helps us understand what’s happening, what’s going to happen, why, how it’s happening. She uses all this data along with her colleagues to identify kind of white spaces, opportunities, and threats, early enough for action, which I think is really critical. They develop predictive scenarios along with executable strategy. They work with all the big companies, global leaders. She’s also a professor of strategic foresight at NYU Stern School of Business. She’s a visiting fellow at Oxford University, their school of business.

BB: And she’s actually regarded as one of the most important voices on the future of technology with specializations in both AI and synthetic biology. Her whole bio will be on the website page. So, will list all the links. I’m going to do a lot of referencing to her talk at South by Southwest. Y’all should see this fricking chaos and mayhem when she’s at South by Southwest. People literally get in line at 4:00 and 5:00 in the morning to get into her talk because every year at South by in Austin, she releases kind of the tech trends for the year. So, I thought, well, we’re not all at South by, and I only understood about 60% of what she was saying. So, I asked her, “Hey, talk to us like we don’t know what’s happening.” And she did. It’s really human, and you’ve got to listen. If you’ve got a job, you’ve got to understand this. If you’re living in the world, you’ve got to understand this. If you’ve got a partner or kids, you’ve got to understand this. If you’re taking care of parents, you’ve got to understand this. It’s, we’ve got to just turn into the ice together. Let’s go.


BB: Amy Webb, welcome to, well, this is a crossover episode, so you’re going to drop in both the Unlocking Us feed and the Dare to Lead feed.

Amy Webb: I feel very honored.

BB: So, welcome to both podcast podcasts.

AW: Thank you. This is very, very exciting. You know what, let me tell you why, because secretly, I would love to time travel and I feel like I’m now in a way like doing that by appearing in two places at once. It’s kind of quantum.

BB: You kind of are.

AW: It’s a quantum me.

BB: You’re messing with the time-space continuum, like Phineas and Ferb, yeah.

AW: I love Phineas and Ferb, that’s a great show, great show.

BB: I do too. I always talk about it, because I always feel like I do. We do… Adam Grant, Simon Sinek, and I do a traveling podcast, and it’s always like, I’m Candace and they’re Phineas and Ferb. I’m like the older sister that…

AW: That’s great.

BB: Yeah.

AW: That’s great.

BB: Okay. So, let me start by saying that I am completely enamored, obsessed with your work, and have been for a long time. I love what you do. I think it’s crazy and scientific, and crazy.

AW: Well, I have been called crazy before, but from you, I take that as a good compliment.

BB: Oh, it’s such a good compliment. It’s so fascinating. Before we get into it, because I’m excited to get into it. Tell us your story. Where were you born? Where’d you grow up?

AW: Sure.

BB: Who were you? Who was little Amy?

AW: Who was I? So, I typically tell people I’m from Chicago, but that’s a total lie. I’m from northwest Indiana in a tiny sliver of Lake County that was blue in a state full of red. And my parents moved there because it was affordable. My dad’s family were… His parents were subsistence farmers, and so there just wasn’t a lot of money. My mom’s family immigrated, so education was strong on that side of the family, but generally speaking, everybody was sort of a first. So, I grew up in very, very, very modest circumstances. My mom was a teacher, fourth grade teacher. My dad managed retail outlets, stores and things. He was brilliant and graduated from high school, I think when he was 15. And probably could have gotten a full ride to a very prestigious college if that had been an option in his family but he had to go to work. So, that’s where I started. And I think the thing with my parents who were very supportive of my sister and I, was really like, put your head down and just work hard and hard work and education will get you through. So.

BB: What were you like in high school?


AW: I was voted by the faculty. I went to a public school. There were 600 kids in my class, so it was enormous. I was voted most likely to succeed by the faculty, and voted most likely to be assassinated as president by my fellow students.


BB: Okay. I love this. I could see it.

AW: I was on the speech and debate team. Yeah, I…

BB: Yeah, of course.

AW: Speech and debate was basically my life. I also had this separate track which was music, which I didn’t want to do anything with professionally, but I enjoyed it and I was good at it. That’s how I got into college, but speech and debate was really my life.

BB: What kind of music?

AW: So, I started piano when I was 4. Actually, I started classical guitar when I was 4 or 5. My dad’s whole family is very musical. Then piano, then I picked up clarinet in sixth grade and basically all woodwinds but double reeds in high school. I just was really good at it, and I had a full ride to a very good music school. And given my circumstances, did not matter that I wanted to go to Georgetown. My parents said, “Look, you’re going to go where we can afford and that means you’re going to go study music.” So, I enrolled, I actually got into the graduate studio for clarinet as a freshman. And on the side, started taking classes in game theory and economics, which is really what I wanted to study and tried to make it all work. And it all came crashing down by the end of that year. I was miserable and everything was horrible and I dropped out and then re-enrolled and put myself through school.

BB: Wow. I actually see the music in your work. It would definitely be jazz based on your work, but I definitely see some kind of pattern and rhythm in your work, so I’m not surprised about the music for some weird reason.

AW: Well, you’ve studied so much and know… You’ve researched so much about behaviors and thinking and how our brains work, and I think you’re right. The things that I tend to be good at all relate back to pattern recognition, and I kind of, we were joking at the beginning about the craziness. I really had a hard time in school because teachers didn’t know what to do with me. I was a kid who had interest in several different things and I happened… I was like, good enough in several different things and I remember I wasn’t like disruptive in class, but there was some amount of like, hey, pick a thing. And I didn’t want to pick a thing. I like doing a lot of different things because I saw the connections between them. And I think you’re right. Music, math, languages, that type of thinking requires pattern recognition. The dark side of pattern recognition is that, it can also cause a lot of mental distress, because you start seeing things that maybe aren’t as catastrophic as they really are.

BB: We could talk about that for a long time because I think connecting the seemingly unconnectable feels like the definition of my job and it’s definitely got a downside. I thought something was wrong with me when I was young, because I could predictably see the connection between emotions and behavior and what was getting ready to happen. And I felt like, oh, if I think if Harry Potter would’ve been popular, I would’ve thought, oh, I’m just waiting for my letter to Hogwarts because I’m clearly not a muggle, something’s going on.

AW: Well, that could be a pretty lonely place to occupy though, and I’m at the end of my 40s now. When I was in middle school and high school, mental health was not a thing that anybody talked about. And so what I learned much later in life is that I have obsessive compulsive disorder that I’ve been managing for a long time, but the same part of my brain that lights up and helps me see patterns, and helps me make all those, do all the stuff that I do, is the same part of my brain that when I’m under duress, I tend to see, like I’m very, very good at seeing absolute worst possible scenarios. I’m great on risk and forecasting, but when you’re 14 years old and you’re still developing, you don’t have the tools to cope with that.

AW: So, there were a couple of times that I… I remember the first time I got a D, I was a straight A student. I would outwork and out-study everybody, but I got a D once and I had a breakdown. And I just remember being in the guidance counselor’s office. She was trying to help. Nobody knew what to do with me. She was trying to help, she brought my parents in for a conference, gave me a special light bulb and was like, this light bulb will somehow help you. And somebody in the room might have been like, “Hey, maybe this kid needs to see somebody, because maybe this is something else.”

BB: Right.

AW: But we… That wasn’t talked about…

BB: I know.

AW: I guess 30 years ago. And thankfully it is now.

BB: Yeah. For all the pattern finders out there, just know, A, you’re not alone, and B, there’s a cost to it. I think I’m learning at this stage of my life late. I’m in my 50s, that the cost for me is a level of hypervigilance, because I’m seeing a consideration set differently than other people are seeing. And I’m seeing if A then B and then C is a possibility and shit.

AW: That would probably make you very good candidate for a strategic foresight, the field that I’m in, but it can be very, very challenging, especially if you don’t understand why you’re able to do those things.

BB: It’s funny that you say that because when I was getting my PhD, I introduced the idea to one of the faculty members I worked with that, I wanted to study this thing called environmental scanning. I was told there was no such thing.

AW: Oh, there very much is. That’s the old way of doing what’s called horizon, which I guess you already know this, but for the people who don’t.

BB: No. Yeah. Say it.

AW: The sort of older version of strategic foresight, which is because this is the field that I occupy. It was called horizon scanning. So, this is like looking at new stories, talking to people, sort of scanning the stuff that’s out there in a broad way and trying to extrapolate from that insights.

BB: So interesting. Yeah, so I thought it would be a good place to use my pattern making, but because it didn’t exist for the people of my college, I moved on and I’m glad I did. But I think the thing about your work, so tell us what you do, what it means, and where you CEO.

AW: So, I am a futurist, which is a term that I really, really dislike, because it sounds like a silly made up job title. And to be fair, I get it, but to also, to be fair, at some point, accountant was a silly, stupid, made-up sounding job title.

BB: For sure.

AW: My field is strategic foresight. So the purpose of strategic foresight is to use data and build models to look for patterns to see change and plausible outcomes. And most of my work is with the world’s largest companies and governments. I do a little work in Hollywood, but for the most part, this is where do we play? How do we win? And what is it going to take to be resilient? There are a lot of people who work in this space that say there is no way to predict the future. I have a quantitative background, eventually it’s where I got to in college. I disagree with that. I think you can very much predict plausible futures, but that’s really not the point of the work. The work is not to be prepared for everything. It is to be prepared for anything. And that’s a tricky distinction for leaders to understand.

AW: So, really what I do and what my organization does is work with companies to help them figure out where are they make their billion dollar investment, AI is happening, what are they supposed to do? What’s the strategy? What’s the long-term play? So, it’s a lot of that. So, we can get to tangible outcomes, but along the way, it is also helping leaders reframe their positioning, and how they think about change, and being comfortable sitting with ambiguity, which is a challenging thing for most people to do, just sort of sit with uncertainty.

BB: Oh yeah.

AW: And to be able to have a very clear vision of what their future should look like, but be agile in how they get there. So that’s it. And there was a third question about CEO. What was the question? Like what does it mean to be a CEO?

BB: No. Where do you CEO? Like what is your company? Where are you located?

AW: Oh, got it, got it. So, we are physically based in New York City. I’m the Chief Executive Officer. We’re tiny. We’re tiny but mighty. There’s only 20 of us and we really only do one thing, but we do this thing, I think better than everybody else. And we also care deeply about helping others learn more about it, because from our point of view, the more companies, the more governments, the more individual people that learn the core concepts of strategic foresight, the better it’s going to be for everybody because it’ll mean we all stop making stupid short-term decisions.

BB: Okay. So, you are very much like the Taylor Swift of South by Southwest. I have to tell you.

AW: Without a squad, I guess I have a tiny squad.

BB: Oh, you have a squad. You have a total squad. Let me tell you this. Do not get, just do not get between you and the Brazilians.

AW: Oh my God.

BB: Who attend South by Southwest.

AW: It is a lot. I have been going to South by for I think 20 years. I have a wonderful relationship with South by Southwest, and it’s my… It really is my favorite time of the year. And I think over the years, I have become part of what happens there and yeah, a lot of people show up. I felt really bad this year. People waited. I think the line started four hours early, so I think there were people there at 6:00 AM because I started at 10:00.

BB: Oh yeah, there were. They were camping out for the new iPhone or for a Taylor Swift ticket. I thought it was amazing actually. And we called your team and said, Amy and Brené are going to talk on the podcast, and she really can’t get there at 5:45 because she’s got a gig later in the day. So camping out is not her style. Is there any way that we can get a copy? And so luckily, we will link to your South by Southwest talk for everyone. And I just am imploring people to watch it. And I want to go through some of the things that I learned from your South by talk this year. So, the talk every year is kind of unveiling for the year of the 2024 strategic foresight, the trends, what you’re seeing, what you’re learning, what you think we need to be thinking about.

AW: Right. Every year for many, many years, we launch our annual tech trends report. But it’s really more than just specific tech trends or science. It’s society, it’s like, basically the year ahead, or the years ahead…

BB: Yeah. And it’s everything. It ranged from ethics to face computers, it was just everywhere. What I’d like to do in the time we spend together right now is go through some of those findings for an audience that’s probably not a South by Southwest audience. And that’s not for just the Unlocking Us folks. I, in the last, for some weird ass reason, my travel schedule has been really crazy for the last couple of weeks, and I’ve probably been in front of 12-15,000 people at different large conferences, mostly doing fireside chats with CEOs, with professionals. This is B2B, kind of these are business leadership folks.

BB: And there’s a real reservation for people in business who understand that they’re almost… I don’t even know what word to use. I think you talked about FOMO. I’ve really not ever seen CEOs in the position I’m seeing them right now, and I’ve been inside of organizations doing leadership and org development work for 20 years, there’s a scarcity mentality about, I don’t understand AI, what is it? And we need a sophisticated 45-page strategy tomorrow.

AW: Yeah.

BB: Do you see that?

AW: Absolutely. We work with enormous companies, big part of the Fortune 50 world leaders, and I mostly, now, as the CEO, I’m not doing hands-on client work, but I do work with a handful of CEOs every year directly. But we have this horizontal view into what’s happening into all organizations across different industries, and you’re absolutely right. I think there’s this perception that everything is happening and changing quickly. AI is yesterday, and we’ve somehow got to get caught up. And there’s a general sense of anxiety, not just about technology, but we’ve got economic uncertainty, there’s geopolitical instability for real, for the first time in a while. And people are concerned, rightfully so.

AW: And so leaders are, sort of at this point, making decisions based out of fear or FOMO, which is the Fear Of Missing Out. And both of those cases are really, really bad. I could share one quick story with you, so I think you and I are both out there speaking quite a bit. I was at an event at the end of the summer in the Hamptons, which is not a place that I usually hang out. But I was, I’m there, and there was an event that was happening when I was speaking after that, there was a party at a beautiful home, and I get cornered by a venture capitalist, who comes up to me and wants to talk to me about AI. And because he’s a venture capitalist, he didn’t have any actual questions about AI, he just wanted to tell me what he thought about AI. And his big, deep thought was that AI is going to become more powerful than humans, we’re going to become like slaves. And he was like exuberant telling me this dystopian future where our overlords are AI systems, which I thought was incredibly bizarre.

AW: And then I get away from him. There’s a CEO of a bank, large bank, who wants to also to ask me questions about AI, but in his case, he was like, “How quickly can we get AI working to eliminate staff?” so basically reduce head count, “It’s fast, fast, fast, right?”

BB: Oh, Jesus.

AW: “To improve our bottom line.” And the reason that I bring this up is because the conversations could not have been more surreal. The problem is that the situation is very real. So, let me say this, yes, we are dealing with heightened volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, those are collectively known as VUCA forces. They’re always present, but they are all heightened right now in a way that they haven’t been before. So, if you’re feeling uncertain, that is a correct and normal feeling to have. It’s also the most complex operational environment that I’ve seen for two decades. If you’re an executive, if you’re part of the C staff, you got there because you’re a great manager, and now suddenly you’re supposed to be an expert in blockchain, or metaverse, or this year it’s AI, which is unfair. I mean, these are complex technologies. So, what’s needed is a longer-term perspective and some sense of like things are not happening as fast as everybody thinks that they’re happening.

AW: AI is a technology that has been in some form of development for a century, that’s for real. It’s a long horizon technology, I know that it feels like suddenly everything changed overnight, and it didn’t. What changed is your perception of what’s been happening all along. But there’s this collective realization that kind of all snowballed and happened at once, when Open AI introduced its chatbot, and that’s really what set the ball in motion. So, at South by, I was trying to make everybody feel a little bit better, that that collective anxiety they’re all feeling, and that, Brené, you’re sensing when you’re having these fireside chats with CEOs, it is palpable, it is pervasive. I think it’s normal, and it’s okay to have those feelings, but at some point we have to set the feelings aside, and get back to logic and reason.

BB: Weirdly, and coincidentally, I started my research, kind of my long-term qualitative research that I’m still doing now, probably five or six months after 9/11. And I see two camps of people today, when it comes to kind of the tech trends, scramblers and ostriches. And so there’s, either people scrambling to leverage it in ways that they don’t even understand what it is, and that’s dangerous. And then there’s people saying to themselves, and maybe this is on the Unlocking Us side, why do I need to know about this? What difference does it make? I don’t care. The one thing that both kind of groups have in common, and there’s, it’s a continuum, it’s not a binary it’s a continuum. But the one thing that both groups have in common that I’ve not been able to convey in my meetings with people is that, everyone’s waiting for the ball to settle, and the growth and change to stop, so they can get their hands around it. I don’t think that’s happening. Is that going to happen?

AW: No. And again, I think this… We have this sensation that novelty is the new normal, and so…

BB: Wow. Say that again.

AW: Novelty is the new normal. And that was true pre-COVID because we were in a different area of tech acceleration, and at that point it was social media and video, and moving to streaming and things like that. But especially post-COVID, it just feels like everything is new all the time. And so it does weigh on you pretty heavily, and it can lead to indecision, it can lead to entropy. So, the way around that is, and you unfortunately, you may not get this metaphor. Do you, where you’re at in Texas, do you get ice and snow, and probably not.

BB: No.

AW: Okay.

BB: But give it to me, because I get it.

AW: Okay. Okay. So, where I grew up, we had terrible wind, terrible cold, and when you learn how to drive, you have to learn how to drive on ice and snow… I mean, I’m assuming you still have to be. You had to be able to prove that you could drive in ice when I was a kid. So, what you learn how to do is to do the of what it feels like you should do. So, if you’re driving along and you hit an icy patch, everything in your body is telling you, slam on the brakes. And that is your instinct. And if you break down why, what’s happening is, you’re instinctively drawn to, if A, then B. If I slam my foot on the break right now, I will stop. And the sensation of spinning out of control will cease. But physics, of course, tells us that that is not what you can do, because when you slam your foot on the brake, you don’t stop the car. In order for that equation, if A then B to work out, you would somehow have to know the exact gradient of the road, the tread on your tires. You would have to know exactly how much ice there is. You would have to have a omniscient viewpoint on every single data point around you.

AW: So, what you learn how to do is steer into the slide, which is another way of saying, embrace the uncertainty. So, you whip your steering wheel into the direction that you’re sliding, and then as you start to move in a different direction, you whip it again. And basically you are slowing down time, and you are reducing uncertainty by making a ton of tiny decisions while remaining as calm as you possibly can. That’s what everybody needs to be doing right now, whether we’re talking about artificial intelligence and GenAI. Or the thing that’s coming next, which is going to make everybody even more concerned, and that’s generative biology, and that also will impact every single industry sector, every business, every CEO. You have to learn how to steer into the slide, because there is no if A, then B, or if this, then that, equation that works out at this stage in human history. There are too many co-dependencies and too many variables that you’re never going to have total control over.

BB: Damn, I do not like that feeling. Let me tell you, we get ice, I’m looking at Barrett how many times do we get ice a year? Twice maybe, yeah twice. And everybody knows don’t leave, because Texans are in big trucks, and the minute they slide, they slam on their brakes and whip their wheel the other way. And every time there’s ice, there’s a 50-car pileup on every one of our freeways.

AW: But I think that’s kind of what’s happening… Again, my point of view on this is that there’s a 50-car pileup right now happening in business.

BB: Agree.

AW: I’m really concerned about the amount of capital flowing into AI. The amount of capital flowing into start-ups that have yet to prove out long-term profitability and commercialization potential. And the reason that I get worried is, because we’ve already been through one AI winter and that was between 1974 and 1980, when a bunch of AI pioneers made these huge promises, none of which were technically feasible, but the promise was so exciting. And they painted these really wonderful concrete images for people and everything collapsed. We can’t afford a 50-car pileup where we are right now, not just with AI and technology, but just where we are generally speaking, in terms of our politics and society and the decisions that we’re making for the future, we’ve got to be willing to steer into the slide. And to be comfortable with uncertainty.

BB: Yeah. And we’re not. And now we’re in my field, because I study vulnerability, uncertainty, we are just neurobiologically not good at it. Our nervous system tolerance for it, you train on that or you don’t have it. So, for someone listening that is, they’re not thinking about this professionally, they’re thinking about their everyday life. They’re like me in many ways, I mean I have a big professional life, but I’m also up in the morning packing lunches, talking to my daughter’s in graduate school. My son’s getting ready to go off to college, we’re talking about what should he major in. We’re talking about kids and social media. There’s also a 50-car pileup around AI, families, kids, social. What do you see there?

AW: So, I can sort of zoom in and then zoom out on this. I’ll zoom in first.

BB: I would love that.

AW: So, I have a 13-year-old. And people are very surprised when they find out that she does not have a phone. And she’s in a wonderful school founded by five feminists… You’ll appreciate this, she’s in a school founded 175 years ago by five women who were pissed off that they couldn’t get into Hopkins, because it was an all men’s. And so when they showed up trying to enroll, they were told, “You can’t come in because of our dress code.” And they were like, “Cool, cool, cool.” So, they went out, they had men’s suits made, they show back up, and then they had them arrested for indecency. And they were like, “Go fuck yourselves.” Am I allowed to say fuck on the show? I would assume so.

BB: Yeah. In this context, there’s no other word that would fit.

AW: So, long story short, they wound up going out and getting advanced degrees in other countries that would have them. They got PhDs, came back, started an all-women’s school that they specifically designed to be significantly harder than Hopkins, because their thought was by the time these women get out, they’re going to have to put their heads down and out work and out think everybody else in order to make their mark. So that’s where my kid goes to school today, and…

BB: That’s amazing.

AW: It is amazing. The other thing that’s amazing is that she’s in seventh grade, and she’s one of four kids right now that does not have a phone. And in this school that is full of high-performing families, at the beginning of the year, the advisory teacher asked the group, “What does everybody want to be when they grow up?” My daughter came home that day and was telling me the story, and she’s like, “Half of the kids said, TikTok influencer.” She wants to be a Lunar Architect, she may change her mind a few times, but she couldn’t… And it’s been a little bit of a challenge. We did get her a watch, because we need to be able to find out when to pick her up from school. But she doesn’t feel like she’s missing out by not knowing the latest TikTok dance, not knowing the latest whatever.

AW: We’ve also shielded her, so there’s no pictures of her online. She’s a very unique person, because everybody else has submitted pictures of their kids. It’s a tricky thing to talk about. Everybody makes different choices for different reasons. But I think that there is probably a lot of people out there now wishing that their parents hadn’t spent the first 15 years of their lives posting pictures of them because there’s no way to take that back. And going forward, again, I think we’re moving into a place where better choices can and should have been made at the dawn of AI. AI requires data, and everybody’s been pretty loosey-goosey about what data they submit. And it’s going to be hard to roll all that back now. So, I don’t have a rosy outlook.

BB: Got it.

AW: So, things can be bleak, but also things can be pretty great. So, if we zoom out, the thing that I talked at South by about, one of the themes of the report, and just a ton of the research that we’ve been doing, shows that we’ve entered a technology super cycle. So, old school economics super-cycles are these events that can last a few years or a decade. And it’s an era of unprecedented productivity and usually economic development. And usually there’s good outcomes on the other end, although it does require a transformation. And typically that gets started by some type of big innovation or development. So, the steam engine results in the Industrial Revolution, right? That’s the catalyst, then that’s the super cycle.

AW: What’s happening right now is that there’s not just one technology, there’s three. So, there’s artificial intelligence, they’re all of these different wearable devices that are coming. And then there’s bio-technology, they don’t seem to be related, but they are, and each one of them plays off of the other, which means that we’ve entered this technology super cycle. So, the good part of this, and there’s good and bad to that, but the good part is, I think there’s a lot of kids out there who probably have varied interests or who have been told they have to focus just on one thing and that’s it. I think we’re entering this era of varied interest is a good thing. And if you’re somebody who’s interested in biology and robotics, you are going to have a bright career ahead of you, because there’s going to be a ton of opportunity. And lots of new types of jobs, and lots of new types of work. So, there’s risk as well, but the positive note is that it’s going to be a cool time to enter the workforce, because there’s going to be a lot of new types of jobs out there that we haven’t had before.


BB: I think these are two great takeaways. One, is this is going to be an exciting super cycle charge job market. We don’t even know what the possibilities are. And two, all of these things that we’re building require data, make choices about what you’re going to share from your life with these big machines that need data.

AW: Yeah.

BB: Because your kids’ pictures will be data, I wear an Oura ring, so I’m sure that my heart rate is data, and my heart rate variability is data. Like my wearable is data for the machine. Is that true?

AW: That’s true. And I wear a Garmin watch, because I’m a competitive cyclist and I need the data. So, I think the trade-off here is being smart and savvy about how you’re sharing, and what you’re cloaking. So, having some amount of data literacy is good for teenagers and families.

BB: Yes.

AW: But businesses need data literacy too. It’s amazing how many leaders we work with who are just not aware of what data their company are creating, or whatever else. I know this all feels confusing and challenging. I wrote a book in 2019 called The Big Nine, and it’s all about what I thought at that point was going to be the future of AI, and it turns out most of what’s in there turned out to be true, for good and for bad. But the second chapter of that book is a quick and dirty history of AI, and why it matters. So, if you’re somebody who’s like, I wish I could do the thing like Keanu Reeves and the matrix were like, I know jujitsu…

BB: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

AW: If you give yourself, it’s a dense chapter, but that chapter is, it’s actually a book about the future. But that chapter won that book several history awards. So, if you just read that, it, like Keanu Reeves, you will know jujitsu. But for AI.

BB: And I think that’s really important. I’ll tell you why. When I was working with a bunch of HR folks this week, I said, you know, I think your time is here. I think about Linda Hill at Harvard who said, the biggest challenge to digital transformation is not technology. It’s people.

AW: Yeah.

BB: I think the same will be true with all these new technologies. And I did an interview for this podcast series that you’re a part of as my big crossover with S. Craig Watkins, who is on an AI team at UT Austin has a counter appointment with MIT. And one of the things that he said that I thought was really important is it is no longer acceptable for the people at the table who are building AI to just be engineers and computational mathematicians. We need folks from human resources, ethicists, humanists, liberal arts folks, domain expertise, lived experience. That’s especially when we’re unleashing these things in vulnerable areas like policing, criminal justice.

AW: Yeah.

BB: Health.

AW: So you want to hear a really funny story?

BB: I do always.

AW: I mean, you may not think it’s funny. I it’s not like funny. Haha. It’s like funny. Seriously.

BB: Oh shit.

AW: But so the term artificial intelligence was first coined in 1956, and that’s when some academics got together at Dartmouth University for two months. So a guy named Marvin Minsky, another guy named John McCarthy were getting, they were like, you know, everybody that they had been talking to had been teetering around these ideas about machines that could think. Alan Turing had written a couple of very influential papers. They were like, let’s get everybody together for two months. And just, they made this list, this list of all the best and brightest that they could imagine. So, in addition to tech people, they did kind of the same thing. Let’s get an anthropologist. Let’s get a linguist. You know, let’s get all, let’s get a psychologist. Let’s get all these amazing people together. And so for two months they gathered, coined the term artificial intelligence, and for the first time described this future in which machines might think just like humans do. Now, what’s interesting about this group of people, Brené, is that as they made this exhaustive list, everybody that they could imagine, the smartest people around. Ask me how many women there were on the list.

BB: I don’t want, I don’t want to.

AW: There was one, it was Minsky’s wife. Her job was to come and walk the dog and generally take care of the men as needed.

BB: Gotcha.

AW: So, there were no women, there were no people of color. And I bring that up because you would think that whatever, 2024 minus 1956, we’ve been at this for a long time. You would think that things would be different today. In the room I’m still one of the only women, if not the only woman, in the room when conversations about the future of AI are happening. So, again, I think that there is this.

BB: Shit.

AW: This new interest. I think that people are aware and they’re willing to talk about this more, but when it comes down to it, ambition isn’t the same thing as action. Ambition has to translate to action.

BB: Yeah.

AW: And action requires courage. And sometimes making decisions and doing things that are politically unsavory inside of organizations.

BB: I absolutely see that every day and believe it’s true. And also believe, that’s why I was telling this group of HR leaders like listen to the podcast series, get a couple of books, train yourself, understand what some of this means. Demand a seat at the table during these conversations. Know more than your leader, know more than your CEO.

AW: Yeah.

BB: Ask hard questions. You know, say, “Well that’s really interesting. How are you dealing with the alignment issue?” Become somewhat conversational.

AW: Yeah. I think that’s great. I think that’s a good point. You don’t have to be an expert.

BB: No.

AW: You have to be conversant.

BB: Right.

AW: Which means you have to have like a minimum amount of knowledge.

BB: Right.

AW: And then feel comfortable enough to be able to talk about it.

BB: And ask questions. You don’t have to have answers. Because no one has answers.

AW: Yeah. Yeah. Totally.

BB: One thing that I was trying to quote you actually this week, and I was like trying to quote the Supercycle [laughter], and they’re… and I was like, “But it’s all these things happening at one time.” And they’re like, “Well, I don’t understand.” I was like, “Imagine if the steam engine, electricity, and the internet all happened at the same time.”

AW: Yeah.

BB: And they’re like, “No, no, they, you can’t, they can’t. That’s too much change in too many different directions. Nothing would escape being touched.” And I was like, “I’m pretty sure that’s what she’s saying.”

AW: Yeah. I mean, that is not how I said it, but you’re not off.

BB: Yes.

AW: So each one of those, examples is the other GPT. GPT outside of AI stands for general purpose technology. And that’s the type of technology that has, again, has the ability to totally transform how we live and work. So, you’re right, steam engine, electricity, internet, all of those are general purpose technologies. And what’s happening right now is they’re converging. So, again, not a terrible thing, but it will increase this sort of complex operating environment for leaders. And so to your point earlier, we cannot afford ostriches, with their heads in the ground, you know, or.

BB: Or scramblers.

AW: Or scramblers. This is not a good time for that. We need leaders who are expansive thinkers, who are open-minded, who will allow their cherished beliefs to be challenged and who are comfortable leading through uncertainty.

BB: Okay. So, the three things that you said are kind of converging is AI, what I call the interconnectedness of all things. How do you phrase it and what does it mean?

AW: So, there’s AI, there’s this sort of connected ecosystem of things. So, generally speaking, that means wearable devices. So, your Oura rings, your smart watches, pretty soon, face computers. So, that’s what I would call Apple’s Vision Pro. You know, these things that are coming to market, Meta has stuff. They’re wearable face computers much more than they are smart glasses. So, it’s all that stuff, but it’s also connected cars. I sleep in an AI powered bed. That’s true. There’s factory warehouses that are full of sensors. So, it’s all of these physical devices that are collecting enormous amounts of data for good purposes to help us do whatever. So that’s the second set. And then the third set is, is biotechnology.

BB: Okay. So, I use ChatGPT-4 a lot. And when I use it, I, but I will say, I’m like…

AW: Can I ask what do you, what do you use it for?

BB: Well, I will tell you because, but I’m old. Let me tell you what old is for me. I remember my grandmother at the Piggly Wiggly in San Antonio. She was so upset one day. And I said, you know, “What’s wrong Meemaw?” She said, “I feel so bad for those people having to crouch down underneath the checkout stand.” And I said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” And she said, “Well, now when I go, they run a little thing over and there’s people underneath there reading the price tag saying $3.99, $4.99, $6.99.” I was like, “Those aren’t people, that’s a computer.” And she said, “No, no, no, they’re talking.” And I said, “It’s a computer reading a barcode.” And that’s where she stopped.

AW: Yeah.

BB: And then I remember she stopped there and she stopped with the ATM. She’s like.

AW: Yeah.

BB: There’s no way in hell I’m going to get money in or do anything there. So, for me with chat, I can tell that I’m scared because I use it to thematically analyze large amounts of qualitative data. Survey data for trends and those kind of things.

AW: Yeah.

BB: And even outliers. But I still manually code everything.

AW: Yeah.

BB: To make sure that it’s right. And what I’ve, what I’m learning very quickly, is it’s as good as my prompts. And no better.

AW: Yep.

BB: So, you have to almost, in my mind, you almost have to have some research prowess.

AW: Yeah.

BB: To even ask the right thing if you want a thematic analysis. But that’s why I’m using it.

AW: Yeah.

BB: It’s so helpful.

AW: Yeah. I would say that’s kind of true writ large. So, beyond playing with it and asking it to write a haiku in the style of Moby or something, Moby probably writes haikus anyways, so it probably wasn’t a good example.

BB: I bet Moby does. Yeah. That’s so good.

AW: But yeah, you, you, it’s a tool. It’s a tool just like Microsoft Excel is a tool, and most people don’t know this, but Excel has more than 500 functions. And like, I think fewer than 10 probably get used with any regularity by.

BB: Yeah.

AW: The vast majority of people. So, either that means Microsoft significantly over-engineered this software product, which there’s some of that.

BB: Yeah.

AW: Or you just have to know how to use the tool in order to exploit the tool. So, ChatGPT and Claude and Perplexity, and there’s like Gemini, they’re all tools and they themselves are not all of AI. AI is this umbrella term that encompasses many different technologies. But you have to know how to write a prompt, which is basically a little request in a window in order to make the best use of it. And people are learning how to do that. I’ve also seen some companies listing jobs for prompt engineers.

BB: Ooh.

AW: That would make you rethink, [laughter], rethink your own education. Because the prompt engineer jobs…

BB: Yeah.

AW: Are like 200 grand a year or more. So.

BB: So, would you say that that’s text to concrete?

AW: So, right now you have to know what to ask in order to get something out in return that’s not nonsensical. What we are evolving toward is, and there’s a lot of technical reasons for this that I won’t bog the conversation down with, but what’s coming next is requiring fewer specific prompts in order to get great results on the other end, which means you can start with a concept. You can start with a concept, brainstorm along an AI, and at the end of it, get a concrete answer or a concrete framework or design or whatever it is that you might need, which is a huge difference from where we are today.

BB: I have to ask this question. I’m scared to frame it this way. Are you saying that I would engage in thought partnership with AI?

AW: So, yes. And that’s good and bad. So, the good part is.

BB: No, shit it doesn’t sound good at all.

AW: Well, here’s what’s good about it. It’s hard to shut my brain off. It’s not hard. I, like, I understand how to do it. I just choose not to. Because I keep thinking new things. And I was talking to some bankers. I promise you I spend time with other people than bankers and VCs. Not that there’s anything wrong with bankers and VCs.

BB: I was going to say, okay, go on.

AW: But I don’t know, I was starting to get worried that I’m hearing people talk about something that sounds a whole lot like a credit default swap. And it’s making me, give me the heebie-jeebies that the housing market could collapse again, because everybody’s trying to make a quick buck. So, I was like, okay, isn’t there some other way to get investors’ money fast on something that feels like you’re distributing risk? Like what could be an alternative? So, I actually started with this general concept and I was thinking through different pools of something that has value. Like what’s a pool of a thing that has value? And I wound up with genomes. And so I’m like, okay, genomes. If you have a whole bunch of people’s genomes, that’s actually very valuable as is the individual genome because there’s a lot of customers for that. A pharmaceuticals company would want that. A university would want that, a beauty company might want that. So they could test things out and develop new things and whatever. And I start going through all these different permutations. And what I come up with is a genome-backed security. I have a whole plan for that. I know how it would work. I have yet to sell any bank on it.

BB: I was going to say, “Yeah are you funded?”

AW: Because it’s a, it’s a crazy idea. I just more think it’s awesome and I want somebody to do it. I don’t think I personally would make money on it. At any rate, it’s viable, it’s plausible. And I never would’ve been able to come up with that on my own. Because I needed somebody, I needed something to stretch me. And usually that’s my husband who is not a futurist, he’s an eye doctor, but he is really great at asking crazy questions. And so sometimes he’ll just keep digging and digging and digging and it just keeps getting my brain to open more and more and more. But I, you know, he’s seeing patients at 2 o’clock in the afternoon and sometimes that’s when I want to have the discussion.

BB: Right.

AW: So, AI can be super beneficial for that. And starting with this concept, get to a concrete framework on the other end. The flip side, which is the bad part of this is that I guess technically you could use the same process to invent new bio weapons or new ways to cause a political collapse. The other thing I just found out, and I’m sure you’re vigilant for this also, so somebody has made a GPT out of me and I didn’t give my consent.

BB: Yeah.

AW: And right now it’s in Italian. There’s a couple of others in English. So, I don’t love the fact that I’m dispensing advice because they took all of this, I’ve written four books. I’ve written all these articles.

BB: Yeah.

AW: For Harvard Business Review. So, there’s quite a bit out there. Lots of speeches. You know, I don’t have the ability to control that. And it’s not just about commercialization. I don’t want somebody to think that the AI version of me is dispensing bad advice or is a bad AI thought partner. And I, you have the same issue.

BB: I mean, no I have that.

AW: Yep.

BB: I hate her haircut. And everything she’s saying is like my work adjacent.

AW: Yeah.

BB: It’s all the words in the wrong order.

AW: Yeah. It’s like a funhouse mirror.

BB: It’s a funhouse mirror. Oh my God, that’s such a good analogy. And there are like 15 or 20 books by me that I didn’t write.

AW: Yeah. Oh, I haven’t… That’s, that sucks.

BB: Yeah. And Kara Swisher had the same thing when her new book came out.

AW: Yeah.

BB: Which she… and I interviewed her in Chicago for her book tour. And there’s like this like funhouse mirror picture of her in her Ray-Bans and they have fed my books to the machines.

AW: Yeah. One of the databases that trained GPT-4 is a database of I think 140,000 books, something like that, that have ever been written, ever. All of my books are in it. All of your books are in it.

BB: Yeah.

AW: There’s millions of books published a year. So, it’s a select few relatively speaking. But nobody asked, I’m assuming nobody was like, “Hey, Brené, is it cool with you if we, train AI on how you think?” You know.

BB: I was waiting for them to ask for my address, for my check.

AW: Yeah. [laughter]


BB: Tell me, two things I want to understand. I tell myself a story until you just fucking shred it, during South by Southwest, that all of the AI is in a Fort Knox of AI controlled by super ethical people. And that if anything goes wrong, there is an accountability chain that is going to be much different than the non-existent social media bullshit of we’re just a platform.

AW: Yeah.

BB: So, I need you to assure me that all of the AI is locked down. I need you to assure me that there is an accountability chain. And I need you to assure me that policy that is aligned with our democratic values is going to get out ahead of technology. Where do you want to start?

AW: Sure. I feel like people listen to you because they want to feel good. About… that they want to have feel confident about the future. [laughter], I feel like I can’t give them that right now.

BB: Can you give me an accountability chain?

AW: I cannot, there is no accountability chain right now. And there hasn’t been and there continues not to be. Not in this country. Not in any country.

BB: Wait, Europe has to have one. They’re so strict on everything.

AW: So, to be fair, Europe has recently passed a sweeping set of regulations and policies that have yet to go into enforcement. And when they, if and how and when they do, Europe is a collection of different countries. AI isn’t geographically bound. So, I’m not entirely sure what this is going to look like. I think they have the best intentions. But ultimately regulation is a look backwards. It’s a reaction.

BB: Right.

AW: To something that’s already happened. My feeling on this is very controversial, but I don’t think regulation works for AI. I don’t think the way that most governments deal with trying to guide or control technology and science works when it comes to AI because AI is new, new-ish, and the way that we use artificial intelligence is not the way that people thought we would. So, I think we need a totally different plan. And that is to incentivize companies to make better choices. And I think the way we do that is to make it so that they can make enormous sums of money. So, this is the part that rubs people the wrong way. But if it’s regulation, then that’s a punitive response. And in almost every country, the legal system is going to take over and they’re going to try and fight it. Like the tech companies will sue, right? Or they will not sue. Or they’ll fight it through policy. Everything will wind up in litigation, but nothing.

BB: Will be effective.

AW: Concrete will change. Right.

BB: No. And, and right now is it fair to say the default is they’re actually incentivized right now to do it without care?

AW: Yes, that’s right. Because this is about speed. It’s about getting to market as fast as possible. And we’re talking about AI, and I think most people are translating that to like ChatGPT, but all of these AI systems that most of you are familiar with connect to the Cloud, that they require specialized hardware systems that most companies don’t have sitting in a back office somewhere, which means that they’re all tethering themselves to AWS and Azure and Google. I’m not saying any of this is inherently bad, I’m just saying that our current system incentivizes the wrong choices. So, if we want to incentivize the right choices, then we have to just acknowledge where we’re at. And the thing that will make people make different decisions is by making it so that they earn more revenue. That is just…

BB: I mean, you’re speaking their language. I mean, that’s, you’re meeting people where they are and understanding what their incentives are. If it’s controversial, it’s just smart.

AW: It’s not popular. But I think if we create a pathway to have companies make boatloads of money in a way that doesn’t have negative consequences on the other end, like a potential market crash. And the only way to do that is through transparency and making that black box transparent and all of the… Making the data traceable, protecting IP while making the decision-making process open. Revealing what got used to train the AI through audit trails. There are lots and lots and lots of things that can be done that will protect competition, but will incentivize everybody to make smarter decisions. I believe that is the only way forward. And for me to say that, given what I do for a living, that’s a pretty strong statement.

BB: Yeah, it is.

AW: Normally, I would say, “There’s several paths forward,” but I really think this is the one.

BB: Okay. So, there is no chain of accountability, just like with social media, we’re just going to get a whole bunch of, it’s… We’re just a platform. We’re just a platform.

AW: Yeah.

BB: We need to incentivize ethical AI. And…

AW: I mean, I would like for there to be an accountability chain. I’m saying that there just isn’t one structurally.

BB: What’s one thing you wish we all understood about the super cycle before we go to the rapid fires?

AW: I think given what I’m seeing, what I have been seeing and what I’m starting to see happening more right now, is that with all of this disruption and change happening so fast, there’s this sense that there’s no use thinking about the future in any concrete way. I am not bullshitting when I say I think 50 years from now, possibly less, people are going to look back at us and everybody alive today as the group of people that lived through the great transition.

BB: Gen T.

AW: Gen T, right? Everybody talks about Gen Z and Gen Alpha and… We are collectively Gen T. And to me that’s more important. It’s us. And I don’t know how long this transition is going to last, but in a way, this is mind bending and exciting.

BB: Yes.

AW: But it also means everybody alive today is going to go through an unprecedented amount of change faster than we are probably capable of managing. So, now the reaction is going to be to think very short term and to not be a futurist, but to be a now-ist, right? To make decisions that feel comfortable right now, that is going to turn out to be a mistake. So, the trick is, I guess to be like Kahneman and engage both sides of the mind, think fast and slow.

BB: Yes.

AW: But you got to do both at the same time, [chuckle] So you have to be willing to think through the next order impacts of your decisions and what things might look like even when those things are scary. And also tie that future back to today. Every company right now is shortening their planning cycles to extremes. This is the absolute worst time to be doing that.

AW: So, you have to be willing to do three-year long-term, five-year corporate planning cycles. You have to do long-term scenarios. You have to do that visioning work, and you have to recalibrate it as the supercycle spins up, or I can assure you, you will get left behind. So, if I can encourage everybody to do one thing, it’s to just recognize and acknowledge this is the situation that we are all in together. And everybody is, every leader, every HR department, every C staff, every company, every individual. So, we’re all in the same boat. It is not an excuse not to do long-term planning. And there’s a lot of resources out there to do that. I’ve got books that explain it. You’ve got books to help people think about it, but you’ve got to do it, you can’t put it off anymore.

BB: Yeah. This reminds me of that quote by Jon Kabat-Zinn who says, you know, he defines overwhelm as the world unfolding faster than our nervous system or psyche can handle. There’s a skillset we need. Like if it, you know, when I was talking to some, a group of CHROs and CEOs last week, I said, you know, they’re like, “What’s the skillset? Is it Python? Is it R?” And I said, “No, no, no, no.” And I see your face. People can’t see your face like, oh God, if you’re just looking for Python. I mean, I said, “The skillset is deep thinking, critical thinking, anticipatory thinking, and the ability to manage paradox.”

BB: Can you straddle binaries? Can you hold the tension of two things that can be true? It’s changing every day, but we have to long-term plan. And so Generation Transition in every way. Okay. You ready for the rapid fire?

AW: Let’s transition to it.


BB: She’s got jokes too, y’all. She’s the full package.

AW: I do. I’m multifaceted.

BB: Yeah. I still see the music. Fill in the blank for me, vulnerability is…

AW: Authenticity.

BB: What is one piece of leadership advice that you’ve been given that is so remarkable you need to share it with us or so shitty that you need to warn us?

AW: I’ve got so many thoughts. I think I originally got this from Julie Sweet, who’s the CEO of Accenture when we were talking a year ago, half a year ago. There are companies that have a learn it all culture and companies that have a know it all culture. And the know it all cultures tend to be the ones that have, you know, they don’t always recognize it, but they’re always problematic and the learn it all cultures or it’s, it’s harder to get that going. But once you’re there, and it takes very courageous leadership.

BB: Yeah. Tons.

AW: But once you’re in a learn it all culture, everything changes and you sort of become more resilient.

BB: That’s amazing because one of the first kind of, we have a, a daring leader assessment and one of the first kind of series of like in a factor analysis, one of the first things that things ladder up to is knower or learner mindset.

BB: Okay. What is your best leadership quality?

AW: Yeah. I mean, the sort of leading by example thing. I value hard work. Productive, not like working for the sake of working. I just, I really value hard good work and I am willing to do it. I’m the chief executive of my company now, I guess I don’t have to do that in certain ways, but I, we have a very strong company culture and I think that is partially, I would hope, because I lead by example. And my example is like, let’s get down to work. But I don’t know, maybe you talk to my staff and they… [laughter] I would assume. I would hope that that’s the case. I think that’s the case.

BB: No, I, love that. Okay. I’ve got one more leadership and then we’re going to… Because you’re a crossover, you have to do rapid fire from the leadership questions and the fun questions.

AW: Okay.

BB: Not that the leadership’s questions are not fun, but what is the hard leadership lesson that you have to keep learning and unlearning and relearning and the universe will just not stop putting it in front of you?

AW: That nothing is ever going to go as fast as I want it to go. I’m constantly frustrated that everything is going more slowly, than I want it to. But again, like these organizations, just things take time when you’ve got a lot of people involved and we all have a lot of people involved in everything. But I’m just, I’m really impatient and that can be a good thing. Because it means my drive will keep that engine moving forward. But it can also lead to sometimes bad decisions, as we all know.

BB: I relate to this so much, but I will tell you, I used to ask myself when I was doing the Dare to Lead research and I was looking at the data, is it harder for someone to unlearn action bias, or is it harder to teach a sense of urgency? And I actually think it’s harder to teach someone a sense of urgency.

AW: I was going to say the same thing. I think that’s right. In my world, without a sense of urgency, no action gets taken on the future and it’s hard to feel a sense of urgency about the future, right? And it’s very, you, you deal with leaders who either get it and they can either cultivate that in their staff or they can’t, but at least they understand from a fundamental level why that’s important or they, they don’t. Yeah.

BB: Okay. Fun. Last TV show you binged and loved.

AW: I watch as much TV as humanly possible. So, I would say Bodies. I thought Bodies was amazing. It’s a sci-fi series on, I honestly don’t remember which streaming channel it was at this point, but it was about a series of crimes that were interconnected, it involves time travel. It was a cool story. Yeah.

BB: You’re revealing your nerdiness by the second.


AW: Well, I was like, do I say Bodies or do I say Vanderpump Rules, which I also very much watch religiously.


BB: Favorite movie of all time.

AW: Dr. Strangelove. It’s great. I actually have an annual viewing. I watch it once a year.

BB: Okay. A concert you’ll never forget.

AW: So the concert that I will never forget is George Michael on his, the last tour. And it was amazing. It was the one with the giant colorful stage. He was incredible. And I think most people who know me know that I mostly listen to metal like Sound Garden and stuff like that… But, my first and true love is George Michael.

BB: Okay. A snapshot of an ordinary moment in your life that gives you real joy.

AW: Family dinner. We didn’t do it before COVID and COVID happened. Nobody was traveling and we started having family dinner every night. And it is the thing that I look forward to every day. One of us cooks and even if we don’t cook, we get food somewhere. But the three of us sit, no devices. We just talk to each other about what happened or more often than not, like what’s happening in the world. And it’s awesome.

BB: God, I love family dinner. Okay. What’s one thing you’re really grateful for right now?

AW: I mean, it’s kind of a big thing, but I’m grateful for my health and my mental health and the fact that I have choices and I have agency. And I have a strong will and I’ve got people around me who are supportive. I just feel so lucky for all of that. Some of that’s cultivated, but I think it’s, it’s also just, I’m just grateful, grateful for all of that.

BB: It’s bigger than I ever thought it would be at my age. I don’t know that there’s much more to be grateful for. I mean, wow. Yeah. It’s really beautiful.

AW: Thanks.

BB: Well, I am grateful for you and your work and your time with us. I’m a metalhead too. So, I appreciate that, this was a fun conversation and thank you for the work you do. It’s so important and you bring so much insight to it, but also humanity and not all futurists do that, I have to say. So, thank you for that. It’s a really incredible combination.

AW: Thank you. And thank you for all the work that you do in all of your conversations. We all learn from you every day. So, that’s what it’s all about, right?

BB: Yeah, I think so. Just community. Gen T transitioning together.


AW: That’s right.

BB: To hell and back possibly. Alright. Thanks Amy.

AW: Thank you.


BB: All right. What did y’all think? Yeah, I don’t like the turning into the ice feeling like I hate that feeling, but I will tell you that I love knowing that people like Amy with a strong ethical background are looking into it and teaching us. You can learn more about the episode along with all the show notes on We’ll definitely link to Amy’s South by Southwest talk, all of her books, her website where you can get the report. I think the report, Barrett is a report like a thousand pages this year? Yeah, it’s a thousand pages this year.

BB: I’m going to stick with a podcast and the South by talk to avoid more information than my nervous system can handle. We normally have transcripts within three to five days of the episode going live. And just a reminder this is really fun. This is a growing newsletter list because we’re doing some fun stuff on it.

BB: We have a monthly newsletter and we’ve got a lot of people on that. And now we’re doing a weekly digest of just some fun things that happened that week, what I’m reading, listening to, thinking about. We’ve got some surveys embedded in it. What do you want to hear about? So you can go to and join either or both of our newsletters. I’m really doing a lot of that exploration with y’all in that format more than anywhere else right now. So, giving everything a shot. I’m beta testing ways of being. Okay. Stay awkward, brave, and kind. Steer into the ice.


BB: Dare to Lead is produced by Brené Brown Education and Research Group. The music is by The Suffers. Get new episodes as soon as they’re published by following Dare to Lead on your favorite podcast app. We are part of the Vox Media podcast network. Discover more award-winning shows at


© 2024 Brené Brown Education and Research Group, LLC. All rights reserved.

Brown, B. (Host). (2024, April 24). What’s Coming (and What’s Here). [Audio podcast episode]. In Dare to Lead with Brené Brown. Vox Media Podcast Network.

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