Graham Brown-Martin is a leader in the field of foresight and anticipatory research, bringing together social, political and technological trends to consider how we might prepare ourselves for the future. He is the author of Learning {Re}imagined, the best selling book on global education published by Bloomsbury. He has enjoyed a 30 year career spanning the education, technology and entertainment sectors. He was the founder of Learning Without Frontiers (LWF), a global think tank that brought together renowned educators, technologists and creatives to share provocative and challenging ideas about the future of learning. He left LWF in 2013 to pursue new programmes and ideas to transform the way we learn, teach and live. Get to know Graham Martin-Brown - How do you spend your days? With my head in my hands - What in your answer to Q1 is especially important to you and why? My head and my hands - my head because this is where most of my thinking happens, my hands because I use them to make things with. - What drove you to focus on foresight and anticipatory research? Was there a particular moment you can remember that led you to this field? For a long time I thought I was merely clairvoyant but then realised I was a just a freak of nature. What had been diagnosed as disorders (ADHD and ASD) also came with gifts that included the ability to spot trends and patterns across many different disciplines quickly and then anticipate what was most likely to happen. One would have hoped that this would have lead to untold riches from knowing lottery numbers to who would win the Grand National or perhaps investors hoping to exploit me. Alas this isn’t how it works given that I join the dots up so quickly that I find it difficult to explain why to those wanting to make bets on me. The result is that despite being right all of the time my predictions are so implausible, to those with a private school education and a penchant for emptying their bank account into consultancies like McKinsey, that I haven’t been able to make a living out of it. What I realised and found so difficult to explain was that technology doesn’t determine our social structure and cultural values, try telling that to the Economist for example, but if you follow social and political trends and cross-reference to technological developments you are in a better position to anticipate the future. Note that famous clairvoyant Joan of Arc was burned at the stake, people who call themselves futurologists are charlatans and futurism is rooted in the Italian fascist movement of the early 20th century. - What drives you professionally? The naive belief that I can make a difference. - In your opinion what are the three biggest problems facing the developed and developing world? Greed, inequality and arrogance. - If you hadn’t become an educator, author and anticipatory researcher, what would you have done? As a child I wanted to be an astronaut but was told at my careers meeting when I was 13 that they didn’t have a brochure for that so I could work in the local meat processing factory, the brick making yard, or, if I got good grades, work in the high street bank. I left school at 15 because I couldn’t see the point of it. I never went back although I recently applied to do a MA in education at UCL was refused. I wish I’d tried my hand at acting. - If you look at recent history, can you identify a turning-point that explains how we come to face the peculiar challenges of today? Yes, after WW2 we became obsessed with neo-classical economics. This became the lingua franca of socio-political discourse, thus removing the voice of the proletariat from democracy as power was transferred to unelected financial institutions and global multi-national corporations. This has shaped the planet ever since and will lead to the global decline of our species. - What are the lessons we failed to learn during and since the 2008 crisis? That the attack on the commons is an attack on the people. - Name one measure we might implement immediately to improve the situation. Use taxation to motivate desirable outcomes by, for example, taxing air pollution, packaging, private education and healthcare, etc. Also encourage individual or collective ownership of the means of production by reducing taxation on businesses that are employee owned and benefit distributed, e.g. John Lewis / ARUP style businesses, while increasing taxation for those based on hierarchical ownership. - If you were a President / Prime Minister what would your first three pieces of policy be? Abolish university tuition fees, abolish private education, abolish private healthcare. - What was your biggest & / or your most recent mistake? Confessing to an extramarital affair. - You are stuck in a ski lift for twenty four hours and you can have one person (living or dead) with you. Who will it be? My Father - Name the book that changed you. My Problem Child, Albert Hoffman. - What would you do differently if you were to start all over again? Have more confidence in myself and my ideas. - Give our readers, members and subscribers a piece of advice that has served you well. Do the right thing. - What is your main anxiety where you and / or your family are concerned? Not doing the right thing. - What gives you hope for humanity? N,N-Dimethyltryptamine
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