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.
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 thousands of articles for both national and international publications including New York Times, Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Report, Wired Magazine, Fast Company, Forbes, National Geographic, USA Today, Times of India, and virtually every TV station in North America and Australia. He currently writes a weekly “Future Trend Report” newsletter. Thomas authored the 2011 book Communicating with the Future.
Prior to his work as a futurist, Frey was an engineer with IBM for fifteen years.
- Future Jobs - Preparing Yourself for the Workforce of the Future
What are the odds that the job you’ll be doing 10 years from now doesn’t exist today? Turns out the odds are pretty high. Even though much of today’s technology is giving us super-human attributes and virtually everyone can now think-faster, know-faster, and do-faster than ever before, every new technology requires new skills, talents, and understandings that are hard to quantify. This talk takes audiences on a fascinating journey into the industries of tomorrow and the jobs they’ll create along the way.
- Will There be Libraries in Your Future?
At a recent conference on the “Future of Libraries” put together by the American Library Association at the Library of Congress in Washington DC, I proposed a rather unusual mission for libraries, that of becoming “liquid networks” for our ideas. 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
- Future of Transportation
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
- 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
- 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
- Money & Banking – Rethinking the Banking and Finance Industry One Transaction at a Time
There are approximately 2.5 billion people in the world who do not have access to traditional banks, yet nearly half of them have a mobile phone. The future of banking will be mobile, happening on devices we carry in our pockets, built into jewelry, and on our wrists, not in fancy office buildings. Brach banking will all but disappear. In less than five years, smartphones, watches, and other devices will replace credit/debit cards, wallets, lenders, stockbrokers, and insurance agents. And we’re just getting started.
- 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
- 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
- The Future of Agriculture
Today’s data clouds are swirling violently on the leading edge of a modern-day storm front that is on the verge of exploding around us with cluster bomb-like data grenades bursting their way onto the scene. While many are still reeling from the past decade of exponential information growth, the coming years will see billion and trillion fold increases, the likes of which are destined to overload every system currently on the drawing board. At the heart of the coming data tsunami are a number of organic business models with real-time data collection systems driven by our need for precision, awareness, and instantaneousness. But the problems ahead are many. We are facing increasingly complex problems associated with data storage, data transmission, data processing, and even data acquisition. However, the opportunities are just as great as the problems with every obstacle representing a problem-solving challenge upon which great business enterprises will be formed.