Jerry Michalski

A long-time futurist, strategist, technologist and (amateur) social anthropologist, Jerry offers unique context that can help your organization thrive in the Day After Tomorrow. Jerry helps organizations understand trust and become more trustworthy, by exploring their language, their processes and their intentions. Over the years, he has advised and consulted to organizations small and large, from IBM, Target, Suncorp and the Wharton School to Blogger (now part of Google) and eGroups (which became YahooGroups).

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In the middle of that journey, Jerry realized that the word “consumer” made him squirm. He paid attention to it, and the word opened up a useful critical perspective that we have “consumerized” most human activities, to our detriment (and amusement). Then “consumer” led him to the concept of trust. Now Jerry helps organizations rethink their approach to trust, leading to new product and service ideas, as well as larger strategic insights.

Separately, one of the 4,000 startups that briefed Jerry during his time as a tech analyst had mind-mapping software called TheBrain. Jerry started using it in 1998, then later started publishing his Brain freely online at When appropriate, Jerry presents using his Brain as a backdrop, a unique experience that shifts conversations. Curating a single mind map for over two decades has taught him important lessons about memory and knowledge management. He uses that context to inform insight and strategy sessions.

Jerry also speaks together with his wife, April Rinne (an expert on the sharing economy and the future of work), more than doubling the value they bring to the table. From microfinance to tech booms (and busts), from the sharing economy to automation, and from new business models to trust-driven innovation: together, they are great at trailblazing and helping birth new sustainable, profitable paths. 


How to Design from Trust

Have you ever used Wikipedia? Remember the day you realized how it works? That any fool on the planet can change a page in our collective encyclopedia? Did you have the thought: well, that’ll never work! Congratulations, you’ve used a system Designed from Trust. Same thing applies if you’ve ever used a ride-sharing system, or done any crowdfunding or microlending.

All those systems begin with this premise: assume good intent. The reason so many of them feel like they shouldn’t work at all is that most of our present systems were designed from mistrust, and we’ve normalized that mistrust in humans; we’ve internalized it.

Jerry will describe how we ended up surrounded by institutions and services that don’t trust us, and that limit our genius and innovative spirits from showing up. Then he’ll describe how to reverse that process and Design from Trust.

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The Future of the Consumer

In the Day After Tomorrow, “consumer” will only be an insult. How we see matters. For many years now, we have been seeing our fellow citizens as mere consumers. While this has accelerated the growth of consumer society, creating the appearance of plenty while endangering our existence (and opening plenty of controversy), it has also broken trust between “consumers” and companies.

Just as importantly, treating people as mere consumers has stunted companies’ ability to innovate. Seeing people as mere consumers limits our thinking of the kinds of interactions, we might have with them, the roles they might play, the needs they may have, and more.

Jerry will illustrate that The Day After Tomorrow will be much richer if we can get past the limiting notions of “consumer” and broaden our vision of the people we serve with products and services, treating them as full humans again. The process begins with trust.

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Will AI Save or Kill Us?

Software has become quite smart. So smart, that some people imagine a world in which software runs most things and people can sit back in the life of leisure they were promised years ago. Others are not so optimistic. They imagine a world in which software is far less friendly and far more lethal. During his talk, Jerry shows that both visions are coming true at the same time.

Optimists sometimes give this future with smart software a quirky name: the “Fully Automated Luxury Communism”. But those that are less optimistic, fear that software that will automate work without warning will lead to large-scale unemployment. They see software that will know where we are at all times, and that will be able to target us individually for surveillance or retribution. Or just sales. These visions have names like “The Stalker Economy” and “Surveillance Capitalism.”

Today, both optimists and pessimists are right. To complicate matters, smart software is improving at a rate faster than Moore’s Law, which has given us powerful, cheap, ubiquitous computing devices. We are in for a very fast ride, and we’re not prepared for where it’s headed.

Together with Jerry, we can ask ourselves: how can we prepare our companies and societies to steer toward the optimistic visions? What are the smaller decisions along the way that will make a difference, as we design new applications and policies? How should insights from these perspectives inform our strategies?

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How Not to Drown in the Info-Flood

Information overwhelm: an all-too-common disease of the times. We’re all trying to keep our noses above water in the modern info-flood. Some of us opt out, shutting down news services, social media and anything else that threatens us. But then we’re also giving up the flows of information that build relationships and inform our strategies. Others cope as best we can, but our software tools betray us. Everything we install or subscribe to seems to add to the torrent, not tame it. There goes our attention, our time, our capacity to think.

What would a knowledge management system look like that contains and shapes the info-flood? More importantly, how might our discussions and decisions be better for having a better system? What does it mean to hold conversations in rich context?

Jerry has a unique answer he can demonstrate, live. He has been curating one mind map for over two decades, adding to it everything he thought worth remembering over that time. Because he’s curious about practically everything, he can hold such discussions, improv-style, in most domains of human endeavor, from education to marketing, psychology, governance, technology’s effects and much more. Experience what a conversation with rich context can do.

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