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Staying well ahead of tech trends

'Futurologist' keeps firm eye on all industries

By Julie Clothier for CNN

Ian Pearson says debating the pros and cons of new technologies is healthy.
Ian Pearson on the rise of the "care economy."
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(CNN) LONDON, England -- Unless your profession is astrologer, mystic, psychic or tea-leaf reader, few of us claim to be able to look into the future.

But for Ian Pearson -- who is not a new age craft practitioner -- that is his job.

The futurologist for British Telecom (BT) is responsible for researching where technology is heading and the implications these will have on business and how we conduct our everyday lives.

Pearson has been with BT since 1985, and working as futurologist since 1991.

"I track where it's all going to go, figure out where these different bits are going to fit in together and then try to work out how this will change the way we do business and how we run our everyday lives," he told CNN.

"And then what I do with BT is I tell them what the future looks like and work out what strategies to use in order to make the most out of that so we spot the opportunities and we spot the risks."

Pearson works with experts from every industry sector, from nanotechnology to health and the environment. He has lost count of the number of conferences he has attended but he believes it is about 7,000.

"I tell them what's coming along in the future and how it's likely to affect their sector and that could be," he said.

"I look at what all the different manufacturers are going to be making and anticipate what's going to be out there, and start designing services on the basis that someone else is going to make that kind of kit."

Pearson says that by capturing these visions of what the future might look like, and what the dangers are out there, it keeps the public informed.

"It helps stimulate the market in some cases, and it helps to protect against an anti-technology backlash because society becomes more aware of what's coming down the road.

"This means they don't get caught unawares by it and then find they've got to demonstrate because some nasty technology's suddenly on the market that they really don't like."

He says telling people in advance what is coming allows them to react, and possibly demonstrate if they don't like it, and industries have to take note.

"It's a healthy thing to happen. It's what should happen with technology."

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