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Dr Anthon Botha

Futurist Profile

 

Dr Anthon Botha

Future Thinking Consultant

Managing Director of TechnoScene (Pty) Ltd: City of Tshwane (Pretoria), South Africa

Education:
BSc (Physics and Mathematics)University of Stellenbosch
BSc (Hons) (Physics)University of Stellenbosch
MSc (Solid State Physics)University of Stellenbosch
PhD (Solid State Physics)University of Stellenbosch

Anthon Botha is a physicist, strategist, futurist, sentimentalist and optimist. He runs TechnoScene, a company that he started in 1989 and consults in the realms of science, engineering, technology and innovation. He spends a lot of time imagining the future, creating images for his clients of what is to be, based on his understanding of technology trends and the way people and markets will behave. He sees knowledge as the new currency and constantly seeks for understanding of how we will live, work, play and transact in future. He is a part-time academic guiding young people in the world of new ventures, full-time consultant assisting his clients to strategise, facilitator where he herds proverbial cats into agreeing on what they are saying, nature lover, traveller and photographer.

Anthon answered a few questions about his perspective and on being a futures thinker.

ABOUT YOU AS A FUTURES THINKER / PRACTITIONER

You identify yourself as an African futures thinker or practitioner. How would you describe to the woman or man on the street what it is that you do in this regard?

We are all planning strategically, but what lies beyond strategy? The answer is: The Future. The future cannot be predicted; it can only be approximated. Future thinking defines the landscape, it describes the chessboard, so to speak, and strategy is how you play the game of chess.

How many years have you worked as an African futures thinker / practitioner?

As a strategic consultant, I have been involved in future thinking for the past 26 years. My involvement in the South African National Research and Technology Foresight Project in 1996 was my first direct foresighting task. Since then I have been involved as future architect in many projects, including foresight and road mapping.

In which countries or places have you had working experience as an African futures thinker / practitioner?

Mainly in South Africa, but from time to time in projects in the European Union, African countries, the United Kingdom and the United States

In what languages have you undertaken futures / foresight related work or research?

English, mainly, but some in Afrikaans

What is it that motivates you to work or participate in the foresight / future studies / related field

To look at the future requires a lot of imagination. Imagination takes us forward as a human race and breeds hope. The expectation that something new, something better and something interesting will come our way keeps us moving into the future.

What goal/s would you most like to reach with your work as an African futures thinker / practitioner?

To contribute towards reaching the point where every individual, educated or not, makes a meaningful contribution to building a future for the continent that offers well-being and prosperity in a sustainable way.

Who or what most influenced your thinking as a futures thinker / practitioner, and how?

As a physicist I was trained to explore new realms that cannot be seen or measured at present. The quest for discovery was deeply embedded in my scientific training and career. When I ventured into business, I realised that there are equally undiscovered territories that can be shaped by understanding the boundary conditions and the natural forces that operate. Instead of following the microscopic approach (I did a lot of electron microscopy work and used particle accelerators to study materials at atomic level), I turned my view around and started to look at macroscopic influences where there are also many elements involved and the complexities that their clustering brings; this time varying from scientific complexity to human complexity to the complexity of macro-trends and events.

What is your main disciplinary background? (i.e. your primary training / qualification)

Physics-based R&D that led to technology development, that led to business creation and an understanding of the markets, the way ideas are implemented in solutions and the knowledge required to do it. I thus operate in the space spanned by Technology Management, Innovation Management and Knowledge Management.

How do other people describe you and how do you describe yourself?

People often say that my largest contribution is to facilitate a discussion where other people discover what they know themselves (or don’t know) and leading them to build their own solutions. I see myself as a catalyst for change, using common sense more than defined processes, to view things holistically.

 

YOUR PERSPECTIVE

What is one of your favourite quotes about the future?

“The best way to predict your future is to create it” - Abraham Lincoln

How would you describe the state of African futures thinking right now?

When the sun rises, you see the light before the sun itself. Future thinking in Africa is a fast rising emerging discipline. We start seeing the sun itself. And as it rises, it will give more light on the “dark” continent and warm its plains to a pleasant living space. The African Renaissance has given us that belief in ourselves and the ability to be masters of our own destiny.

What is, in your opinion, the main barrier to uptake of futures knowledge by African institutions and organisations?

We are too concerned with step-wise development and do not give enough value to disruptive, radical action to create a better future. The focus is too much on rectifying the past histories of our nations and too little on pursuing new horizons. Whilst one should not forget history, you should build the present from the future. Maybe we should refocus away from a follower mentality and not only think about foresight for development, but of foresight for leadership.

If you were to give advice to someone who wants a career in African foresight / future studies, what would you say to him or her?

Regardless of your base discipline, there are numerous opportunities; your individual, different perspective is required to build a comprehensive future. Pursue your dream! Don’t look at who will employ you, go and employ others to help you.

What are your recommended readings for every African futures thinker / practitioner?

Everything you can get about emerging technologies, the behaviour of people and macro-trends. Furthermore, read and understand what positive thinking means for individuals and humanity at large.

What are your recommendations for other favourite futures resources: websites, newsfeeds, mailing lists, associations, etc.?

Apart from FFD which is a wonderful resource for African future thinking, study the multitude of literature and blogs on future thinking in the world and realise that Africa is part of that world.

 

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