Learn More About Hannu Rajaniemi
What do virtual reality headsets, spacesuits and the atomic bomb all have in common? Besides being major technological advancements of the 20th century, they were all predicted or directly inspired by science fiction. Writers like H.G. Wells and Robert A. Heinlein helped propel real-world innovation through a combination of scientific knowledge and literary imagination. Today, as companies across industries strive to develop the next creative idea for transformative products and services, there is a new technology expert with a gift for prophetic storytelling: entrepreneur, scientist and acclaimed sci-fi author Hannu Rajaniemi (raya-NEE-mee). Through engaging keynotes and interactive workshops, Rajaniemi offers a strategic framework for solving technical problems by imagining a world in which those problems are already solved – in short, by creating fiction and working backward to make it reality.
His framework for innovating is one Rajaniemi has used to generate ideas for hypothetic future tools for designers (Autodesk), build future worlds and specific imaginary objects/products from those futures (Dubai Future Foundation), envision novel strategies to treat depression in Japan (Takeda), and grow the biotech company Helix Nanotechnologies, which he co-founded and currently serves as its CEO. By imagining an as-yet-fictional world around a new, in-development (or yet to be developed) technology, Rajaniemi spotlights potential challenges and helps coordinate efforts of multidisciplinary teams as they drive toward shared goals. As companies and venture capitalists pursue bold and risky projects related to AI, virtual and augmented reality and other cutting-edge technologies, this approach may prove invaluable.
Rajaniemi worked as a research scientist for the Finnish Defense Forces before pursuing his Ph.D. in mathematical physics. As a child, he was captivated by early sci-fi novels like Jules Verne’s “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea,” and wrote a letter to the European Space Agency (which was answered). It was while studying for his Ph.D. in Edinburgh that Rajaniemi joined Writers’ Bloc, a writers group that organizes semi-regular spoken-word performances. But writing was never a mere hobby or second career for Rajaniemi; it quickly became deeply integrated with his work in science and technology, informing his research and entrepreneurial strategy. For example, an imaginary quantum technology in one of his novels inspired the UK Ministry of Defence to fund his first company (a data science/AI consultancy) to carry out research into its feasibility. More recently, Rajaniemi wrote an imaginary press release about a future where prophylactic cancer vaccines were possible, which helped Helix Nanotechnologies to win a grant from former Google CEO Eric Schmidt.
An acclaimed writer of such novels as “The Quantum Thief” and its sequels, “The Fractal Prince” and “The Causal Angel,” Rajaniemi also examines the social implications of new technologies, a theme that has become more prescient and widely-explored in the era of popular television shows like Westworld and Black Mirror. His keynotes can also explore such social themes, and help organizations develop safeguards against negative consequences stemming from their innovations.
Hannu Rajaniemi is available to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting meetings, interactive workshops and customized keynotes through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers & Advisors, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.