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  • The Big History of Modern Science | Hannu Rajaniemi | TEDxDanubia
    The Big History of Modern Science | Hannu Rajaniemi | TEDxDanubia
  • The Future of the Book | Hannu Rajaniemi | Talks at Google
    The Future of the Book | Hannu Rajaniemi | Talks at Google
  • Ars Live #4: Science Fiction | Ars Technica
    Ars Live #4: Science Fiction | Ars Technica
  • Could Biology Be Technology?
    Could Biology Be Technology?

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®.

Hannu Rajaniemi was last modified: September 14th, 2022 by Meg Virag

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How to Tell the Story of Your Future

As big companies, startups and venture capitalists alike compete to develop the next innovation in AI, virtual and augmented reality or biotech, they will have to think less like traditional businesspeople and more like creative writers, argues Hannu Rajaniemi. As a scientist, entrepreneur and acclaimed writer of science fiction and fantasy stories, Rajaniemi is uniquely placed to help organizations work out present problems by imagining a future in which those problems no longer exist, and then working backwards to design solutions. This approach – which has informed strategies, tools and product innovations of such companies as Autodesk, Dubai Future Foundation and Takeda, as well as his own startup, Helix Nanotechnologies – puts companies that use it at a competitive advantage by giving them something others lack: the power of imagination, coupled with technical expertise. In this presentation, which can also be an interactive workshop in which he helps a select group of leaders or innovators with a specific issue, Rajaniemi reveals his framework and offers examples of how historical scientific breakthroughs have begun with reading a good science fiction novel.


(Tor Books, June 2018)

The Causal Angel

(Tor Books, July 2014)

The Fractal Prince

(Tor Books, September 2012)

The Quantum Thief

(Tor Books, May 2011)

“Hannu made mind-blowing future implications of scientific discoveries tangible and accessible, and took us on a journey to a quantum future.”

David Helgason, Founder of Unity Technologies

“We invited Hannu to speak at Slush since he uniquely combines synthetic biology expertise with visionary science fiction — and he did not disappoint!”

Katja Toropainen, Chief Curator at Slush

“Hannu took us on a journey to the present and future possibilities of genomics and synthetic biology and was a supremely engaging travel guide. Inspiring visionary who can grasp the audience attention for hours. Audience were talking long after the event how amazing Hannu’s keynote speech was. Highly recommended!”

Petra Jäntti, CEO of Kaufmann Agency

“I invited Hannu to speak at Google as his science fiction work is compelling and he was shopping a talk on the future of books. His talk was engaging, well presented, and entertaining. The premise that books of the future might respond purely based on how their reader is receiving the presented material is a fascinating topic that delves into what the subjective experience of reading a traditional book can even be said to be. As his novels demonstrate, Hannu commands a broad reaching knowledge of current (and not-yet-extant) technologies, their manifestation in pop-culture, and the creative vision to present their potential impact on modern society. I would highly recommend Hannu as a speaker to any audience interested in the intersection of technology and humanity.”

Brian Retford, Former CTO and co-founder (recently acquired by Intel)