Mark Stevenson

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Mark Stevenson at the 2011 Skoll World Forum.

Mark Stevenson (born 1971) is a London-based British author, comedian, businessman, public speaker and futurologist, as well as a former semi-professional musician. He is Chief Operating Officer and a founder of Flow Associates, a cultural learning agency[1] and a principal at ReAgency, a science communications agency.[2] He is also a Fellow of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce.[3] Stevenson's recent book, An Optimist's Tour of the Future, was released in the United Kingdom in January 2011 (February 2011 in the United States).[4]

Education[edit]

Stevenson graduated from the University of Salford in 1992 with a first-class honors degree in Information Technology.[5]

Early career[edit]

Stevenson began his career working for Ovum, an information technology think tank. There, he co-authored reports on e-commerce and smart card technology and edited material related to CASE (computer-aided software engineering).[6]

After leaving Ovum, Stevenson worked as a freelancer, consulting primarily in the field of cryptography.

Throughout this period, Stevenson was also a semi-professional musician. As a founding member of the band Clear, he co-wrote both music and lyrics, sang and played bass. The band's sole album, Coming Around, had the unique distinction of being funded by a company founded by the members but owned in part by the band's fans. The album, recorded in 2004, was produced by Andy Metcalfe at the studios of Glenn Tilbrook; it was mastered at Abbey Road. Though now defunct, the band occasionally does reunion concerts.[7]

Comedy[edit]

After leaving Clear, Stevenson turned to stand-up comedy. His stand-up material is primarily focused on science. He has appeared at many comedy clubs, festivals and other venues.[8] And although his current duties as businessman and author preclude a full-time career in comedy, he still occasionally makes appearances at clubs and on programs. He recently (November 2010) did a spot on BBC Radio 4's long-running program You and Yours.[9]

Writing[edit]

In early 2011, Stevenson released a book entitled An Optimist's Tour of the Future (published by Profile Books in January 2011 in the UK and by Avery in February 2011 in the United States), which predicts that invention and innovation can help overcome several of humanity's current problems.[10] The book has since been translated into German, Dutch, Polish, Spanish and Turkish.[11]

Stevenson is also a playwright, having co-authored (with Jack Milner) One Thing Led to Another, a play in casting phase as of February 2012, as well as Octopus Soup, which Mr. Stevenson hopes to have in production in 2012.

Current Activities[edit]

Stevenson continues his roles at Flow Associates and ReAgency. Following the success of his book, he has recently (2011) also become internationally popular as a public speaker. Upcoming engagements include being the keynote speaker at The Licensing Executives Society conference (New Zealand, April 2012)[12] and the Space Foundation's National Space Symposium (USA, April 2012).[13]

Stevenson is also launching a new organization to promote the ideals of pragmatic, solutions-oriented optimism as espoused in his book. The League of Pragmatic Optimists (aka LOPO) held its inaugural event in London in late 2011, with future chapters and events planned for Geneva, Glasgow, Madrid, Oxford (England), Singapore, Sydney, Boston and New York. The organization states it eight core principles as:

  • An unashamed optimism of ambition about the future
  • A pragmatic focus. Chapters meet to help people do, not just talk. (Or to put it another way, if you’re a mouth on legs you probably won’t be invited back)
  • Members involve themselves in projects that are ‘bigger than me’
  • There is a strong belief that ideas become more powerful when they are shared, not protected
  • Your stories and opinions are nice, but your evidence is better
  • Making mistakes is OK, but not trying is irresponsible
  • Members strive to police their own cynicism
  • LOPO is a-political. All stripes welcome but we don't come to promote our stripes.[14]

Mr. Stevenson is also working on a new book, whose format as a travelogue will be similar to that of his first book, but with a theme centered around the concept of complexity.

He is currently a special adviser to Every1Mobile (helping to build social networks on mobile phones in Africa and leverage them for social good)[15] and Primary Energy Research (a research and investment vehicle). He is also co-founding Thanks for All the Fish, a vehicle to bring New Zealand innovation and investment opportunities to European capital markets.

References[edit]