Marina Gorbis

Executive Director, Institute for the Future

The nature of the future; the socialstructed world

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Marina Gorbis is the Executive Director of the Institute for the Future (IFTF), a Silicon Valley nonprofit research and consulting organisation based in Silicon Valley. In her 14 years with IFTF, she has helped hundreds of organisations in business, education, government, and philanthropy to improve innovation capacity, develop strategies, and design new products and services. Her current research focuses on how social production is changing the face of major industries — the subject of her book, The Nature of the Future: Dispatches from the Socialstructed World.

The Nature of the Future introduces us to the emerging relationship-driven or socialstructed economy, where individuals harness the powers of new technologies to create new, social models of products, services, and wealth. Marina argues that the Internet's low transaction costs are facilitating distributed, social solutions to some of our most immediate needs and our most intractable problems. She shows how pioneers are filling gaps and doing the seemingly impossible by reinventing business, education, medicine, banking, government, and even scientific research.

“To paraphrase Margaret Mead, we are all immigrants to the future; none of us is a native in that land. The very underpinnings of our society and institutions — from how we work to how we create value, govern, trade, learn, and innovate — are being profoundly reshaped. We are all migrating to a new land and should be looking at the new landscape emerging before us like immigrants: ready to learn a new language, a new way of doing things, anticipating new beginnings with a sense of excitement if also with a bit of understandable trepidation.”

Marina's recent projects include:

  • Future of Learning. The Future of Learning project aims to map key drivers reshaping education, envision future scenarios for higher education, and deliver actionable insights that will help participating organisations better prepare for the future.
  • Future of Work. The Future of Work project aims to map key disruptions reshaping the future of work, create a comprehensive and actionable set of tools to help organisations best navigate in the rapidly changing world of work, and engage both new partners and new disruptors interested in working together to investigate the opportunities and challenges that these present for both individuals and organisations.
  • Global Innovations Forum. Marina founded the Global Innovations Forum, a multiyear IFTF project aimed at understanding sources of innovation in different regions. Combining regional economic indicators with ethnographic research with households in Japan, Nordic Europe, and Silicon Valley, the project provided unique frameworks and tools for tapping innovation capacities in different regions.

A native of the Ukraine and equally at home in Silicon Valley, Europe, India, and Kazakhstan, Marina is particularly well suited to see things from a global viewpoint.

She has written for BoingBoing, FastCompany, Harvard Business Review, and major media outlets.


The Nature of the Future

Dispatches from the Socialstructed World

Marina Gorbis

strategy+business Best Business Books of 2013: Digitization

A renowned futurist offers a vision of a reinvented world.

Large corporations, big governments, and other centralized organizations have long determined and dominated the way we work, access healthcare, get an education, feed ourselves, and generally go about our lives. The economist Ronald Coase, in his famous 1937 paper “The Nature of the Firm,” provided an economic explanation for this: Organizations lowered transaction costs, making the provision of goods and services cheap, efficient, and reliable. Today, this organizational advantage is rapidly disappearing. The Internet is lowering transaction costs — costs of connection, coordination, and trade — and pointing to a future that increasingly favors distributed sources and social solutions to some of our most immediate needs and our most intractable problems.

As Silicon Valley thought-leader Marina Gorbis, head of the Institute for the Future, portrays, a thriving new relationship-driven or socialstructed economy is emerging in which individuals are harnessing the powers of new technologies to join together and provide an array of products and services. Examples of this changing economy range from BioCurious, a members-run and free-to-use bio lab, to the peer-to-peer lending platform Lending Club, to the remarkable Khan Academy, a free online-teaching service. These engaged and innovative pioneers are filling gaps and doing the seemingly impossible by reinventing business, education, medicine, banking, government, and even scientific research. Based on extensive research into current trends, she travels to a socialstructed future and depicts an exciting vision of tomorrow.

Free Press (9 April 2013)


"There's no better futurist to learn from today than Marina Gorbis, who taps her vast social network of innovators and researchers for the biggest, most disruptive ideas that are changing how we work, solve problems and create value today. This book is a thrilling and insight-packed guide to harnessing the power of the new social economy. It's full of compelling stories and practical lessons from on-the-ground visionaries who are inventing the future as we speak. This book will help you see the next century clearly — and maybe even turn you into one of the amazing SocialStructers who are changing what's possible for the rest of us."
Jane McGonigal, author of Reality Is Broken

“Challenging… well worth reading and considering.”
— Kirkus Reviews

"Marina Gorbis is the only futurist I know capable of explaining and connecting phenomena such as alternative currency, deliberative democracy, bio-citizenry, and socialstructs — all in a language that even a CEO can understand. This is the context that companies and organizations of all kinds need to thrive in the emerging social landscape."
— Douglas Rushkoff, author of Present Shock and Program or Be Programmed

"Marina Gorbis's book The Nature of the Future reminds me of one of my favorite Einstein quotes. "You can't solve a problem from the same consciousness that created it. You must learn to see the world anew." This book outlines the new ways to rethink the social structures of the world. Every participant in this global reality needs to read this book."
— Tiffany Shlain, Filmmaker & Founder of The Webby Awards

"We can now begin to see that the most important long term effect of computers and the Internet are the ways these tools enable people to do things together in entirely new ways. Large and small groups all over the world are using collaborative, digitally mediated methods of "socialstructing" to amplify and reinvent money, scientific discovery, governance, education. Marina Gorbis' experience as Executive Director of Institute for the Future positions her perfectly to foresee and forecast the emerging social economies that are already changing the way people get things done together. You'll learn a lot from this book. More importantly, you'll gain a powerful new lens for seeing what is really going on around us."
— Howard Rheingold

"Marina has just published a compelling, provocative, and grounded book about how technology is enabling individuals to connect with one another to follow their passions and get stuff done, outside of large corporations, governments, and the other institutions that typically rule our lives. Marina calls it "socialstructing." I call it making the future better than the present."
— David Pescovitz Boing Boing


Seeing into the Future: A Practitioner's View | PRI

BSR Conference 2013

The Nature of the Future: The Socialstructed World