Fact file

Don't call him a visionary

Don Tapscott likes to joke that only his mother would buy one of the first few books he wrote - on office automation, which is what the world called working with computers then.

The Canadian business strategist, who is now 69 and has 16 books to his name, started out in 1978 as a researcher at Bell Northern Research, Canada's equivalent of the United States' fabled Bell Labs.

He had said that people used to "ridicule" him then about the possibility that computers would soon be pervasive in daily life.

He recalled: "I would hear people say, 'I will never use a computer because I'm not a secretary.' So I wrote a book in 1981 about it called Office Automation. I think my mother bought most of the copies."

He founded and runs The Tapscott Group where his wife, communications expert Ana Lopes, is a director. They have a son and a daughter, with son Alex collaborating with him on his 16th book, Blockchain Revolution.

A straight-talking, affable man, Tapscott bats away suggestions that he is a futurist or a visionary, despite being among the very few trendwatchers to have predicted most of the developments since the World Wide Web debuted in 1989.

As he told me in 2010: "I'm not a futurist and I don't think of myself as a visionary. There's a fine line between vision and hallucination.

"I'm just a researcher and all of my work is based on research where I try and understand the lighthouse examples of transformation, and from those, understand the contours of a changing world."

It is all the more humbling to hear him add that he considers himself a "digital immigrant" as opposed to his children, who are digital natives. As he put it, he was from the babyboomer generation, which was used to others "broadcasting" to them day and night, seven days a week.

"I was in a hierarchical family, in which the communications came down; they didn't go back up again.

"I went to church on the weekend, I had a minister broadcast to me. I went to school and the teacher broadcast to me. Then I went into the workforce and I had a boss who told me what to do... so I'm kind of cool with this broadcast model of democracy - you know, 'I'm a politician, listen to what I say, vote for me and then I'm going to broadcast to you for four more years.'"

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 02, 2016, with the headline 'Don't call him a visionary'. Print Edition | Subscribe