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Executive Summit ’23 – Empire of Things  [Keynote] by Frank Trentmann

Thijs Pepping
January 24, 2024

During our Executive Summit in Cannes a group of inspiring thought leaders offered their insights on the theme of “Scarcity in Abundance.” We have captured the highlights from these top sessions to bring their valuable perspectives to you.

This week, we feature Frank Trentmann’s story about the Empire of Things

About Frank Trentmann

Trentmann is professor of history in the Department of History, Classics and Archaeology at Birkbeck College, University of London. He was educated at Hamburg University, the London School of Economics and Political Science, and at Harvard University, where he completed his PhD. He has taught at Princeton University and at Bielefeld University. He was Fernand Braudel Senior Fellow at the European University Institute. He is a specialist in the history of consumption.

His latest book ‘Empire of Things: How We Became a World of Consumers, Fifteenth Century to the Twenty-First’, unfolds the rise of our modern material world and examines the global challenges of our relentless pursuit of more – from waste and debt to stress and inequality. The book, translated into six languages, was in 2016 chosen as the book of the year by The Times and was winner of the Austrian Wissenschaftsbuch/science book prize in 2018 for the best book in the humanities, social sciences, and cultural studies. –



After more than a decade of abundance, where the economy was steadily expanding, money was free, globalization was progressing, geo-politics were as boring as they should be and life was generally good, the world has taken a decisive turn towards a different future. Scarcity has re-emerged as an urgent priority on the executive agenda. Suddenly we find ourselves in a perma-crisis, where all certainties seem to have disappeared.

There is a steady flow of new, potentially transformative, ready to scale, technologies like Generative Artificial Intelligence, Synthetic biology, Quantum Computing, and Virtual and Augmented Reality, that promise solutions to all our challenges. Yet in a world where scarcity is in abundance, we must think carefully about the choices we make, including the technologies our businesses use.

During our Sogeti Executive Summit we aimed to develop an optimistic scenario, minted by one of the speakers as “The Great Progression”, to write the future you want and explore some of the technologies that will help you get there.

In this 24-hour intense program, perspectives from many different angles were presented by authoritative speakers, interspersed with discussion amongst the invited executives. We look back at two exhilarating days.

About the author

Trend Analyst VINT | Netherlands
Thijs Pepping is a humanistic trend analyst in the field of new technologies. He is part of the think tank within SogetiLabs and in his work he continuously wonders and analyses what the impact of New Technologies is on our lives, organizations and society.


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