Why is Richard so controversial?
Because he is a futurist with a past. The first issue of the satirical magazine he launched at university, Oz, was prosecuted for being “obscene”, even though it wasn’t. All through the sixties, the mag mocked authority and criticised Government policies, especially the war in Vietnam, attracting a huge readership in Sydney and London. It was often raided by police. Looking back, Richard regards the creation of Oz as his first foray into futurism. In 1970, he published PLAYPOWER, a best selling guide to the global youthquake, which forecast the social impact of the coming digital age. Richard was right about the rise of “computer culture”, and dead wrong to suggest that this would extend the hours of leisure.
So then what happened?
After a controversial trial at London’s Old Bailey, Richard was hired by the London Evening Standard as its “Alternative Voice”. For the next few years he roamed the world reporting on youth cultures, social inventions and the shape of the future. He broadcast regularly on ABC radio and wrote for an array of newspapers and magazines. In New York in 1977, Richard was commissioned to write a book about a serial killer incarcerated in Delhi, who preyed upon Western backpackers. The resulting biography of Charles Sobhraj, (co-authored by Julie Clarke) was a global best-seller. It inspired several TV docu-dramas and its charismatic subject, after a spell of freedom, is back in jail in Katmandu, attracting suitors and appealing his murder convictions.
In the 80’s, Richard returned to Australia and joined Channel 9’s popular Mid-Day Show, where he reported on popular culture, wild ideas and the quest for sustainability. Richard’s segments often aroused controversy, as when he inhaled on camera (to test the impact of marijuana on driving). These segments evolved into the Channel Ten series, Extra Dimensions, looking at sustainability and human potential.
In the 90’s, in a variety of media, Richard explored the new role for business in the 21st Century. This led to keynote addresses at national conferences, and the essay collection, Out of My Mind (Penguin). He also published his Sixties memoir, Hippie Hippie Shake, as well as co-launching the Australian Futures Foundation in order to bring futures thinking into the mainstream. Richard is now a principal at Sydney’s Neville Freeman agency.