J. M. Ledgard

Biography

J.M. Ledgard, Portrait © jml rossums photo

J. M. Ledgard is a Shetland Islands born novelist and a leading thinker on advanced technology, risk and nature. He is a chair of Interspecies Future and founder of Interspecies Money Group – an attempt to push financial value to animals, trees, and other species at scale.

Ledgard believes in the power of artist collaborations to ask important questions about the living world. It is in this context that his collaboration with Federico Díaz should be seen. He believes simple questions of embodiment, consciousness, breath and rhythm can best be addressed in an ambitious artwork in which his vision and Díaz’s vision are woven together. Ledgard has also worked with Tomás Saraceno on sky and spiders and continues to explore his thinking on the oceans with his friend Ólafur Elíasson.

As a novelist, Ledgard often reflects on nonhuman life. His second novel Submergence meditated on microbial life in the deep ocean. It was a New York Times Book of the Year and was adapted for a Hollywood film by Wim Wenders. The previous work Giraffe concerned the suffering of animals. It was also critically acclaimed and is considered a cult novel for animal rights activists. A book of essays, Terra Firma, focused on the interplay between technology and nature in Africa. His untitled new novel, set on a grain estate in Roman Africa, addresses people’s relationship with nature.

Ledgard was a fellow and director at the avant-garde EPFL. As the head of a futuristic multi-disciplinary group he helped invent drone delivery of blood and medicines in Africa and advanced a droneport concept, bringing in Norman Foster as design lead and presenting the concept at the Venice Biennale. He has innovative projects on robotics and digital identity and lectured widely including at ETH Zürich, Imperial College, MIT, and the Institute of Advanced Studies (Princeton). He is now a visiting professor in AI and Nature at the Czech Technical University in Prague.

Previously, Ledgard was an award-winning foreign political and war correspondent for The Economist from 1995 to 2012, reporting lead stories from 60 countries and many wars, including a decade in Africa. He still reports occasionally from the frontlines.

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