This past weekend, Santa Barbara had a visit from bestselling author and speaker Malcolm Gladwell. The esteemed journalist draws crowds of hundreds to listen to his latest predictions on where business and technology are headed.

A lucky few from Sonos had a chance to visit with Gladwell in a more intimate conversation. The vast majority engage Gladwell by reading his very popular books or are packing the Arlington Theatre.

Santa Barbara soon will host another author, visionary and speaker in Doc Searls. Like Gladwell, Searls has an uncanny ability to connect dots from the past and present to predict the future. Unlike Gladwell, Searls will be speaking to a relatively intimate crowd of around 100 people and actually engaging in conversation as he responds to “tweets” and posts in almost real-time.

Searl’s resume is arguably as impressive as Gladwell’s, and his insights and bold predictions have been featured in nationally recognized publications.

The lecture, titled “Reality Check: Things You Wish You Knew Five Years from Now,” is presented by the MIT Enterprise Forum and will take place April 23 at the Cabrillo Arts Pavillion beginning at 5 p.m.

Searls is the author of The Intention Economy: When Customers Take Charge and co-author of The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual.

In “Reality Check,” Searls will share his latest insights on very relevant and timely issues including online privacy, surveillance, how advertising is changing and possibly dying, and how the individually powered Internet as we know it will transform in the next few years.

As co-producer of this event, along with Guy Smith of Antioch University, I had the distinct opportunity to spend some one-on-one time with Searls. One of the first observations in listening to him is that you realize his brain is firing in unique ways, connecting individual’s emotions to corporate agendas to broad political policies. One thing is for sure: This planet is becoming more and more connected, reaching an unprecendented level of transparency.

Doc Searls

Doc Searls

What Searls explains is that the individual has more power today than ever before — not just in terms of reviewing a business via Yelp but in actually changing the world. He explains the changing perspective of the individual touch: “We are not seats or eyeballs or end users or consumers; we are human beings — and our reach exceeds your grasp … Deal With It.” What Searls expresses in his work is that every post and tweet has meaning and is a contribution to the “data layer” that is driving all facets of policy making and corporate branding.

For the first time in history, big business has discovered that individual empowerment is a good thing. All of that sounds appealing if you understand the new rules of engagement and how to ensure your voice is heard.

The second trait I noticed in chatting with Searls is just how direct he comes across. This is rare in a sugar-coated world where there seems to always be an agenda to sell a recent book or encourage blog visitors. With Searls, you’ll get the perspective front and center because he cares so passionately that the community is empowered and clear on the implications of evolving technology in the government and corporate arenas.

The conversation continues April 23, and I encourage you to participate. As always, dinner is included with registration. Click here for more information and to register.

Jacques Habra is a serial entrepreneur who manages the Noospheric Quantified Fund and volunteers on several community organizations in Santa Barbara, including the Westmont College Foundation board. The opinions expressed are his own.