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A Contradictory Life

Finding the order in disorder

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In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order. - Carl Jung

One year ago I attended a Flux Trends talk which I found absolutely fascinating and thought I should share with you all (before I attend the next one tomorrow – better late than never). The State We’re In provides a comprehensive snapshot of trends that are changing the way we live, work and play and is hosted by Dion Chang (a renowned trend analyst). You can read more about him here.

It is updated every quarter and tracks the trajectory of six macro trend pillars that affect all aspects of modern life: technology, retail & consumer mindset, global and local economic indicators, the political landscape, environmental issues, and finally socio-cultural trends.

The theme for the 1Q15 presentation was: “Disorder – the way of the New World Order” (an extention of 2014’s “A Fork in the Road” theme).

The presentation is structured in the context of certain TRENDS pillars: Technology, Retail and marketing, Economy, Natural world, Diplomacy, Socio-cultural.

I took a couple of notes which I have deciphered from my own illegible handwriting (and include a lot of links which I urge you to watch / read) below.

Flux Trends presentation notes

Dion started the presentation – as he always does – with a quotation to put things into context:

“No one in their wildest imagination, including economists and business people, ever imagined the possibility of a technology revolution so extreme in its productivity that it could actually reduce marginal costs to near zero, making products nearly free, abundant and absolutely no longer subject to market forces.” – Jeremy Rifkin, political adviser.

Source:  Radical new economic system will emerge from collapse of capitalism – The Guardian

There is a paradox emerging of Millenials seeing through our current state of over-consumption; they have identified that the idea of this being a benefit to world growth is a false notion and are adapting the socio-economic system of a sharing economy. Basically, they are not consuming for consumption’s sake.

People are at the heart of a Sharing Economy; it is a People’s Economy, meaning that people are active citizens and participants of their communities and the wider society. The participants of a Sharing Economy are individuals, communities, companies, organisations and associations, all of whom are deeply embedded in a highly efficient sharing system, to which all contribute and benefit from. Human rights are respected and safeguarded. In a Sharing Economy, people create, collaborate, produce and distribute peer-to-peer. Within business, people – both co-owners, employees and customers – are highly valued, with their opinions and ideas respected and integrated into the business at all levels of the supply chain, organisation and development.…Internet technologies and networks enable the development of products and services in a collective manner, transcending geographical boundaries…3D printing offers a more local production of goods…The system embraces alternative currencies, local currencies, timebanks, social investment and social capital. …Sharing Economy creates goods and services that positively enhance the natural environment, such as cradle-to-cradle (C2C) or circular economy models. An example would be a pair of trainers made from recycled materials that have seeds implanted in their biodegradable soles; as the trainers degrade, plants grow.” – What is the sharing economy? 

T (technology): The rise of the machines: proof of how robots, drones and wearable tech are already disrupting industries.

Dion spent quite some time dissecting the idea of; WE = THE MACHINE. He described wearable tech as “so 2014”  and explored the idea of computational couture (technology embedded into the fibres of our textiles) and ingestables (broadband-enabled digital tools that we actually “eat.” eg. there are “smart” pills that use wireless technology to help monitor internal reactions to medications) as the next big thing. This was something I had never even heard about until this talk but towards the end of the year a lot of articles started popping up in my news feed regarding this technology – especially after the CEO of leading wearables company Jawbone, said they’ve looked into ingestibles as the future of wearables.

Dion also showed us a YouTube clip on the use of drones in a company such as Amazon (I can’t find the exact link but there are a couple if you just do a simple Google search) and how soon a drone will be able to be called like an Uber for food delivery as an example, discussed the ever growing market for 3D printing (even cars can now be printed in a couple of hours!), and the comeback of old tech (vinyl sales are at an all time high since 1996 and Mark Zuckerberg called 2015 The Year of Books) – as we move into the post digital age people value ownership.

R (retail & marketing): The evolution of social media commerce, and how “deep learning” is evolving using deep pizzas.

I wrote down this link and just re-watched it – wow! Robots really are replacing people’s jobs at a rapid rate…

As for social media commerce; the not so obvious strategy is the likes of coffee shops continuing trying to outdo each other with coffee art so that people would Tweet, Instagram or Snap their morning #lattee or #cappu and more direct monetising concept of Like2Buy – read more about that on Forbes here.

Something else I had never heard of before the talk was the concept of deep learning menus“touting the menu as “the future of dining”, Pizza hut says they “have developed the world’s first Subconscious Menu” as a “unique way to reinvent the dining experience.”” – Subconscious ordering: Pizza Hut introduces menu that scans eyes to take order. 

E (economy): The hourglass economy manifests in the travel industry and why Uber is the benchmark case study for business disruption.

My notes here start to become more and more illegible but I can make out that I scribbled down something along the lines of; The Unstoppable Uber Disruptor – a 5 year old company which is worth $40bn (cutting through the transport industry). Music – also in the business of disruption with the likes of Spotify causing severe aftershocks for this industry.

Dion then spent some time discussing the Hourglass economy – an economy that produces more upper and lower classes, causing a decline in the middle class. What this essentially means is that the rich get richer (reviving demand for first class travel as an example) and the poor find it increasingly difficult to progress out of lower paying jobs (as mid-skilled employment opportunities decrease).

N (natural world): Delayed parenting, the rise of the egg freezing party and the arrival of digital healthcare in SA.

Something that I am obviously very passionate about was discussed briefly here – sustainability as a “mini power” although I hope it becomes a super power! As technology and empathy for the environment merges, we are seeing changes such as the first disposable drone being produced and eco-innovation as a whole becoming more and more popular.

I am not too sure how I feel about this but in October 2014 both Facebook and Apple announced that they would pay for elective egg freezing for female employees and Company-Paid-Egg-Freezing quickly became known as the new equaliser…As people decide to delay parenting, there are far-reaching consequences; the algorithms that the Healthcare and Financial Services & Insurance business are built on as, an example, become skewed and we will soon have entire generations that will grow up without grandparents…

The arrival of Digital Doctors (such as MyDoctor24) is another way the healthcare industry will be disrupted as legislation and regulation needs to play catch up.

D (diplomacy): Non-state combatants, cyber warfare and the new politics of food and entertainment.

Diplomacy is one of the biggest areas in which we are seeing disorder as people realise that yes, they do have a voice and can disrupt. Active citizenry / a voice to the people is most definitely something that we experienced firsthand in South Africa in 2015 (#FeesMustFall and #ZumaMustFall being prime examples).

Some more scribbled notes; cyber hacking groups / virtual enemies Anonymous. Non-state combatants. IS & Bokoo Haram. Insurgents. The use of social media to publicise the likes of beheadings and people being burnt alive. Asymmetrical warfare and medieval tactics coming back. Protecting against hackers costing banks, tech firms and retailers billions – this has a ripple effect. Illegal Immigration = Human River That Never Stops. The strange politics of Food & Entertainment (4 McDonalds shutdown in Moscow, embargo on meat & poultry in response to Ukraine).

S (Socio-cultural): eSport’s parallel universe, the beard oil business and the new podcast addiction.

“Founded by the Pictet Group in 2008, the Prix Pictet has rapidly established itself as the world’s leading prize in photography and sustainability. The award aims to uncover outstanding photography applied to confront the most pressing social and environmental challenges of today.”The theme for 2015 was DISORDER.

I remember the stats given about eSport being mind-blowing but for some reason did not write any of them down. I found these two articles though which are a must-read:

Dion also mentioned that Social Media Law would be coming of age – who hasn’t heard of Emma Sadleir? – and spoke about how a subculture (Hipsters) gave rise to a booming beard oil business (one example).

At this talk I heard about Serial for the first time and I, along with millions of worldwide listeners became addicted to my first ever Podcast.

I am very excited for tomorrow night’s talk and will definitely be taking notes again and summarising them here – hopefully not an entire year later!