Imagine travelling back in time a century or so and trying to explain how we live in 2015…I reckon it’s about as easy as trying to describe the taste of a banana to someone who has never tasted one…go on, give it a try…the words yellow and bananary are banned.
So, now you have defined the essence of the banana let’s fast forward (to a spool based anachronism) to the present day. Whilst we inhabit a planet which in itself has not changed fundamentally in millennia (well, with the exception of the English Channel separating us from Europe), the reality is that in the last 100 years we have changed both surface and the atmosphere somewhat dramatically and guess what…we are going to see some impacts as the ice caps melt and the oceans rise. But it has always been this way, from the creation of Stonehenge to the advent of smartphones, our actions as a species have inevitably changed the nature of our relationship with the surface of the planet. Our rich traditions of ravaging good old planet Earth with war and pollution continue with malthusian intent, but now we are entering an age where technology and information “Rule OK”. Creating a new vision of a future where education is distributed to the masses, where the emerging world pops on its running spikes to eclipse the former superpowers; and where, as the world’s great deserts are set to expand, they potentially generate huge new solar energy economic wealth from the desolation.
Phew!…so what comes next? As a marketer I believe that our use of technology has been a big contributor to environment, from cosmetic microbeads and cancer medication now routinely measured in even the purest water supplies, to our lovely sunny spring weather and increasingly wet winters; and that with billions of terrabytes of information flowing around the interweb we have the means of understanding how to anticipate what’s coming next. But like any knowledge it’s down to how we decide to use it that counts.
Prior to the democratisation of the web, as brands, we had been able to captivate consumer attention with our big ideas in narrow media channels; but now as consumers we are all brands, defining ourselves by curating our online content with our passion for constant connectivity. The new superheroes are pretty average people who have used social media to grow mighty followings and have become the new media channels in their own right – some of these guys have bigger followings than, errr…the celebrities we have spent the last 10 years manufacturing.
Anyway, although this isn’t meant to be a cynical piece, in some ways it’s the very technology that enables us to control our lives from the window of our devices which is leading us to a more sedentary lifestyle. This could well change our human physiology, but it’s also redefining our identity and how we are engaging with the world. From politics to purchasing, we are no longer influenced by traditional authoritative media…nope, now its social and peer to peer communication that shapes opinions; and, c’mon – we are way more advanced as a species than ever before, so with total control of our lives without boundaries, what exactly are we going to do with this new found freedom? For those with issues around privacy, perish the thought in the very near future, nano and wearable technology could mean our mobile network operators might well be advising us of the detection of hypertension and cancer.
Since the turn of the century we have seen more technology driven change to our existence than probably in the previous century as a whole (admittedly domestic electricity, powered flight and the motorcar were all pretty good innovations). But now, with the controls in our hands and emerging technologies measuring and detecting our health and biorhythms, we are in an state of self determination. As a result, brands are playing perpetual catch up with consumers who on the whole are faster adopters of new innovation than they are, and as knowledge becomes the new economy there are new divides forming in society between the enabled and the not enabled. We are entering a new age where those who can decipher information in the knowledge economy will own the agenda; and as with every period of history, new heroes emerge. I sense we are at the cusp of a new romanticisation of science, and scientists are becoming a new breed of heroes with their back stories played out in the likes of the Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game, so will our data scientists soon become the new “sexy”? One thing is for sure: the future is about as certain as the past; and I think I did quite well to get from the taste of a banana to “are data scientists the new sexy”…time for a lie down.