Rigidly defined uncertainty

business, arrow, up, chart,I have spent over a year collecting and analysing trends and another year or so writing it up. I wasn’t interested in what most people refer to as trends (increase in mobile usage, adoption rates of social media), but rather in meta-trends; the big picture – that will make sense of the all the trends we observe and enable us to cut through the noise.

At the bottom of the post is a link to download this document.

When a researcher is also the measuring instrument, as is the case here, being influenced by personal perspectives and biases is a real danger. Your world view determines how you interpret the results.

I felt compelled to explain my world view to allow the reader to judge the extent of the influence. The end result is that the first half of the short book (or long essay) is somewhat personal, philosophical, and exploratory. The second part is more specific about the meta-trends that will define retail, marketing, and business in general.

In part A:

– The world we live in is comprised of interconnected systems

– The best way to understand these systems is to understand chaos theory to identify that the system has a certain structure or flow, and that this coupled with its interconnectedness, causes an ebb and flow that results in patterns

– These patterns are influenced by two things; initial conditions ,which disrupt, or at least make it very difficult, to understand replication, and secondly the phase locking that occurs because of the existence of attractors.

(Some of you may notice the language of general system theory and chaos theory in this language.)

In part B:

– Once you understand the attractors (the fundamentals of our system – in this case people and technology and environment – then one can identify the features and attributes of the system and finally the properties

– By thinking about the parts (features, attributes, and properties) we may intuit the right emergent properties. These emergent properties constitute the meta-trends that will shape our societal future

– Once we understand emergent properties and the general pattern in which the system plays out, we can apply our understanding to various domains and problems to futurecast scenarios and solutions

– Considering all of the above, I explore only one domain (retail/marketing) and deep dive and try to understand how it plays out fully.

The central idea is this:

We are entering an era where we are reverting back to the societal settings of the caveman era.

That is, the attractors of our human system have conspired to shape technological invention in such a way that it has enabled us to revert back to the age old (what Seth Godin calls the lizard brain default settings).

I would like the reader to keep the analogy of the caveman experience in mind as I explore the topic. Those attributes of living together in a cave – intimacy, codependence, sharing, vulnerability, transparency, connectedness – are making a comeback after thousands of years of gradually inventing technology that would first add features at the expense of the above, before the technology caught up to keep those new features and add back that which we had lost in the process of industrialisation and scaling up.

Other commentators, notably Seth Godin, identify the importance of tribes as far back as 2008. In the Amazon blurb of his book (Tribes) he writes:

A tribe is any group of people, large or small, who are connected to one another, a leader, and an idea. For millions of years, humans have been seeking out tribes, be they religious, ethnic, economic, political, or even musical (think of the Deadheads). It’s our nature.
Now the internet has eliminated the barriers of geography, cost, and time. All those blogs and social networking sites are helping existing tribes get bigger. But more important, they’re enabling countless new tribes to be born – groups of 10 or ten thousand or ten million who care about their iPhones, or a political campaign, or a new way to fight global warming.

His main concern in that book is with leadership. I am thinking that the notion of tribes is a manifestation of something even more profound, and that we are only beginning to discover how many more aspects of our lives are apparently reverting to that innate, default setting of being part of a tribe. This reversion is changing how the world works in a very fundamental way.

I would love for you to read it and tell me if you (a) agree and (b) how you think it might be applied in an area you can relate it to. I am really keen to test the thinking across a wider range of domains at a conceptual level to see if at least in principle the framework holds up.

I am hoping others would go and test the emergent property of our social system and economy as identified in their specific domains and write and share about that. There are no doubt a few typos and some loose grammar – it is very much a first draft, but right now I am more interested in getting feedback on the central idea than taking the time to get it to be publish ready; but at this stage I am not looking for editing.)


As I sign off the blog ’til the next year, hopefully that will provide sufficient reading so that you don’t miss me too much.

Happy trading and see you on the other side – but in the meantime do stay in touch.




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