Monday, 8 July 2019


I once worked with someone in advertising whose philosophy was that nothing ever changed much and, if it did, the pendulum would pretty quickly move back. A lot of clients found this conservatism reassuring. Meanwhile I preached apocalyptic visions, disruption and dystopia which some clients viewed somewhat warily.

My visions have mostly turned out to be in line with what’s actually happened but, of course, being right is only half the story. So when my son-in-law said he’d been at a conference where a famous economist with a name ending in “-inski “ had given a riveting presentation about the Armageddon we’d be facing by 2030, I was intrigued. I glanced at it – it was long and full of numbers and graphs. Principally it focused on our collapsing under debt and a remorselessly adverse demography of more older people. Like all economist his models were based on extrapolating trends.

It was clever stuff for sure and well-argued but something clicked in my mind. It was my disruption button.  I have this distaste for the belief that bigger is better or that you can persuade people to do things through financial incentives or that the numbers tell much of the story.

First of all the demography myth. We live in a world where the best medical minds are stymied. All antibiotics have lost their mojo. Ebola is sweeping the Congo and Uganda and a mystery illness in East Anglia is striking down old people. I suspect it’ll be the old who get whacked by all this hardest. I talked to a medical journalist about this who said grimly “don’t go anywhere near a hospital; that’s where these new bugs thrive.” 

So let’s reduce those population extrapolations. Chances are there’ll be some natural pruning.
Next politics. Not really politics so much as culture. The Green Movement, a bit like Me-Too or the anti-tobacco lobby, has acquired an unstoppable momentum, most obviously amongst the young but now older people are changing their minds too. This is not a one-off.  Everything that happens in Europe – currently the second biggest economy in the world -  will be determined by green thinking over the next decade.

Finally where does the future lie? Asia and Africa currently account for ¾ of the world’s population and they, not the USA or Europe, will drive the global agenda. We in the West are like the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Persians over 2,500 years ago. We’re running out of runway. We’ve had our day. Neither yearning for past glories or hoping radical change won’t continue, will be much use. Disruption? You bet, a big disruption but not necessarily a disaster.

Our next decade should be the most interesting for a very long time.

Meanwhile listening to our current politicians is increasingly irrelevant as they seem determined to build debt and revert to Victoriana.

But if we become greener, cleaner, less obsessed with money and more focused on building a kinder, better society we’ll be on the right track.

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