To begin seeing change, heed the externalities
The practice of foresight has always believed in the critical nature of the past. In fact, we believe knowing the past is imperative to see the future that might await us. Our usual approach is to start with a classic PESTLE (political, economic, sociological, technological, legal and environmental) analysis to see the externalities in play. We do this through a semiotic lens. We are looking for signs so that we can speculate about design futures.
Consider the 1980s as an example. On the surface, 2022 seems like a replay of 1982. So many happenings from fashion to pharma feel like déjà vu — whether you lived through the ’80s or not. Yet, there are fundamental shifts from 1982 that can only be understood by looking at the years side by side.
In 1994, the Newsweek staff critiqued its earlier decade. They wrote, “The market magic of the triumphant conservatism of the 1980s did help squeeze out fat and make American business more competitive in the brutal global economy. But we have yet to come to terms with the social costs.”
Unfortunately, in 2022, we still have yet to come to terms with the social costs of the ‘80s – but we are finally making headway. The aspirational “trader” archetype spawned in ‘82 by the Baby Boomers and portrayed in movies like Wall Street has given way to a socially aware archetype within Generation Z. A disruptive layer of behavior has pushed in through Gen Z and bolstered by Gen X, the generation once thought of as slacker. Critical policy thinking is coming to the forefront as a layer of fear fades away.
The information presented in this report shows that 2022 is not on the same trend trajectory as 1982. Too many cultural tensions exist for that to happen. However, to have confidence in this cultural evolution, we need to respect even the smallest signals of change.