“Our future? You can pretty much presume that ‘normal’ is going to be anything but!” – Futurist Jim Carroll
If there is one phrase I absolutely have come to hate, it’s “new normal.” People have been tossing it around with abandon since the pandemic began. Now, I’m seeing the phrase morph – it’s often in the form of a question: i.e. “When will things go back to normal?”
To recognize this fact, I added a smoke machine to the home office broadcast studio. Now, with just the flick of a button, I can obscure myself in a fog that diminishes the clarity of the scene! That’s our future right there – diminishing clarity, a fog of uncertainty, a barrier in the way of our vision.
I’ve been using my own phrase for a time – “volatility is the new normal.” Some of the news of just the last few days and the last several hours have shown, that’s a reality. In the home broadcast studio, I can now easily emphasize that fact with one simple button.
Consider your new world of the last few days and the last few hours. A sudden new and significant regional instability in the Middle East (once again). Multiple stories that show the fragility of our infrastructure – both involving pipelines (one showing the fragility of gasoline supply chains; the other, involving a Canada-US pipeline, showing another nail in the coffin of cooperative globalization.) Top this off with the alarming speed with which a political party that once stood for the purity of democracy is now rushing to destroy it, quickly becoming a group that stands in fealty to an individual like members in a cult.
The thing is, the world has always known how to deal with instability – but this time, it’s different. Take the Israel/Palestinian conflict: as I noted on Twitter yesterday:
The thing about the Israel / Palestinian situation is that it is the first major conflict here with a generation that has NEVER known a world without mobile, social media, instant video, fast mobilization, information power skewing, and more. It will not go well.
Gas and oil pipelines? What’s different now is that there is WAY MORE intelligent, connected infrastructure at play here compared to ten, twenty, thirty years ago – which offers far more potential for multiple points of potential disruption. Politics? Democracy? Society is seeing the impact of what happens when it is no longer able to deal at a mature level with the information that it has at its disposal – and people with an agenda based in racism and hatred know how to exploit it.
Look, I’m an optimist about the future – and force myself to be so each and every day.
Even so, yesterday I wrote an extremely dark post: “The Dark Underside of a Usually Optimistic Future: How Bad Could Things Get? Pretty Bad!” I even had really, really dark music to go with the dark video which I edited together!
Are the scenarios in this video possible? One of my best friends is always pessimistic about things – and he is one of the most highly intelligent people I know. It seems he was born with some negativity in his soul – I think his gloomy outlook feeds his creative thinking. And so I sent him the post and video to him yesterday – and he said he agreed with most of the things I wrote (although his context was different.)
What does all of this mean?
Look, we’re not going back to 2019; volatility in our vast, new, interconnected, and FAST world means that new trends, issues, and challenges can bubble out of control faster than ever.
There is no NEW normal. There is just the next fast, weird, complex, and challenging norms.
A normal that is anything but.
When it comes to your future, you need to factor that reality in.
As for me? Yesterday I wrote 7 pages for my upcoming book, all about the powerful role of optimism – and so I’ll return to my optimistic roots, looking for the bright signs in a sometimes dark and complex future.