The future is a subway map

The best way to understand a trend is to look at the other trends that lead to it

Nothing matters until we understand how it’s connected to something else. Let’s look at… well… the Metaverse. Why it’s there?

The first big trend behind the Metaverse is the dominance of the online world. The value of things happening on the Internet was growing for a while, but we’ve just reached the tipping point. With remote work, the balance is now on the virtual side. We didn’t move in into the Matrix yet, but our online representation is already at least as important as offline.

The second trend is a desire to break the wall. We are craving immersive experiences, but the real world between us and the screen is interfering. So, the best minds of humanity (the richest companies, e.g. Microsoft, Facebook, Apple) are working on different ways to address this. There are two prominent solutions today: VR and AR — replacing the real world completely or extending it with the virtual one. We are almost there.

The third trend is the direction of essential Internet evolution. This one I’ve covered well enough in my previous email. Web 1.0 was about static content. Web 2.0 is the web of creators. There are some issues with it already, so experts are talking about Web 3.0 — a decentralized version of the Internet focused on digital ownership and semantic relations between content.

So, this is the Metaverse: not an abstract term, but several trends coming together to create the new one. You can add more if you think more: 5G, AI, quantum computing, etc. Let me draw this. Does it look familiar? Yeah, well…

Future as a subway map: 2010 train 12 years late

What’s the best visualization of everything moving and connected? Well, a subway map. Crowds, a mixture of smells, constant delays. Yes, this should definitely work well to describe the future. While this approach reached the peak of popularity somewhere around 10 years ago, you can still find attempts to utilize the metaphor.

Each line represents one topic. Stations are connection points between different trends or the trends placed in the intersection of the topics. Zones are horizons of planning: from something that is happening now to the many years ahead.

Well, this looks dope, but the meaning is questionable. Trends on the lines are placed almost randomly. The real connections between different processes are barely presented. Don’t get me wrong. I feel like it’s a great starting point. Probably, the best that we have today. But we are not nearly there yet. So, I’m on a quest to solve it.

How it’s all started:

How it’s going:

Megatrend Map by ZukunftsInstitut

How to peel the meta-onion without crying

I love structuring things, but this is a tough one. The subway map approach is great, and I really believe in it. It just feels that 2D of traditional screens is not enough. My next idea is to build a 3D model of the trendaverse (almost noosphere) in one of the current open worlds that you can explore in AR or VR.

Despite the visual representation, key organizing principles should remain the same. This is also a work in progress, but the value is there already. If you’ll have any notes on what’s working, not working, or how to make this better — please, just drop me an email.

I’m usually starting with people, going into their values and the ways this influences their behavior in different areas of life, as well as consumption habits (e.g. value shifts, consumer trends, sports trends, food trends, etc.). From the opposite side, business is driving changes via technology and data, translated through marketing and operations into the shifts in consumer electronics, media, and retail (e.g. tech innovations, data trends, social media trends, creative trends, new devices, etc.). It is also routed in the way brands are influencing this world and the bigger cultural trends behind all this (e.g. brand trends, cultural trends). From a rational standpoint, you can follow what’s happening in specific industries driven by the world economy (e.g. industry trends, macroeconomic trends).

The more you check, the easier it will be to see the underlying relationships of the different processes and connect the dots.

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