The ever-growing pervasion of megasystems such as Amazon and Google in the west and Alibaba and Baidu in the east means certain brands now have a controlling stake in most aspects of our daily existence.
Consumers have largely embraced their rise, as it is one of the key drivers behind the unprecedented levels of convenience that has transformed the commercial landscape. According to Lux Research, British shoppers are willing to pay 11 percent more for each added layer of convenience in the food chain.
The growth of automated stores and voice retail is reducing the amount of friction consumers experience when shopping for brands, forcing them to recalibrate the way they communicate and create equity with consumers.
At the same time many brands and retailers are building more intimate relationships with their customers thanks to the pervasion of IoT devices within the home. These are being leveraged to build trust networks that allow brands to extend the point of delivery beyond the front door such as Walmart and Amazon’s new in-home delivery services.
With major technology companies increasingly taking control of the way our future cities operate, consumers may need to start choosing where they live based on brand loyalty and compatibility. Questions remain about what the trade-off will be in terms of privacy and data rights.
In the virtual realm, too, brands will be targeting consumers who do not consider their physical selves and their digital online avatars as separate entities. Selling consistently and coherently across all these worlds will become paramount.
The world continues to evolve at break-neck speed, causing people to question the established guidance of religion. Parents are experiencing the same cultural pressures as their children, giving rise to a deterioration in moral mentorship. In light of this, people are increasingly adopting a ‘patchwork morality’, assembled from the values that they as an individual cherish.
At the same time, young people are growing up in an increasingly digital world and are losing the ability to navigate real-life, human-to-human interactions while intelligent machines are threatening our sense of humanity.
In the aftermath of digital recklessness, there is growing consensus that we need to reform the tech world. The global backlash against online filter bubbles and partisan politics is driving a human-centric approach to social platforms and a new behavioural code based around decency and emotional intelligence.
There is also a growing awareness from brands entering the domestic space, that privacy must be respected. Indeed, computer programming now permeates all aspects of our lives, making it imperative that we embed ethics into the foundations of all that we do.
Often considered an entity that is on a fixed trajectory, the ungoverned Wild West of the internet is being rethought as a space that works for society as a whole. While the internet has been allowed to run amok, brands must learn from their mistakes and ensure that AI develops according to strict ethical standards.
In evolving AI, there is a need to open up its black box and create a new language that makes data and algorithms more intelligible to all, which designers like Jip de Beer and Field have begun to experiment with.
The ‘growth is good’ mantra, which has been running rampant in society since the late 1950s and 60s, is now at odds with our 21st century lives. This obsession with growth has led to an overemphasis on the importance of economic growth as opposed to equal distribution
Alongside this growth fallacy, we are witnessing a rise of meaningful materialism, where consumers’ economic decisions are now wrapped up in the meaning they impart.
The emergence of a Post-growth Society is leading to new progressive measures of what it means to be a successful civilisation, moving away from economic measures such as financial success to more emotional measures such as happiness. But this is not the pursuit of hedonistic pleasure, but a wholesale movement to happiness for the many. A part of this is the growth of wellness architecture, and neuro-architectural principles that work to improve our collective wellbeing, such as the Snøhetta redesign of Times Square that aims to combat social isolation.
In the future, these shifts in consumer mindset and placemaking principles will lead to the creation of more humanist cities that are designed to allow all citizens to flourish. We will also have to reckon with a post-labour future – if automation does indeed take most of the jobs, there will be a search for purpose en masse. Automation could ‘liberate us from the idea of the necessity of labour and support us in discovering our true desires,’ according to concept designer Ottonie Roeder.
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