Trend-spotting shop Sparks & Honey has given us ideas to watch in health care, jobs we might be doing in 2025, and the future of relationships. Here, the shop takes a deep-dive into the zeitgeist to identify cultural trends. They're themes that could affect business, and therefore how we live, in the next year or two.
Pranking is increasingly common. Some examples: a Coloradan sushi restaurant claiming (falsely) to have a cannabis pairing menu; artisanal plunger parodying high-end household tools; Amazon's ridiculous (though highly successful) drone roll-out. The line between fiction and reality is blurring; pranking is becoming something of a legitimate marketing tactic.
The idea of objects shifting easily between virtual and material. "Imagine you're walking down the street," says S&H's Terry Young. "Someone gets a phone out, takes a picture of your sunglasses and that goes directly to a 3-D printer. It's that rapid ability to go from things created physically back into virtual." Examples: a Disney app that lets you 3-D print characters; a robotic hand-writing service; modular parks, constantly taking on new shapes.
Add together "personal brand," life-logging technology, and people's desire to be famous at any cost and you end up with something called "life as entertainment." It's when people live only for the show, becoming "our own personal Netflix channel through everything that we track." Pervasive technology will let us follow people and places in ever more intimate ways, narrowing remaining distance between viewers and celebrities.
Fears about surveillance and intrusion are stirring people to create shadow worlds. See: Pirate Bay, Bitcoin, Silk Road, hashtag drug sales on Instagram. Young sees a movement towards "deviant globalization" and "deviant corporations." "It's fringe, but where it can become mainstream is where it relates to legitimate businesses. It's people working around regulation, like the Peter Thiels of the world who want their own islands," he says. The sharing economy is related to this, in the sense that it also involves people transacting beyond traditional laws and commercial relationships.
We've come to believe that sharing data freely benefits all; that openness begets democracy and freedom. But that could change in the years ahead. "You could have people who believe in radical transparency now who move to the other side and really focus on the incognito world," Young says. "At the moment, you don't do that unless you're a criminal or in a witness protection program. But in the future, there could be these communities that want to live anonymously."
See the Sparks & Honey's full "Elements of Culture" report here.