A Look Into 2022 – A Split Screen Year
Thank you to all the readers who spent $.99 to buy a copy of this book! It has been #1 on Amazon in the category of short books on business and money. If you haven’t yet splurged, here is where you can drop your $.99 .
Last week I posted some of the forecasts for 2022. Here I am publishing the first chapter of the book. The key for me is to provide readers with both rationale for the forecasts and frame them within the trends and dynamics that are shaping our time.
Chapter One – The Dynamics of the Shift Age
Note: all the terms in this chapter will first be briefly defined, and then will be referenced as context after all predictions for 2021.
The Shift Age3
The name of the age we are in. Set forth by the author in his first book of the same name published in 2007, this is a transformational age from roughly 2005 to 2030. This is the big transition from the reality up to 2000 and the new reality starting in the 2030s. As we have all experienced, over the last 15 years huge shifts have already deeply changed our lives and how we do business.
The Three Flows of the Shift Age
Every age has characteristics, dynamics or, in this case, flows that shape and define the age.
The Flow to Global
We are now in a global economy. We now use the word global rather than foreign, overseas, or international… words we used last century. Most importantly, we have moved to the global stage of human evolution. We have gone from family to tribe to village to city to city-state to nation state and now our only remaining boundaries are global.
The Flow to the Individual
We as individuals are more powerful than individuals have ever been before. In the developed countries of the world, this power is a byproduct of the explosion of choice over the last 40 years. Three to five television channels evolved to hundreds of TV channels and an infinite number of websites and streaming channels. We have gone from 15 feet of shelf space for cereals in our supermarkets to roughly 30 yards of shelf space. When there is an explosion of choice, the power moves from the producer to the consumer, and from the institution to the individual. This is the underpinning of the on-demand economy in which we now live.
Accelerating Electronic Connectedness
This flow accelerates the first two flows. The single most powerful flow of this century is fueled by the Internet and computers, but even more so by our handheld devices. At the approximate beginning of The Shift Age in 2005 there were 2.2 billion cell phone subscriptions globally. In 2019 there were 8.3 billion for 7.8 billion humans (many people have multiple phone subscriptions). In 2007 there were 100 million sales of cell phones globally. In 2018, 536 million smart phones were purchased. The Shift Age is when market penetration of cell phones globally exceeded the total population. This means that we can communicate with any other human whenever we want and wherever they are. This was not the case 10 years ago.
The Two Realities of the Shift Age – Physical Reality and Screen Reality
Physical reality is based on atoms. Screen reality is based on digits. Digital reality is where the future first shows up, and disrupts physical reality. Amazon.com and online retail has fully disrupted physical retail. AirBnB, Uber and other Internet based platforms are all in the process of disrupting the 20th century distribution channels of our physical reality. A loose way to think of this is that everything that exists in physical reality will be digitized for a screen reality.
This is a dynamic that will continue. 10 years ago we didn’t buy clothes or cars online. Now we do. Think of COVID-19 as an external force that greatly accelerated the move from the Physical to the Screen Reality. Years of inevitable change were collapsed into months.
The Collapse of Legacy Thinking
This is one of the larger dynamics of the 2010 to 2020 decade. It was during this decade that much of 20th Century thinking started to collapse. Thoughts from the past shape the reality of the present. The widespread human fallacy is that reality is fixed. 2020 and 2021 showed us in stark relief that reality is transitory. What we collectively thought of as reality in January 2020 was, abruptly and starkly, changed by April. This concept of the collapse of legacy thinking has been a major theory of the author’s, dating back to “Entering the Shift Age”4 which was published in 2012.
One of the reasons to call 2022 a Split-screen year is that, across the board, we are seeing the declining reality of Legacy Thinking colliding with the emerging new realities of the future. Of course the future will win, but legacy thinking and the installed reality it has created is, in some cases, holding back the necessary, evolutionary and accelerating change rushing toward us all.
Disintermediation [also now Distributed and Dispersed]
This is what the Internet has been doing since the 1990s. The removal of the middleman. The stockbroker, the travel agent, the real estate salesperson, the physical retail outlet, these and more have largely been replaced by online applications. This trend has been accelerating, and amplified by a mass migration to mobile devices and apps. Businesses will continue to be disrupted, disintermediated, or dispersed. COVID-19 forced millions of us who used to work in central offices to work from our homes.
The former reality of the workplace or the office space is becoming ever more distributed. The three big business sectors shown to be vulnerable to these forces have been higher education, healthcare and all forms of in-person entertainment (sports, movies, stage plays, concerts). Higher ed moved to online, distributed and will become increasingly dispersed. Healthcare, formerly resistant to telehealth has had to embrace it. Walgreen’s, CVS, and of course Amazon are now all moving into the healthcare space, providing vaccine injections, and simple health check-ups that formerly were only done in doctor’s offices or health clinics. Finally, the film and theater industries were shut down. Streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney +, Hulu, and Peacock have experienced exponential growth. Content, be it higher education or entertainment, is now streaming into the home making the physical infrastructures of 20th century distribution models unnecessary.
Consider all of this as the creative destruction of 20th Century distribution models by new forms of 21st Century distribution models. 2022 should be viewed through this lens.
Place to Space
This is a big overarching dynamic of the Shift Age and the 2020s. Humanity is moving from a sense of Place to an interconnected sense of Space. This is due to accelerating electronic connectedness, expanding mobility and the duality of the screen and physical realities.
This can be seen through a generational lens. Boomers and GenXers were the last generations growing up with a primary place-based consciousness. Millennials started to bridge the gap as they were the first generation to enter early adulthood in the Shift Age, and the first to embrace social media. Digital Natives or Gen Z are the first generation to fully live in the 21st century, so they do not remember a time when there was no Internet – the technology creating this new spatial consciousness.
As young children, Boomers and GenXers knew that their older relatives lived long distances as the connectivity were long-distance phone calls on birthdays and maybe Christmas. Young Digital Natives have video chats on their parents smart phones from such a young age that they point to the device and say: “Grandma is here!” At early ages they sense they are fully connected in some internet space with everyone.
This place to space shift is an inclusive (across industries, geographies, social classes) and macro-trend in which we all live. It restructures needing to be in a place (close physical proximity), to being in connected space anywhere. This is redefining the work place, the friend place, our sense of self and our place in the world… we are all global citizens.
Three Huge Dynamics for the 21st Century
The first two of these (the Earth Century and the End of the Nation State Century) are inevitable; and the third (the Decline of the American Empire) is not yet clear and dependent on what America does in the next 20 years.
The Earth Century
It can no longer be Earth Day, Earth Week, Earth Month, Earth Year or Earth Decade, we now live in the Earth Century. It is this century that humanity must move to live regeneratively on Spaceship Earth. The last 200 years has created a debt of destruction, pollution, species extinction and environmental degradation that must be paid back, to as great a degree as possible, by 2100. To not do so will doom our species to a likely extinction in the 22nd century.
The 2020s is truly the last time that humanity can alter our trajectory to avoid civilization collapse by the last quarter of this century… if not sooner. Along with my coauthor Bob Leonard, we set forth the actual map and metrics to do this in this Moving to a Finite Earth Economy5. Reinventing capitalism to make it the most effective tool in addressing our climate crisis, redesigning the tax code, plus a year by year set of metrics to measure humanity’s progress.
2021 was a year when a majority of people came to realize that our climate crisis is what many of us have been saying since the first Earth Day in 1970. As I forecast in “A Look Into 2021: Acceleration / Collapse / Rebound”:
It will become apparent in 2021 that humanity is at a fork in the road relative to our collective future. Either we band together to select a future that places people and the environment first, or we continue along our path towards darkness and destruction.
All of these climate-related weather disasters will continue:
- Fires across Australia in the early part of the year, across the US, Canada and Siberia in the summer and fall.
- Category 4 and 5 cyclones and hurricanes globally all year long.
- Extreme, deadly heat waves in the US, Europe, the Middle East and Asia, and
- Severe droughts where some municipalities around the world come very close to running out of fresh water.
All of the above again in 2022 (or worse… we are still adding CO2 to the accumulation in our atmosphere).
COP26 in November in Glasgow was a total, unmitigated disaster. It showed how governments, politicians and the vast majority of corporations continue to fail in facing the crisis. All the talk was “blah, blah, blah by 2040 or 2045 or 2050”. What!? That is too late! It is easy to make commitments for a date when one will be dead. There was not a single multi-signer agreement that committed nation states to cut “X gigatons of CO2 in 2022”. Immediate, urgent, measurable action was completely avoided after 26 years of “blah, blah, blah” at these meetings.
Part of this problem leads to the second huge dynamic.
The End of the Nation State Century
Assuming that there will be historians in the 22nd and 23rd centuries, the 21st century will be looked back upon as the era when humanity created global governance, supplanting the nation state as the ultimate organizing structure.
The rise in nation states was largely aligned with the Industrial Age. Prior to that we had monarchies, colonies, territories and tribal nations. The centralization and urbanization of the Industrial Age led to the formation of nation states around the world.
The reality of the early 21st century is that the majority of issues and problems facing humanity are global or planetary in nature, requiring global solutions. No one country can solve our climate crisis, or immigration, or population control, or wealth inequality by itself. The COP26 fiasco showed that nation states cannot act with clarity and urgency on any truly global initiatives.
It might sound idealistic, but in this century, humanity must move from an Us/Them mindset to a WE mindset if we are to continue to exist. At the end of 2021, it is difficult to find any unified, urgent actions being taken on behalf of humanity. This issue will become apparent in 2022. The looming dual polarities of the United States and China, nuclear arms discussions, political polarities in Democracies, and increasing autocracies around the world will become top of mind.
The Decline of the American Empire
By any historical measurement, the United States has become a global empire that far surpasses any prior empire in terms of magnitude, power and wealth. The 20th century has been called “the American Century”, but from the vantage point of 2021 it doesn’t look like America will retain the title in this century.
Whether one has read Edward Gibbons6 or Ray Dalio’s new book7, it is clear that historical markers of decline are present today. Massive internal conflicts, over investment in the military, ballooning debt, and unprecedented wealth inequality all echo prior civilization collapses.
The legacy thinking of the Cold War remains the lens of current thinking… only with China replacing the Soviet Union. The real path forward for the American Empire is to lead humanity toward this new global reality at a species level, bringing the rest of the world along. Survival of the empire moves towards survival of the species.
This dynamic will be front and center in 2022 as the split-screen realities of American politics will reach and maintain a feverous pitch of cultural, financial and political combat. This dynamic is not yet cast with the inevitability of the other two major dynamics, but should be noted as something gaining clarity through the decade.
The 2020s are the Fork in the Road
This is the decade where, in almost every major human endeavor, we are at a fork in the road. The road we are currently on leads to the collapse of civilization and eventual extinction of our species. The other road is the one that humanity needs to move to in order to reach a good, creative and positive future.
As a futurist, I deeply admire R. Buckminster Fuller. One of his most influential books: “Utopia or Oblivion: The Prospects for Humanity”8 was written more than 50 years ago. Any futurist with deep roots has been influenced by Fuller. If someone calls themselves a futurist and haven’t read Fuller, it is akin to someone calling themselves a Christian who hasn’t read the bible [Dr. Alvin Toffler and Dr. Marshall McLuhan round out the top three futurists of the last 75 years, with Andy Warhol worthy of inclusion.]
Early in 2021 I joined two other global futurists, Gerd Leonhard and Glenn Hiemstra to launch the #forkintheroadproject that clearly frames this concept of humanity being at a fork in the road. Upon reading the manifesto you will understand that in almost every category of significance, we, as a species are at the fork in the road this decade. It works as an overarching framework.