You're in it. I'm in it. We're in it. Together. Riding this light cycle. VZUMMMM! You betcha, it's a rush. Knuckles white. Eyes wide. Unblinking.
Park the metaphor. Curb the light bike. What am I talking about?
I'm talking about CHANGE, and the state it's in, accelerating, zigging and zagging like hell. I'm talking about our 'RIGHT NOW', this revolution in our lifetime, where social, cultural and commercial change is "technology-driven" and definition-destroying.
Boil it down to its absolute binary simplicity, and I'm talking about our DIGITAL STATE.
Let's back it up, to when the cyber cycle was physical, petrol, pedals, a tangible something conventional to ride and understand. We once lived in a fairly fixed bearing world. The compass points were set. Navigation was clear. "Conventions" were time-honoured because they had proven themselves, had stood the test of time. "Things" had names and definitions commonly agreed.
THEN, EVERYTHING CHANGED.
Or at least, that's how it felt.
We awoke one morning to a digital dawn where it felt like we were now eating breakfast in the future. We'd all become Buck Rogers, stirred from cryogenic slumber, with "recent memory" suddenly rather sepia.
Because "today" is a place where technology knows no bounds. And that's the first big point: technology isn't what it used to be.
"Technology" was once a thing (mostly) confined to physical form. A top-loader. A set-top box. Technology was wires and transistors on the inside, contained in metal or plastic. Technology was something you could hold in your hand, could get your head around: a VCR say, or the light bulb.
Then Jobs and Dyson married higher function to curvy, desirable form. Suddenly technology had sex appeal, where having and using it made you feel good. That was a sizable evolutionary moment: when technology stopped being technical and we all became technophiles. But that was only a precursor to the Digital State.
BECAUSE THEN TECHNOLOGY VANISHED.
Then... "technology" crossed the divide, went digital, became invisible. "Post aesthetic"; a bigger evolutionary leap.
Technology went from having a place and knowing its place, and became every and no place. Our photos, films, CDs: binary wisps, where we take thrill in the thought of our "content" being backed-up and cloud-based. Because it sounds cool, our invisible stuff living in an invisible cloud, like we're the cool-cat citizens of Lando Calrissian's Disco City in the Sky.
Technology: now broken free of its physical form, gone airborne, now a cultural contagion, a bug we've all been bitten by.
AND WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
Welcome to the DIGITAL STATE, this fusion of physical and digital worlds, where we no longer do the simplest things the way we used to; no longer jog, socialize, or even listen to music the way we used to; where the simplest words don't mean what they used to. Consider three...
VIDEO: once a prefix for tape, which we now think of in terms of movie clips and YouTube, where "Roll the tape" is a nostalgic but nonsensical expression. Because there is no tape.
TV: once the physical box in the corner of your sitting room... that's still maybe the flat panel on your wall... but that might as likely describe programme "CONTENT" you watch on your... phone.
And this strange shape-shifting noun, "CONTENT", where the challenge is for two people to talk content, and mean the same thing.
Three simple words - VIDEO, TV, CONTENT - now not so simple. Sitting behind these three words are billion dollar global industries in massive flux.
"There is nothing sacred about convention; the fact that a convention exists simply indicates that a way of living has been devised capable of maintaining itself."
George Santayana, philosopher.
Flip Santayana's observation around and we can appreciate the implications. For businesses to maintain themselves, they must adapt.
All businesses are now digital businesses, because we all operate in a digital world. Originally "digital businesses" were tech start-ups - social networks; apps companies; outfits with a Mountain View zip code. Those guys in fact became keyholes. Where they started off with one vision, they happily morphed into something else, and will keep morphing. I was talking to a friend recently, Stewart Easterbrook (CEO, SMG UK), who nailed it with: "It's a world in beta."
Now we gotta make the best of it, improvise, adapt to the environment. Darwin, shit happens, I Ching, whatever man, we gotta roll with it.
Source: Collateral (2004)
The consensus in today's boardrooms: whatever industry vertical you're in, your industry is going to be unrecognizable 5 years hence. Our status quo has become 'status: shift', a Darwin thing, which has taken the form of a digital thing. And to quote an in-character Tom Cruise, we all gotta learn how to roll with it.