Disruption – Early warning signals
‘Polycrisis’ seems to be an innocuous conversational term used to enable elites to recognise like-minded associates within public settings. It is increasingly used by those whose self-worth hangs on whether they will be invited to Davos in January. I suspect the new word of the year will be along the lines of hypercrisis, Industry x.0 or polytrust. Levity aside, we do appear to be living in disruptive times.
The question is whether disruption is on the increase, peaked or in decline. No one knows. The future is unknowable. But what we can do is study variables that are indicative of disruptiveness. So for example your general wellbeing declining over time is indicative of at least some level of personal disruption. Increasing acts of civil disobedience in your local town may be indicative of larger scale disruption. An increasing number of meteors, of increasing size, hitting the Earth may indicate that peak disruption, at least for mammals, is imminent.
Here are some variables you might choose to track to build your own picture of how disruption is trending locally and globally:
Or cost management, is a way to do more with less. It is also a way for a dying business to masquerade profit. At a personal level, it is a sign that we must cut our cloth in accordance with rising prices. Timewise, it might indicate that we are trying to distract ourselves by doing more, perhaps to block out an increasingly uncomfortable reality. At a corporate or government level, it is suggestive that the organisation has run out of ideas. Ultimately efficiency reduces each action to an inhuman transaction and that leads us down a path to losing our humanity.
If you sense that you are losing control of your life, it is because someone else is gaining control of it. It might be an indicator that the economic and social divide is widening. Or it may be that your employer is tightening the reins as it races towards the cliff edge.
People lose interest in the wellbeing of strangers when they feel society / their community is not working well for them. Given we are social animals, this drift towards self-centredness is indicative of mental unwellness and this in turn leads to a sick society.
A growing sense of urgency makes us less intelligent. Eventually we burn out, but in the meantime, we miss opportunities and threats because we are so focused on the current task that we forget to pay attention to our environment. Such a perma-urgent disposition would transform us into prey on the savanna.
There is a lot to be said for growth. It is a sign of life. Many of us seek personal growth. However if you are hearing lots of talk about growth, but at the same time are not feeling it, then this is another indicator that you, and likely many others, are on the wrong side of the socioeconomic divide. If shareholders continue to insist on growth then we may have to find a new planet to pillage.
Increasing inflexibility in the decision making of our leaders is an indicator of their insecurity. They are grasping a comfort blanket of sorts in respect of applying old approaches to what will increasingly be new scenarios. Increasing fundamentalism and dogmatism on social media will be an indicator that the algorithm sponsors are taking charge of the discussion.
An absence of certain species such as frogs and bees are an indicator of major food supply problems ahead. The growth in corporate DEI functions is an indicator that the leadership team think this is a departmental issue and in turn will create an organism that will naturally not rush to bring about its own demise. Thus continuing to stoke socioeconomic unfairness.
Like DEI, if we see a growth in the usage of this randomly assembled term it will indicate that corporations similarly see sustainability as a (fashionable) detail of the business rather than the lens through which the business must be managed. This has existential consequences for all stakeholders.
If you find that increasingly there is less of a demand for you to think deeply, perhaps because you have an app for every situation, eg. Google Maps or Chat GPT, then neurologically you will start to shut down. Being less intelligent will make the world seem more disruptive than it actually is.
An increase in the number of futurists popping up at conferences or in the media is an indicator of the extent to which the future is knowable. I suspect that they will soon be declared a protected species.
Collectively, these ten indicators might be considered a heuristic technique for developing your own world view on disruption’s trajectory.
Given we are not immune from disruption, it might be wise to think of yourself as a pilot. When the plane is in freefall, it is best focus on acting rather than being enthralled by the altimeter.