The controls that we recognise are under threat.

Where we buy from has changed in recent years, but the basic premise of shopping is still recognisable. If you want a new computer, bedside lamp, car… you research the subject and make a decision to buy. However you buy, the transaction is relatively similar to the way your parents did it.

Of course, now we have the internet. A new place to go shopping. For most honest citizens, that’s as far as it goes. The web allows us all to buy anything we want, whenever we want it, and it gets delivered on time (usually) and in full.

If you’re selling in this market, there are also still strong similarities between customers today and previous generations: they have an idea, look around for people that sell it, go and choose it, and pay tax on the purchase. Whether the advertising that helped attract the customer was a magazine advert, a billboard, or a sidebar targeted at them with Adwords, there are few substantial differences.

Companies sometimes do things that affect their reputations. Enron spills oil into the sea, Amazon and Starbucks are thought not to pay enough tax, and Facebook is accused of not taking content as seriously as we want. We get to know about these things really quickly, thanks to the way media have evolved, and we react according to our own biases. Stop using Facebook or move to Café Nero: your choice.

The issue that we all face, as markets evolve into digital entities, is that international rules around trade and commerce can’t develop quickly enough. And the risk to us as consumers is growing

A major threat is the Dark Web. Some believe it threatens the structure of everything that we, as regular shopping citizens, recognise as ‘normal’.

Banks aren’t sure whether crypto-currencies will wipe them out. If it happens, much of what we understand about finance will change. This won’t happen overnight, but it could happen. What then? How does society structure and control finance?

The blockchain has the potential to record and reveal every transaction made with cryptocurrencies and across all product types. Ironically, this is great for traceability and helping differentiate between the real item you chose to buy and copies, but it still doesn’t necessarily help control who’s doing the copying, within the structures we recognise today.

Law-makers appear as conflicted today as they’ve always been. Crime against property still seems to be punished more seriously than crime against the person. Consider Ross Ulbricht and his double-life plus 40-year sentence for starting Silk Road. A message may have been sent to the Dark Web about the gravity of illegal drug trading, but renegades like Ulbricht have a habit of sparking off a revolution rather than a corporation.

If you don’t know much about The Dark Web, there’s an excellent exposé of the subject on www.audible.com in a series of new journalism they call Audible Originals. It’s a well-produced analysis of the state of internet evolution. It may not affect what you do today or tomorrow, but it will open your eyes to a set of rules that may be changing.

Knowing it could happen is where trend analysis starts.

We a few places on our called ‘Spotting trends and signals: Seeing things differently’ in September. Book here.

You can click to see all September workshops dates on our website here or give us a call for old-fashioned talking on +44 (0)20 8144 9800.

Seeing it differently. Future-proofing. It’s what we do.

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