The Doomsday Cults will have Great Hair

PLUS: Serena Williams* loves this cereal (*not that Serena)
March 8, 2023

Welcome to Wednesday, Futurists.

All the cool kids are talking about our Youtube Shorts, especially our newest piece wherein Brian cites Marshall McLuhan’s “Understanding Media,” and how AI is the disembodiment of the mind. The comments are especially salty.

But while we were busy in the content mines churning out fresh batches of content last week, the AI was brooding; waiting, biding its time, crafting the perfect media narrative.

PR campaigns rarely align so perfectly. This week alone we tracked news sites that were completely made up, humanoid robots that look like they want to slap Will Smith, and people who want to grant personhood rights to robots (I thought that we already did this with corporations?!).

Not to brag, but we said it first in July of 2022, when we theorized that the new frontier of the “right to life” movement (by any other name) would be aimed at those who believe AI has a consciousness.

Or as we put it: 

"A new type of religion is being formed in our midst… whether or not [the machine] is alive or not is irrelevant. What is important is that people believe that it is."

Doomsday cults have long-existed, and are often centered on phenomena that cannot be controlled. Be it solar eclipses, the return of a comet, nuclear threats, or UFOs; we’re now witnessing a new era through media saturation in AI fears and concerns. Make no mistake, the cultists are hungry for new content, and the algorithm stands at the ready to sate their desires.

Desires drive consumption, after all, and if you can shape desires you can shape Commerce. To date, the algorithms that power desires have been commercially motivated — selling the eyeballs of social media to the highest bidder in advertising auctions. 

The desire-shaping of the future could go deeper, by allowing access to someones trains of thought; or subscribing to their desires as a service. This could be as tangible as shopping other people’s in-progress shopping carts in eCommerce, or perusing their wishlists.

Or it could be searching their literal minds.

McLuhan’s theory of the disembodiment of the mind isn’t so far off from what’s already happening. Future Commerce podcast guest Sari Azout recently made her brain available for searching.

When I asked Sari what to buy? She suggested using Klarna to purchase a hair dryer and kitchen essentials.

It looks like the doomsday cults will have to compete with capitalism; but they’ll have gorgeous freaking hair — and crushing debt.

— Phillip

Good Vibes. Hannah Grey has released a new downloadable trends report, called Cultural Vibrations, Interviews About The Future: 2023. The report contains 8 interviews discussing our future “​​as we navigate the increasingly chaotic intersection of culture and innovation.”

Chatbot Warnings. The first chatbot over 50 years ago predicted dangers to come in the future of AI. We love chatbots because we make them like us, in our image. And we love looking at ourselves.

More Sights & Sounds. The Building Better B2B Marketplaces report shares refined expansion strategies of B2B businesses. SoundCloud is testing a vertical AI-powered music discovery feed similar to TikTok. Amazon is working on NFTs for customers to purchase that are tied to physical goods. Walmart will close several stores this year that have been performing poorly financially. Home Depot is launching a Roblox-based Virtual Kids Workshop. Nature’s Bounty is in hot water with the FTC for false advertising via “review hijacking.” Its a dark practice that may impact other UGC practices including paid actors posing as UGC on TikTok and Reels. Companies across the board are increasing their offerings with fancier, higher priced option, resulting in the corporate world’s newest buzzword, "premiumization.” Enjoy this Gen Z PowerPoint aesthetic for government. Also, this is a very very good short essay on curation and self absorption.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheepskin Hoodies? Who wouldn’t want to wrap themselves in this fashion moment created in Midjourney? On a long-enough time horizon, all  of fashion and media arrives at always-on comfort. And what’s more comfortable than becoming a walking bed?

Angle of Attack. A Tiktoker and former Apple employee recently broke silence on one of Apple’s consumer psychology efforts to drive sales. In its retail stores, Apple sets all screens to a specific angle of 76º. The angle isn’t optimized for viewing; rather, it forces shoppers to move them — to physically touch and adjust the product. This is thought to stimulate a physical connection with the device, which heightens the likelihood of purchase.

*Not An Actual Celebrity. Surreal, “a high-protein, zero sugar, keto-friendly and plant-based cereal” according to their website, is using endorsements from everyday people who share the same name as celebrities. The dupe brand is copying Off-Limits, a cereal brand backed by Peter Pham’s venture firm, which also backs Liquid Death. That said, the out of home marketing is seemingly effective.

Nothing Really Matter(horn)s to Me. Strict rules that define “what Swissness is,” means that Toblerone’s packaging will have to lose its Matterhorn mountain peak, as some of the chocolate’s production will move to Slovakia. There will still be a mountain on the packaging, it will just be a more generic one.

More Palate News. Even food is “quiet quitting” now, as companies such as Kraft Heinz sneak “Not Cheese” into the shelves of supermarket coolers. Doordash is now showing a tag for “virtual brands” in its interface. Chipotle has added the Fajita Quesadilla to its digital menu, based on a viral TikTok menu hack.

Plagiarism or Art? The Supreme Court is close to its decision on a case regarding an Andy Warhol piece depicting Prince. And what they decide could affect opinions on 500 years worth of art, as well as art’s future.

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