“We Hate Theory”: Modern Prophets and the Future of Commerce

The Check’s (not) in the Mail
June 23, 2023
Pictured: a portion of the VISIONS multiplayer trends report experience. Coming June 29th.

If you knew the future, would that change how you behave in the present?

What if knowing the future was as easy as seeking out modern philosophers — prophets — who think about the inventory of effects that the present world will bring about?

Wow, yeah, that sounds super boring, doesn’t it? The “theory” of commerce, and the evolution of media, is certainly impractical if you’re in the midst of managing inventory, tax nexus, supply chain woes, and profitability.

“Modern philosophy sounds like art-school gobbledygook” is how a recent Twitter exchange went (I paraphrase, of course, and leave the dedicated Future Commerce reader anon to protect the innocent.)

And yet, every generation have had keen futurists — often artists, writers, poets, and musicians — who foresaw the world in which we now find ourselves. A few notable examples include David Bowie in a 1999 interview, describing the the wonder and power of the internet with chilling accuracy. Or Marshall McLuhan predicting the internet and its effects, nearly 30 years before it came to be.

On June 29th, we will unveil the first transmedia trends report at the intersection of culture and commerce, in the grand tradition of the modern prophet — and we will make it relevant, entertaining, and collaborative.

In VISIONS: Volume IV, we will deliver: 

  • 3.5 hours of video from our VISIONS Symposium at MoMA, and VISIONS: Summit at the Retail Innovation Conference (short-form, and long-form)
  • A 100-page Zine exploring one of the themes of the report in-depth, in stunning full-color glory
  • The first multiplayer, collaborative, Miro-based digital trends report for the commerce sector
  • Original art by Alexx Duvall, visuals by Linda Strawberry, and music by Christopher Harry
  • A three-part influencer scavenger hunt powered by ChatGPT, in collaboration with our friends at Kynship
  • And a forthcoming digital event series that ties all of these online-and-offline experiences together

VISIONS: Volume IV is the result of 20+ collaborators working tirelessly to entertain and inform you of the future of this thing we do in commerce. These modern prophets — artists, writers, poets, operators, founders, doctorates — foresee the world that will be. 

From examining counter-cultures, to the resurgence of physical media formats, to the reconciliation of human-to-machine dynamics.

Pre-save access to the report with a single click, absolutely for free, by clicking right here. 

It’s going to blow your mind. 

— Phillip

P.S. This week on the podcast we welcome Jason Del Rey, author of Winner Sells All: Amazon, Walmart, and the Battle for our Wallets (Harper Business). Jason talks about the journey to investigating the two largest retailers in the world, and how his investigation unveiled the ultimate strategy of the world’s largest retailers. Listen now wherever podcasts are found (here are the convenient Apple and Spotify links).

Normalize… Tobacco? In a strange twist of fate, the culture — as well as trendspotters — seems to be trying to make smoking seem cool again. Hestia craft cigarettes have made their branding, quote, “so good that it's making [people] want to smoke again.” Clayton Chambers (of Sprezza) has shared tweets of about the cool retro vibe of athletes smoking and proof of how much Brad Pitt loves smoking. Breathe easy, friends; the no-smoking section is probably safe (for the time-being).

Small Stocks Stage Comeback. After a stretch of low performance, investors are becoming optimistic about what looks like a turnaround in small-cap stocks. Recent headlines declared that the “bear market” is over in the United States — but Wall Street is not Main Street, is it?

More Sights & Sounds. Patreon is releasing expanded eCommerce tools as well as free memberships for fans. And it sounds like Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk are challenging each other to a cage fight in Vegas.

Photo by Joel Moysuh on Unsplash

Check’s Not in the Mail. The United States Postal Service is encouraging people not to send checks through the mail after check fraud more than doubled last year compared to the year before. It may be time to tell Nana we don’t need that extra $15 in our birthday cards anymore.

Colorful Candy Shells Build Character. Twitter user Paul Voge spotted a Skittles Remix vending machine. “The bad Skittles build character,” he declared. The automated machine allows a customer to choose which part of the rainbow to taste — even if it’s all red or all purple. The vending concept isn’t new — Kylie’s office had one in 2019 — but the tweet makes us wonder… how will the next generation know what is truly sweet, when they have never had to taste what is sour?

It’s Totally Natural. Is AI becoming so ubiquitous that at some point it won’t feel unnatural anymore? Alan Lightman thinks it could start to redefine our deepest assumptions about our world, which has become a balancing act of convenience and digital entitlement.

Opt-Out from Commerce: Buy Nothing Grows in Popularity. Popular on Facebook in many regions, private “Buy Nothing” groups have been popping up since 2013, and many people love the sense of community and belonging the groups create. 

Our Take: Commerce is always at the center of subcultural or counter-cultural movements. The hippies, the greasers, the punk rockers — their participation in, or abstinence from, commerce, are defining characteristics of their belonging and group affiliations.

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