I’m thinking about some important things. Digital trends. Realizations about how the change to the digital age happens faster in some places than others. How internet culture and lifestyle adjustments pass from more developed countries to the rest of the world. And how the technology and customs that are created in these developed countries change and adapt to localized culture.
The digital transformation is rewriting our global culture. Here are some important areas of change I’m exploring.
Great Business Ideas Empower People to Feel in Control of Their Own Fate
As we transition deeper into the digital age our needs are changing. Our motivations for action are transitioning from physiological necessity to psychologically driven. A direct result of automation and an age of abundance. And this trend is only going to increase in time.
Psychological motivations push us to feel as though we have a daily routine where we take action towards a desired goal. People feel good when they believe they are making progress towards their goals.
And an ability to deliver that feeling is lucrative.
As an example, consider how women buy cosmetic products that not only enhance their looks but fulfill longer term beauty preservation. Creams, lotions, ointments, and salves are shopped for and applied in regular routines to optimize for a particular outcome. Less wrinkles, skin blemishes, lightening or darkening and so on. The entire point is that the cosmetic market is all about empowering the user to feel in control of creating a desired outcome (appearance).
Whether it really works or not, the product provides a feeling when applied that the user is actively taking a step towards the desired outcome. The product could fail to deliver it’s promise as long as it delivers the right perception of controlling a desired outcome.
To that end – the information age is going to be a renaissance for the “dark arts”. ie: leveraging psychology and an understanding of behavioral economics to influence the decisions consumers make.
It’s the ability to manipulate people based on their innate psychological needs and its becoming important for everyone to understand.
The dark arts improve your ability to sell online but also helps you be a better consumer. To see through products and marketing that exploit human psychology.
How We Evaluate & Compare Countries is Changing
There is a great variance in how we evaluate and compare countries.
We still use Cold War era categories like “first world country” but these categories no longer accurately categorize the world’s nations. For example, I recently traveled to Greece by way of Germany. Both are Euro zone countries and considered first world countries by modern development standards. But they couldn’t be more different. Germany is a global superpower while Greece is not far removed from a sovereign debt crisis.
When looking at the world through the lens of the digital transformation, it’s clear that how we evaluate and categorize countries is changing in the digital age. The categories aren’t well formed yet but the first world and third world model is no longer a useful system.
Balaji Srinivasan frequently talks about re-framing the world as ascending and descending countries.
“it’s no longer really accurate to speak of the “developed” and “developing” world. These pockets of innovation – sometimes the size of whole countries – are ahead of much of the globe. We should instead speak of the ascending world and the declining world, recognizing that this designation is not strictly geographical, and that there are those who are ascending even within parts of the world that are currently down on their luck”
Balaji’s categories capture the changing nature of our world. But ascending and descending country descriptors still miss out on the nuance of sub categorization.
Countries need to be organized by categories like digital & mobile infrastructure, remote work policies, cash vs digital payments, digital education, and digital/tech oriented job opportunities. With these data points, it becomes more clear which countries are ascending, descending, the rate of change, and the areas of opportunity they represent.
There are many other aspects of digital transformation that can be measured which I will document via The Sovereign Individual Weekly.
Eastern Block Europe is A Massive Digital Age Opportunity
Taking this idea of country categorization and the digital transformation one step further – Eastern Europe is a digital age growth powder keg.
Immense digital opportunity exists in the surging eastern European style countries. Countries that have lagged the last 30 years finally have an appetite and the skills to enter the digital workforce. What’s most important is that they can enter the global, digital workforce at a fraction of the cost of “first world” and “developed” nation workers.
This opportunity is created by a couple of factors that combine to create this fault line opportunity.
- A global adoption of remote work
- Mobile phone and digital connectivity rates continue to increase
- Digital education is democratized as internet economies of scale reduce costs of education
- Lower cost of living locations can geo-arbitrage wages – they outbid developed world wage rates to win more jobs
What it means is that Eastern Europe is well positioned to start attracting global jobs and capital.
The Pace of Digital Life is Accelerating – Act Quickly & Decisively
Life has always been a competition. The opportunities you avoid will be seized by someone else. When we lived in smaller communities this didn’t have much of an impact. But in an increasingly global, digital, and instantly connected world, the opportunities you pass will be seized by a growing population of connected individuals.
The digital age is an exponential age. And in this age, an emerging driver of success is an ability to act quickly and decisively. This also means that momentum becomes one of the most important attributes a person can incorporate into their life.
As societal change accelerates we become more globally connected and any moment spent thinking, pondering, and not progressing leaves you vulnerable to the getting left behind exponential progress. Think of it in terms of the velocity of accumulated advantage and disadvantage using the compound interest formula.
To create compound interest you can use several levers:
Think of decision making momentum as (n), the frequency of times you take actions impacts the total value formula of all actions you’ve ever taken. If you lose momentum, you lose out on the ability to add to your total pool of actions (principle) and reduce the potential frequency of compounding value.
That’s a little complicated so here it is in simple terms: Act quickly, decisively, and more frequently than your peers.
Any action you skip will increasingly be done by someone else. When your peers take action that you don’t, they compound their progress at a greater rate than you. This creates a runaway advantage for the action oriented people and harms anyone that can’t keep up momentum with societal progress.
As change accelerates in the digital age, its most important that you simply make moves to keep up with this change. They won’t always be right choices. But the reality is that it’s more costly to stand still than occasionally making wrong choices. The catch is that you need to learn to make wrong choices and then quickly course correct or else you accumulate disadvantage.
Don’t take too much time to think through the options before taking action. Maintain a constant rate of action.
Language In the Digital Age is Adapting
English is such a powerhouse language and is representative of much of the digital innovation over the last 30 years. No matter where you travel, regardless of the local language, you’ll pick up random English words in conversations. The words that were developed when creating digital age technologies that have no literal translation.
Technology breakthroughs happen at a pace that language cannot keep up with. And as a result, it appears that English as a language benefits from this reality on a global scale.
If technological change continues to accelerate, it likely forces a language compression on a global scale into one or a few useful languages. ie: English will continue to become a universal language.
Speaking the local language will always unlock more doors. But the globally connected world will want to continue to communicate without waiting for languages to catch up. It leaves me to thinking, how might this trend evolve in the digital age?
First Impressions & Perception Matter More Than Ever
First impressions and perception matter more than ever on a global basis. Every idea I discussed above builds to this realization. The digital transformation is bringing more people than ever closer together. It forces us to compete with more people who have a drive to maintain momentum, and a willingness to leverage local benefits to compete on a global stage.
This means that first encounters, judgements, and perceptions are more essential in the digital age. We can no longer afford to have second chances in a world where 4 billion people are competing for digital opportunities. And it’s likely that we’ll see another 4 billion people come online this decade.
Because of this – an ability to control perception and first impressions is a form of power projection.
Your ability to control first impressions can help guide how people perceive you and thus is a form of power in the digital age. I expect we’ll see people invest more (not less) in appearance and how people first experience them in both digital and physical settings moving forward.
Navigating Cultural Nuance is A New Superpower
The ability to navigate cultural nuance in an increasingly integrated global experience is a superpower.
Understanding the grey areas that form between cultures – (ie: what is acceptable behavior and not) and being able to navigate them successfully can open up new market opportunities around the world. Consider the ultracompetitive landscape laid out in the sections above. If you had to choose between two clients and one understands and willingly embraces the norms you’re accustomed to, which one do you think you’d pick?
Language compression and geo-arbitrage of labor may be taking place but impressions and cultural nuance still matter.
On cultural nuance – don’t be surprised when your preferences aren’t understood or properly served in foreign places. Especially the cultures that haven’t experienced the full abundance of the “first world”. For example, in these “ascending” places – veganism and other abstinence based diets may not be understood.
Or perhaps a colleague is habitually late because he/she comes from a country with different customs related to time. An ability to understand cultural distances in a world blending them all together creates deeper and more meaningful relationships.
Digital Age Resilience Means Being Able to Survive Without Internet
When’s the last time you turned your phone off and tried to navigate a foreign city? Forced yourself to struggle to communicate directions with a local using broken language and hand signals.
As a society, we’re losing certain skills that remain important. An ability to disconnect from the global consciousness and zeitgeist. And an ability to figure things out on our own (without Google). Without disconnecting, it becomes increasingly unlikely that we have original thoughts.
Instead of being dependent on GPS to get you to and from a location, have you paid attention to your surroundings? Identified critical landmarks and way posts? How about the influence that constant connectivity has on your ability to generate an independent and original thought?
Call it meditation, unplugging, or simply taking time away from it all, there is a growing importance to disconnecting from the global consciousness. Take time away from the internet to maintain a semblance of self sovereignty. In the digital age, connectivity is of great importance but so is individuality. And you cannot maintain your individuality if you never unplug.
There is No Instruction Manual For What Comes Next
There is no guru, no expert, and no data set that will paint a perfect image of the future. No one can tell you what exactly will come next. We can connect some dots and trace a chain of logical events to a probable conclusion. But if you need to be told exactly what to do at every step of the way you’re not gonna make it.
There is no instruction manual for the rapid and accelerating change of the digital age.
The quicker you embrace that reality and adapt to changing times, the better off you’ll be. Don’t expect to make every right choice when taking action to maintain momentum in this exponential age. Instead you need to act, gather data, adapt, react, and continuously push forward.
I’ll write more about each of these categories in the near future. How they merge together to create our digital age circumstances and what you can do to incorporate their lessons into your life.
But for now, I think it’s good enough to realize the world is changing in profound ways. Sometimes it’s nice to just recognize important things happening around us and from their start to connect the dots of how it impacts our lives.
I’m piecing together a new narrative that makes sense of society’s shift into the Digital Age. The goal: to document the paths to becoming a Sovereign Individual. Giving you the facts and tools necessary to successfully navigate an increasingly digital life. I cover topics and narratives you can’t fully appreciate because you’re in the thick of it. Providing insights and analysis that are not always covered or accepted by conventional thought.