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Posted by Tom Cheesewright on

Bangernomics For All

Yesterday I sold a thirteen-year-old, broken car for £661. I bought it almost exactly four years ago for £2200. During that time it has cost me around £300 a year in parts and servicing. And I spent about another £400 on tidying it up cosmetically. Total spent: £3800.

Subtracting the money returned to me by the car’s sale, that’s £800 per year — less than £70 per month of motoring.

I covered around 70,000 miles in the car while I owned it. It finally died after 211,600 miles.

That’s less than 5p per mile. For a car that cost over £45,000 when new. A car that had luxuries like leather seats, cruise control, self-levelling air suspension.

A car whose carbon cost of manufacture was long in its history. It’s particulate emissions may not have been pretty but this was a pretty green car (as far as cars can be).

In an age of planned obsolescence and fast fashion it was nice to own something with a bit of history. Something that even now is going to be fixed or stripped for parts to keep other ageing motors on the road.

Though our pictures of the future are often dominated by the shiny and new, we may look to our technology to last a little longer once the realities of climate change start to bite. In the UK this is likely to be outside the 20 year windows on which we primarily focus, but eventually we’re all going to have to accept that a rapid turnover of new goods, whether it’s cars, clothes or phones is simply unsustainable unless we get very, very good at recycling and dramatically clean up our energy generation. So much of the carbon cost of these goods is in their manufacture that extending their lifespan is going to be increasingly important.

In the mean time though, I won’t lie: I get jealous of friends and even random strangers with new cars. It may not be rational but I dream of being able to splash tens of thousands on a new — ideally all-electric — family car with a bit of pizazz.

But right now that’s not a possibility. So unless a car dealer or manufacturer decides they want to swap a car for my services in the next few weeks (and I’m still open to offers), I’ll be returning to my policy of Bangernomics. Knowing that if I have to own a car, it’s the most economically, and environmentally, sound thing to do.

Not very futuristic, but good for the future.

Posted by Tom Cheesewright on

You Are All Self-Employed

This is the new reality. Or at least you need to behave as if it is.

One of the things that has become clear this year, reinforced by listening to Adrian Wooldridge’s RSA talk earlier this week, is that we need to offer the tools of applied futurism to individuals as well as organisations.

The ‘age of disruption’ in which we are living may be bringing down companies and forcing public sector organisations through radical change. But fundamentally it is the people within those organisations who are most greatly affected. It is they who need the tools to see the disruption coming, and the techniques to respond in an agile fashion.

Taking action to be prepared when the disruption comes requires a change in mindset, from employee, to self-employed. I don’t want to get into the politics or the ideology here — what I would like to be the case, and what IS the case are often at odds. Simply put, in the UK particularly we look to be entering an age when we can rely on neither the state nor our employers to shield us from disruption.

It doesn’t matter what you do, nor who you do it for: whether it is public sector or private, skilled, unskilled or professional work, the gales of creative destruction are blowing hard and organisations will either be flattened by them or respond — often by placing the risk on you.

Thinking of yourself as self-employed now begins the shift to a mindset where you can understand and articulate your value to this employer, or the next one. It gets you thinking ahead about your own pipeline of work, and looking back at the impact you’ve delivered.

Over the second half of this year we’ll be looking to develop more tools of personal applied futurism. But in the meantime, maybe it’s time start thinking differently.

Posted by Tom Cheesewright on

The Great Disruption: How Will You Respond?

One of the things you don’t want when you’re starting a business is to be the only player in the field. The chances that your idea is truly unique are infinitesimally small. Tell a prospective investor that you have no competition, and she hears “we have no market.”

When you’re in the business of ideas, the same rules apply. It’s great to hear other people telling similar stories — especially if you respect their perspective.

Adrian Wooldridge, the management editor of the Economist has written a new book called The Great Disruption. In this talk at the RSA he introduces it. Though we tackle the topic from different perspectives (economics and technology), if you have heard me speak you will recognise many of the same themes.

Though I’m always happy to come and speak (or frankly write a book if someone will put up the advance), our main business here at Book of the Future is not forecasting greater disruption. It’s helping people and organisations to deal with it.

If you accept Adrian Wooldridge’s analysis (and mine), the question is: what do you do next?

Posted by Tom Cheesewright on

Twitter ‘Favorites’: A Case Study of Evolving Social Media Etiquette

How do you use Twitter’s ‘favorite’ button? Twitter itself suggests a couple of ways that people can use it here:

“Favorites, represented by a small star icon in a Tweet, are most commonly used when users like a Tweet. Favoriting a Tweet can let the original poster know that you liked their Tweet, or you can save the Tweet for later.”

Personally, I use favourites1 largely for the latter reason as part of an attempt to overcome what I still believe is one of the biggest problems on the web: discovery.

I want to know who is talking about issues that are important to me, primarily the four categories we cover: the future human, future cities, future business and future communications. I also want to know about great keynotes (and not just TEDTalks), both as a speaker who is always looking to improve, and as a conference organiser with TMRW, thinking about the next event.

I don’t have time to manually scour Twitter for people talking about these things so I use an automated tool that finds and favourites tweets containing certain key phrases2. This creates a shortlist (or sometimes a long list) of tweets for me (and Mason, my colleague who co-curates the feed) to check out.

The phrases we search for are constantly being tweaked but as you can see from looking at the current favourites list, it has a pretty good hit rate of interesting stuff. From it I find new people to follow, interesting articles and things that we might retweet.

We also find abuse. Like this (excuse the language).

Now this person clearly uses favourites in the other way that Twitter suggests. They’re having a very difficult time. I can absolutely see how favouriting a tweet where they were documenting their problems could be seen as offensive — if you assume that by favouriting the tweet I was ‘liking’ their misfortune.

For me and others (I know I’m not alone in this), the favourite has two meanings. It’s not as simple as a Facebook ‘Like’. But we may well be in the minority. To the extent that in the future our usage of the favourite is not only not recognised, it is broadly accepted as wrong. Maybe that’s the case already?

Either way this is an interesting little case study of how the meaning of simple gestures in social media can evolve rapidly, be interpreted differently by different people, and how that difference in interpretation can clearly cause offence.

1. Dropping the quotes and adding a 'u' from this point on.
2. By the way I'm not trying to hide the fact that the tool that I use to do this is promoted as a marketing tool, that that is how we discovered it, or that it works very well at finding us new followers as well as people to follow. But research is absolutely a key part of its value.
Tom Cheesewright