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2.12 Trend Hopping

Understanding the impact of a given tribal shift requires a historical perspective on where patterns repeat and clarity about what’s new in this latest variation. Patterns never repeat exactly, but they do recycle. In other words, history rhymes. Accurate and timely forecasts depend upon finding what in the past has presaged the present, and what in the present is unique to its time and place.

In the pre-digital era, the cultural currency of tribes-what is valued by the tribe and why-was brought from hierarchical, centralized structures that dispensed it through prescribed modes of transaction, like money or communications media. In the digital era and beyond, the cultural myths and truths that tribes live by come to them along more decentralized and personal lines of communication. As much as the purveyor of the information shapes its content and meaning, so does the recipient, who also distorts or refines it in alignment with his tribal values and role in the tribe. The results are not unlike the end message in the telephone game played by kids at a birthday party; an initial message becomes modified each time it’s passed to or through the next individual, with the final outcome usually humorously dissimilar from the original.

Such results derive from influential input from many more members of a tribe than before, with the necessary conclusion being that the body of laws and customs and assumptions that the tribe endorses will be smaller, and possibly even less dogmatic in nature. They may also have much broader and more intelligent endorsement by the tribe’s members given the new ability to share and revise.

The insightful forecaster will recognize similar codes across tribes. She will translate them by finding analogues-codes in more familiar tribes that correspond to the ones she is viewing for the first time. She will convert the value of the tribe’s totems to determine whether those symbols are growing or diminishing in cultural currency. She will see the way to the tribe’s future by looking at it’s past.

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