“Surprise is the new normal”

“Surprise is the new normal”

So said Jahangir Aziz, head of emerging markets analysis at JP Morgan, India. He was referring to Prime Minister Modi’s unconventional actions to reduce the Indian cash-based economy. Mr Aziz’s comment applies well beyond economies. Brexit, Trump et al are cries for a change more or less regardless of whether it works. Changes based on such hysteria are extremely dangerous. The fox in the hen house shakes things up, generally not for the better. But that there is a need for a new look at many areas of life is without question.

Capitalism, rich / poor divide, welfare, taxation, costs of development, how democracy could be modified to social advantage, military spending, all demand a new look from both social and technological points of view. Changing a world order on any one of these subjects is not successfully achieved by violent change which fails in the short term. Even in the medium term there is an unacceptable price paid by many, often the poor, always the majority.

Think of it in terms of military combat. Surprise is a great strategy, take your enemy unawares and you will change the batting order very quickly. But good military strategists know that unless you have a follow-through plan you will be left high and dry, even when immediately successful. By definition surprise implies unexpected and therefore often unprepared. It will become integral to our way of life, especially when we have to cope with know-all artificial intelligence. Our ability to surprise AI may be our only defence then.

Given how little we can prepare for surprise what should we do to handle it best?

As with earthquake defences the quality of the foundations will determine how we cope. At present those foundations don’t look too good. A post-truth era in which there is no real possibility of trusting anyone about anything is a poor foundation. A practice of dis-information to market everything, especially ideas, will destroy our concept of selling.

Regulation, with its prescriptive solutions, will reduce personal responsibility and the ability to think for oneself so much that we will not need to be re-formed into automatons. The regulations will themselves do it. To combat these forces we need to achieve an agreed definition of what we mean by society, to seek less law and more justice, to agree socially acceptable behaviour beyond that currently promoted by organised religion and government. In all these areas purely sovereign decisions are not enough, they have to be universal.

While globalisation is being rated a failure by some, those with a vision of harmony for succeeding generations need to apply practical efforts to promote some universal standards. Punishment for failure to meet them has proved unsuccessful. Education in how to build a sustainable culture requires evidence of a stick but minimal use of it. It will not be built on commercial trickery nor even supreme technological skill. Real advance calls for a re-think about the human specie’s purpose. And that cannot begin until we each have a clear idea of what is our own purpose.

May 2017 be the year in which you discover or re-create your Purpose. If it is, it will, for certain, be a Happy New Year.

And all of us at Terrific Mentors International wish you that with all our hearts.