New Week Same Humans #61

Global management consultancies are building a dystopian city-state in the middle east. A special announcement on the first ever NWSH event! Plus more news and analysis from this week.

Welcome to the mid-week update from New World Same Humans, a newsletter on trends, technology, and society by David Mattin.

If you’re reading this and you haven’t yet subscribed, join 19,000+ curious souls on a journey to build a better shared future 🚀🔮

💡 In this week’s Sunday note I wrote about the Earth as holiday destination for space-dwelling humans. Go here to read Theme Park Earth.💡

Special announcement klaxon! 🤩

For a while now I've been at work on a special project for our community. Today I can finally make it public.

This is the most excited I've been for a NWSH announcement, and I hope you'll be excited too! Introducing...

New Year Same Humans: Five Trends to Supercharge You in 2022! 🎉🚀

It's an online event, a trend report, and a rolling trend update service, all in one. At the event on 14 December at 16:00 GMT, I'll share five powerful trends set to reshape human behaviours and mindsets in 2022 and beyond. These trends will be exclusive to the event; I won’t write about them anywhere else.

Miss the event? No problem! Attendees will have exclusive access to a full recording.

But that's not all: afterwards I'll send attendees the 60+ slide trend report, containing even more insights and examples. And across 2022, I'll email quarterly trend evolution updates, featuring new ideas on how you can apply the trends inside your career or business.

Claim your super early bird place!

This is an end of year extravaganza for the NWSH crowd. And while the insights will be pro-grade, I want it to be accessible to all. So I've put a super early bird price of just €25 on the event, report, and update service. I hope you’ll agree this represents crazy value.

If you’re keen to make the most of 2022 – and to support NWSH – this event is for you. All the above, plus the warm fuzzy feeling of knowing that you’re a NWSH patron! Learn more and claim your spot here. 🙏😍

This week, Saudi Arabia reveal ambitious plans for a hyper-futuristic eco-city. But what do they tell us about the Global North’s foresight industrial complex?

Also, researchers dive deep into the psychology of future space colonists. And the founder of YouTube doesn’t like the direction the platform is heading in.

Let’s go!

🌆 City of dreams

This week, Saudi Arabia announced plans to create the world’s largest floating industrial complex, Oxagon.

Intended to be a net-zero mini-city powered by clean energy, Oxagon is the latest addition to the Kingdom’s vision for NEOM, a vast and hyper-futuristic city-state set to take shape in its northwestern corner, bordering the Red Sea.

Oxagon will be NEOM’s industrial quarter, with a focus on autonomous mobility, sustainable food production, and space technologies, among other sectors.

The plans for NEOM – which will operate under an autonomous government and judicial system – are grandiose: think flying cars, a futuristic Jurassic Park full of robo-dinosaurs, and a giant artificial moon. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is chair of the project; he says the city will bring together, ‘the world’s greatest minds, to develop solutions for humanity’s most pressing challenges’.

⚡ NWSH Take: A pseudo-utopian Disneyland with strong nightmare undertones. But two deep shifts underlie the dark fantasy that is NEOM. // First, the Saudis know that oil must run out some day. NEOM is their play to remain relevant, and rich, in a post-carbon world. // To that end, the Crown Prince has hired some of the world’s most prestigious consultancies to create a $500 billion sci-fi LARP, complete with artificial sand that glows at night. McKinsey and Boston Consulting Group drew up the plans; communications giant Edelman is running a relentless PR campaign across social media. // The full weight of the Global North’s futures industrial complex, then, is in the service of one of the world’s most repressive regimes. The project is a perfect symbol for a longstanding NWSH obsession: the tendency of today’s foresight industry to reinforce existing power structures, rather than imagining radically new and better futures for all. If we want to draw up plans for a revised future, we urgently need a revolution inside the foresight industry.

🪐 Martian independence day

If humans ever colonise another planet, how will those early pioneers come to think about Earth? A new paper this week gives an intriguing insight.

Published in Frontiers in Physiology, the paper describes two experiments recently conducted at Moscow’s Institute of Biomedical Problems. Volunteer colonists were locked inside a mock Martian base designed to simulate life on the Red Planet. In one experiment, the colonists stayed inside the base for four months.

Crucially, researchers found that over time their communications with mission control – in other words, with Earth – dramatically declined in number and duration. Life on the colony led to a weakening of emotional and psychological ties to those back home; even those central to the mission.

This detachment phenomenon has been seen in previous off-Earth simulations. Researchers say it may make it difficult to for those on Earth to exercise lasting influence over the development of a colony on another planet.

⚡ NWSH Take: The study of life in off-Earth environments is new, but burgeoning. NASA is planning a year-long simulated mission to Mars, and recently selected a crew for a pre-study lasting 45 days. And I’ve long been obsessed with the pre-launch video game and metaversal world Seed, which wants players to come together online to simulate the experience of colonising a new planet. // When Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos outline their plans for life in space, politics never seems to come up. Read this paper, and that omission becomes all too apparent. It tells us that a future collective sent to colonise Mars may come to reject governance from Earth and eventually declare independence. In other words, even if we can get people to a permanent Martian base, we’ll have little long-term say over how it all turns out. // The fundamental message here? Even in a new world of Martian colonies, we’ll still be the same humans, with the same old tendencies towards inter-group conflict. If the dream of a permanent off-Earth base is ever to be realised – and I’m sceptical – then conquering ourselves will be the hardest challenge.

📺 Just like that

This week, YouTube made a controversial change. And a voice from the platform’s deep past made itself heard.

The video giant says it will soon stop displaying dislikes, or ‘thumbs down’ counts, on all content. The dislike button will still be active, but only the user who posted the video will be able to see the dislike total.

YouTube say the move comes partly in response to coordinated campaigns, which see competitors bomb a video with dislikes. And it’s also stressing the negative toll that dislikes take on the mental health of content creators.

But YouTube founder Jawed Karim is deeply unimpressed. And he’s found an innovative way to let the world know. Karim stars in the now-iconic ‘Me at the zoo’ video – the first ever posted on the platform – and he’s dropping regular arguments against the change into the video description.

The gist of his argument? Most user-generated content is not good. If users can’t quickly identify the best stuff, they’ll eventually go elsewhere; YouTube will fall into terminal decline.

⚡ NWSH Take: It’s been a long time since I last watched ‘Me at the zoo’. Viewed from 2021, that video has the power to make 2005 seem both ten minutes and six million years ago. // But deeper considerations are at play here. In the end, this story gets to the heart of a war for the soul of social platforms. Should they serve content consumers at all costs? Or should they make concessions to the feelings of content creators, too? Of course, you can do a bit of both. But tensions undeniably exist. For consumers, dislike totals are a useful indicator. For creators, they can be torture. // All this comes in the wake of rising concern that many creators face a toxic mixture of stress and trolling. Instagram just handed creators the ability to hide like counts on posts; now it seems YouTube is heading in a similar direction. The social landscape, including the ubiquitous 👍 and 👎, is about to be redrawn in the name of mental health.

🗓️ Also this week

🤯 Meta and Microsoft announced a new partnership that will allow Workplace to integrate with MS Teams. Users will be able to see Teams content inside the Workplace app, and vice versa. Back in New Week #59, I said that Microsoft were set to go to war with Meta over the future of work. Is this an outbreak of peace? It’s too early to call, but hostilities are clearly not going to break out as soon as I’d thought.

🍿 Film studio Miramax is suing Quentin Tarantino over his plan to sell Pulp Fiction-related NFTs. Tarantino wants to sell scans from the handwritten original script; the studio says his contract doesn’t allow that.

🚨 US police forces have trialled software that scans social media data to predict who will commit crimes. A new investigation into tech firm Voyager Labs says its AI profiling relies on stereotypes and may infringe First Amendment rights in the US.

📜 A DAO has raised over $27 million to buy a 1787 first-edition copy of the US Constitution. A DAO is a decentralised collective run on a blockchain; ConstitutionDAO, which is comprised of more than 7,000 people, plan to bid on the document when it is auctioned via Sotheby’s on 18 November.

🇨🇳 The CPP has empowered a secretive committee to erase US technology companies from Chinese public life. The Information Technology Application Innovation Working Committee will choose vetted technology companies to work on sensitive sectors such as banking and data storage.

🍄 The hallucinogen in magic mushrooms was found to help alleviate depression in the largest ever clinical trial on the subject. Researchers conducted a randomised, controlled trial of psilocybin on 233 patients. The UK is considering legalising the substance for use in medical research.

💪 The UN responded to a challenge from Elon Musk with a $7 billion plan to alleviate famine. Musk tweeted the challenge when the executive director of the U.N.'s World Food Programme, David Beasley, told CNN that just two percent of Musk’s wealth could help end hunger.

👽 A new space telescope will search for alien life around Earth’s closest neighbouring star system. The privately funded Toliman telescope is set to launch in the mid-2020s, and will search for planets that are in orbit around Alpha Centauri and that are able to sustain life.

🌍 Humans of Earth

Key metrics to help you keep track of Project Human.

🙋 Global population: 7,907,411,271
🌊 Earths currently needed: 1.7969876318

💉 Global population vaccinated: 41.1%

🗓️ 2021 progress bar: 88% complete

📖 On this day: On 17 November 2019, the first known case of COVID-19 is traced to a 55-year-old man who had visited a wet market in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.

A whole new year

Thanks for reading this week.

The launch of the first ever NWSH event is a proud moment. Thanks to all of you for being part of this community, and making that moment possible. That you’ve come along on this ride with me is deeply appreciated 🙏🙏

Now a whole new year is calling, and it’s full of opportunity.

Until December 14, I’ll be at work on the trends, insights, and examples that can empower you to seize it.

And I’ll be in your inbox as usual, of course. Until Sunday, be well,


P.S Huge thanks to Nikki Ritmeijer for the illustration at the top of this email. And to Monique van Dusseldorp for additional research and analysis.

David Mattin is the founder of the Strategy and Futures Research Unit. He sits on the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Consumption.