You’re busy at work when an urgent video call comes in. You excuse yourself from the meeting to hear your daughter beg for money to help get her home. It looks like her, (exquisitely filtered as usual) sounds like her…but, hang on, you spoke with her earlier. Of course, it’s just another scam. 

Back in the meeting you ask a couple of questions about the hefty report your colleagues are pretending to pore over. No one can answer. Clearly another piece of AI generated bumpf which no one’s even bothered to read. Genius.

Last night’s news still rattles about your brain. Are we really sending troops to the Ukraine or is this another AI generated slice of propaganda made to enhance a particular narrative? Leaving work you call your daughter to make sure she’s ok. You exchange the safe word and agree to change it the next time you meet in person. The satnav voice warns you of huge delays on the bypass out of town. Is it telling the truth or are you being sacrificed to help thin out the traffic for everyone else?

Within a few very short years we shall all live like this. Everything we see, everything we are told will be adjusted, enhanced, exaggerated or just downright fake: either a straightforward money making scam or a distortion of the truth to help nudge us in a specific direction. At this rate, eventually everything will be fake.

The News

Most of us are already aware that the mainstream media, if only by omission, fails to tell the full story on a daily basis. Even the most genetically supine amongst us will at the very least be slightly more cynical of government diktats than they were, say, three years ago. But now, supercharged with the power of AI, the doors to outright, full blown, relentless factual distortion are wide open and beckoning us to play. Presidents declaring war and prime ministers caught cussing off camera, are nothing but the opening salvo for the onslaught of fakery that is about to engulf us. Even previously vanilla news items will be leveraged for political gain. Weather warnings will be relished and eagerly augmented, air quality levels exaggerated, travel warnings amplified and even gardening advice politicised. The apocalyptification of absolutely bloody everything will become the norm. I guess we’re pretty much there already.

In January this year, China brought in strict new laws on the use of deepfakes. Just imagine how even handed their authorities will be when they can choose the definition of ‘disinformation’. More worryingly, here in the UK our own Online Safety Bill will very soon be able to censor, fine and ban anyone who strays into the world of ‘mis’ or ‘dis’ information. The bill also gives Ofcom the power to force companies to scan private messages for ‘illegal material’. In the current climate where light sarcasm has already been misconstrued and weaponised, things ain’t looking so rosy in the free speech department.


I’m guessing most of you have heard Johnny Cash’s version of Barbie Girl. Brilliant isn’t it? So much better than his prophetic A Boy Named Sue. He’s also covered Simon & Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence. In the twenty years since his death his work really has embraced a veritable cornucopia of cultural styles and tastes, thanks to AI, of course. Considering this clever tech has only been around a few months the results are pretty uncanny. Will The Beatles release a new album? Obviously. Will you be able to see them in concert like Abba’s Voyage? Oh yes. All our cultural idols, icons and artists will be digitally disinterred and regenerated for eternity, that’s obvious. Everyone but Mick Jagger of course. He’s already immortal. 

As contemporary culture matures and weans itself off three and a half minute pop nonsense the past will continue to be revitalised, regurgitated and reconstituted for all those who missed out on its heyday.


Although thankfully still alive and well, Tom Cruise, like Johnny Cash, has been super busy over the last few months, especially on TikTok. Alongside his career in multi million dollar blockbusters he’s made quite a name for himself dancing embarrassingly in people’s gardens and generally showing off with celebrity impressions and magic tricks. What we are witnessing, in reality, is a series of mini trailers for completely AI generated movies. The era of virtual production is just beginning and it’s a giant leap forward from the CGI we’ve become accustomed to. If you have any doubt about its potential check out the burgeoning choice of Text to Video software such as Synthesis, Hour One or Pictory. Real time render allows you to type a description of the scene you want to see while ‘live’ video appears, instantly adapting as you write. Clearly it won’t be long before we can download the latest James Dean/Marlon Brando/Marilyn Monroe movie. With a musical score by The Beatles, naturally.


Back in 2019 I wrote here that we were already cyborgs in that our smartphones bestowed upon us access to the sum of all human knowledge.  No matter how obscure or trivial a question, it shall never be suspended awkwardly in limbo ever again. But when our AI assistants bring us constant and instant audio and visual feedback, everyone will be an Einstein. You can even make Einstein your personal assistant if you wish.

Service & Hospitality

How would you rate our service? Excellent or just extremely good? If messages like these annoy you now, just imagine how irritating it will be when every establishment you dare visit calls to ask about your experience. She will sound dreamily gorgeous of course, for it will be a she, and we will quickly learn how to ignore her seductive tones and cut short her needy pleas for constant affirmation.

Moods & Personality

Elon Musk’s Neuralink program is working hard to create a brain-computer interface. No surprises there. This is exactly the sort of thing we expect when a fifteen year old science fiction geek suddenly becomes a billionaire. On route to the big goals of solving paralysis and blindness however, it seems more than likely our brain implants will be able to adjust our moods according to requirements. Press ‘serious’ on the Neuralink app before an interview, or ‘witty’ before a blind date. What could possibly go wrong? 

The Good News

The Kardashianisation of culture may be a decade old but things are about to get decidedly freaky. Social media is already awash with avatar filters that turn us into fantasy figures, cartoon characters and superheroes, and the enthusiasm for fake identities isn’t likely to wane any time soon. (Read my piece on The Insufferables coming down the here. However, by way of some reassurance, Newton’s Third Law is alive and well: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The more our lives are lubricated, managed and entertained by the magic of AI, the more we will seek out signs of genuine humanity. The more we are inundated with filters and immersed in fake hospitality, the more enchanted we’ll be by imperfection, sincerity, wit, humility and even sarcasm. 

All the things AI is crap at.

Join me on X  @retailfuturist  for random retail-ish ramblings

  Howard Saunders   Oct 18, 2023   big data, Blog, face recognition, Future, Retail, smartphone, technology, Uncategorized, woke   0 Comment   Read More


We expect it of our food. We know that, say, a supermarket lasagne has been reconstituted, augmented, chemically stimulated, preserved, sugared and salted to within an inch of its natural life. We are aware that it’s been perfectly browned for that ‘first bite’ with the eyes when the hungry customer tears open the packaging. We know that ‘mouth feel’ has been focus-grouped to dribbling point over several months and that the packaged product has been tested alongside its competitors for shelf presence and overall impact across numerous countries. Obviously, the way the pack opens – the product reveal – has been assessed and adjusted to enhance the overall post sales customer experience along with fine tuning the type of glue that seals the pack, and the tear tab that undresses it. 

We can imagine how many times the product descriptions were batted to and fro between copywriters and specialists in nutritional law in order to settle on just the right balance between hyperbole and reality. We know that the pack designers created more than a hundred and fifty versions, probably more, shifting the elements around as if it were a puzzle that would eventually reveal the correct answer. We can visualise the boardroom conversations about the line breaks, the typography and how small to make the list of ingredients. We can picture the last minute changes the new CMO made so that he didn’t feel like a sore thumb at the launch. And we are probably vaguely aware that the plastic tray was redesigned to tilt slightly towards the opening edge for better presentation. 

But we also know that the finished product is but a ghost of something our grandmothers would have recognised. Modernised, corporatised and repackaged…and now with the nutritional value of a packet of Hula Hoops.

Self Love

Most of us know a little about how our food is produced but hyper-processing seems to have crept into many aspects of our lives without us noticing. Portrait photography, once a proud profession involving tripods, clamps, heavy lenses and blinding flashlights has been reduced to nothing but a daily chore, a clocking-in process to publish how much fun we’re supposedly having. Not that our Social Media gods will ever be satiated by our daily narcissistic routine, of course. But omit to post for a couple of days and your friends will surely conclude that you’ve either left your phone in a cab or you’re dead. Maybe both. The ‘portraits’ themselves, of course, no longer attempt to penetrate the subject’s soul for a glimpse of angst or hubris, but instead only reveal a filtered, perfectly browned, strategically cropped version of reality. Just like the lasagna, actually. 

Having said that, of course, the entire social media edifice is nothing but a gargantuan theatre for orchestrated outrage, virtue signalling and counterfeit authenticity.

Time Out

Even our once innocent leisure time has been forced through the hyper-processing mill. When friends come over for the weekend it’s no longer acceptable to have drinks in the garden whilst reminiscing over old family albums. Today you must ‘book’ an activity that’ll ensure everyone starts the day mortally uncomfortable and ends the day utterly exhausted. Something like Tough Mudder, one of the many ludicrous Escape Rooms or an excruciating, immersive show like Tomb Raider or Guys and Dolls will do the trick. Community embarrassment can be such a social leveller.

Fancy a Pint?

The decolonisation of art and history is clearly just a trendy euphemism for reprocessing everything we’ve built to date because some of the past is a bit embarrassing for the young and unworldly. Even ironing out misogynistic wrinkles and censoring cringeworthy references in not-very-vintage comedy is simply an attempt to reprocess the past in order to make it more compliant to the increasingly sensitive present.

Those much maligned Gen Zedders, desperate to escape reality and join Uncle Mark in the Metaverse, are the worst offenders. It’s no coincidence they reject traditional beer and wine, drinks with thousand year ancestries, only to embrace fizzing, fluorescent, candy floss cocktails served in a bowler hat of dry ice at twenty five quid a pop.

Now with added AI!

Remember when ‘the news’ was little more than the dull, daily bullet points from the grown up world of current affairs? Seems like prehistory now. Today, of course, most of us know that facts should be blended, distilled, magnified and then separated so as to fit neatly into the appropriate mainstream narrative. Much more digestible that way. Consider it bespoke. Select your taste preference (basically, left or right) and our trusty journalists will process the news especially for you. Just like a ready meal factory they will get to work slicing, dicing and seasoning in order to enhance the juicy bits whilst trimming away the unwanted fat that might upset your delicate constitution. The end result is always a perfectly crafted, well balanced snack. Something like the journalistic equivalent of a Turkey Twizzler.

And now with added AI you can guarantee that your evening meal will be extra gentle on your digestive system as it will very soon come sprinkled with a little ‘artistic license’ thanks to the genius of deep fake technology. AI needs only three seconds of a voice to replicate speech, and ten seconds of video to create a convincing animated avatar that says and does whatever the narrative requires. Consider it extra seasoning: added emphasis for the greater good. Nothing to worry your pretty little head about. I guarantee that in a few year’s time every single item of news you receive, from whatever source, will never ruffle your feathers again. Just relax. AI will ensure that everything fits seamlessly into your world view. And that’s when you know you’ve been hyper-processed.

Finally, fears that we’re being lied to and that the news is nothing but propaganda can be put to bed. 

From now on we can be absolutely certain of it!

Join me on Twitter @retailfuturist for wry insight and cynical truth seeking

  Howard Saunders   Jun 20, 2023   Blog, culture, Future, Uncategorized   0 Comment   Read More


No one knows what technological advances will be waiting for us in twenty year’s time but we do know that the planet has just emerged from one almighty global experiment…and the results are in: After two years of being locked up at home and having our ankles photographed by the Amazon driver every few days, we have learnt to appreciate the true value of our local shops. Turns out they are much more about community than simply getting  hold of essentials. Indeed, the local butcher, baker and even the candlestick maker are currently enjoying a much needed renaissance.

It seems we needed reminding that consuming in a vacuum is no replacement for getting out, engaging with the community and feeling alive, relevant and connected. (And if you want more evidence, Google the number of staff Amazon has shed since the tide turned only a few months ago). Two thousand years ago we would wander down to the Forum in our togas to buy bread, check out what’s new and maybe have a glass of wine with a friend. I confidently predict that in two thousand year’s time we’ll be doing something pretty similar. It’s strange how our visions of the future often eclipse our innate understanding of humanity.

So, we should expect to see an army of hungry, young, independent stores, delis, bars, take aways and pop ups on a mission to revive so many of our confused and listless town centres. And best of all, locally sourced product will return to the reborn market square.

Meanwhile, our cities will have followed a very different path. As centres of entertainment, as distinct from ‘shopping’, our major urban centres will become brand playgrounds. Stores will no longer need to ‘store’ things, nor necessarily display products tidily on shelves. Conventional ‘stores’ will be reborn as venues for brands to show off, seduce us and tell us why we should include them in our lives. ‘Stores’ will be replaced by ever-changing, immersive and interactive digital experiences. It will be the age of immersive storytelling. These brand playgrounds will help us determine which products are cool of course, but more importantly, which best align with our personal values. And, of course, they will know all about those since we carry them around on our smartphones. In the same way that our individual preferences shape our social media feeds today, digitally immersive spaces will shape the brand stories around us individually. Imagine how seductive it will be when we become central to a brand’s story. Once upon a time, marketeers talked of demographics, a tool that sketched an approximate picture of loose sections of the population. Egographics will enable AI to target you specifically. 

With delivery times getting quicker and quicker, could we see ourselves living in a world of instant delivery by 2042?

It’s worth remembering that this quest for ultra convenience – to the point of instant gratification – was kickstarted in the sixties with the arrival of the supermarket, labour saving gadgets and ready meals. So based on what we already know it seems that delivery times will continue to decrease as we increase the extent of AI into our lives. Predictive algorithms will offer us things we didn’t know we wanted or needed yet, while smart devices will quietly replenish essentials without us having to get involved at all.

However, instant gratification comes with a peculiar paradox: the more accessible something is, the less we value it. Consider how we value music today compared with thirty or forty years ago, now that it’s largely free and on tap absolutely everywhere. Therefore, as our priorities shift towards wanting sustainable products from simple supply chains, ultra convenience will come wrapped pretty heavily in guilt.

Convenience is a relative concept based upon how we value our time being spent across different activities. For example, the arrival of many hundreds of electric vehicle charging hubs across the country will create an exciting new platform for retailers and brands to entertain and sell to us while our cars are being charged. Only retail can magically transform this additional demand upon our time into a convenience. Perhaps we’ll come to see these hubs as the new Forums.

But the technology that’s most likely to satiate our relentless thirst for instant gratification is not a predictive algorithm, or even a swarm of delivery-ready drones hovering overhead. It’s the 3D printer. In simple terms, 3D printing democratises manufacturing, opening up incredible opportunities for independent designers in bedrooms and basements across the world to create products available for us to download anywhere. In 2042 you’ll be able to watch a designer in Seoul create, say, a bike or a guitar to your specification that you can download and assemble. It won’t be instant but it will eradicate distance instantly. And while we’re on the subject, imagine how the eradication of distance, complex supply chains and delivery will revolutionise your local high street. Now that’s an innovation worth waiting for!

Follow me on Twitter @retailfuturist for daily insights and musings.

  Howard Saunders   Oct 12, 2022   Blog, Brand   0 Comment   Read More