Looking back, it’s pretty clear that the planet flipped on its axis in January 2020. While we were distracted by videos of pedestrians falling like felled trees onto the pavements of Beijing and Bergamo our little blue planet swivelled upside down overnight, and slowly but surely the consequences are coming to light. We have already learnt that our great leaders who made up the draconian lockdown rules were busily engaged in a non-stop cheese and wine marathon while we were forced to attend Zoom funerals. Fully masked, of course. We will never forget.

Whether it’s education, the police, the health service, comedy, the news, sex, history…everything we understood as the very foundational pillars of twenty first century life have turned one-eighty. Welcome to Topsy-Turvia.

Funny that.

Only three short years ago, before the Big Flip, here in the smug West we celebrated free speech as the bedrock of liberal democracy. It was distant dictatorships who were the humourless tyrants hell bent on imprisoning those that didn’t follow the government line. It couldn’t happen here, we thought. But in Topsy-Turvia if you once uttered anything that might be deemed offensive today, by anyone, is now hate speech. This, obviously, marked the end of one of Britain’s greatest exports: comedy. Our overworked police force, sorry…service, barely has time to practice the Macarena now that this new law consumes more than 17% of its time (according to CMU statistics*). By contrast, in the new world, wielding a machete on the Northern Line is an understandable protest against systemic oppression, to be treated with a three week course in kindness and sympathy.

Boys will be Girls. Girls will be Boys.

In many ways Topsy-Turvia is a freer and easier place to live than the pre 2020 version. For instance, we can now switch genders on a whim without the need for hormone blockers or messy genital surgery. This is a huge leap forward for those of us who wake up feeling female but slowly descend into a grumpy middle aged male after a couple pints of Stella.

Underage Sex.

Our children have perhaps had to endure the biggest shift. Understandably, sex education and biology take up a far larger slice of the curriculum since the discovery of so many new genders. By any standard that’s an awful lot to learn, especially as our beloved offspring missed two years worth of lessons following the Big Flip. In TT-land it’s critical that our children learn about alternative sexual practices long before they hear about the conventional ones. And just imagine having to memorise one hundred different genders while spongey concrete chunks rain down around you. It must be beyond stressful.

Just Walk Out.

Shoplifting, once a rite of passage for a spotty adolescent has been hijacked and legitimised exclusively for gangs of the feral and the fatherless. This has deprived your average, healthy, teenage kleptomaniac of one of their last remaining urban thrills. No wonder a growing percentage of our poor little darlings wish to switch teams.

Anti-Racism becomes Racism.

Many of the issues we thought we’d put to bed pre 2020 have been disinterred for our new age. MLK’s dream of “not being judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character” has been completely flipped too. Today, judging people by the colour of their skin is wholeheartedly encouraged in the name of Critical Race Theory, so get with it Daddy-O.

Hot versus Cold.

In Topsy-Turvia you must learn to understand things within a broader context. Old people may die in their droves because they can’t afford to heat their homes, but in twenty five years time our grandchildren will surely thank us for their over-sized radiators and the 200 metre sink hole in the back garden because they’ll have helped dodge global boiling. Currently ten times as many people die from the cold than from the heat, but that avoids the inevitable truth that very soon our elderly will literally be frying to death in their bedsits.

Lies are Truth. 

Even the BBC, previously the bow-tied bastion of British decency has embraced this upside down philosophy like a dodgy uncle freshly released from prison. Whether it’s the pandemic, vaccine efficacy, our overrun hospitals, excess deaths, the war in Ukraine or our pathetic British summers, the BBC has become so practiced at skewing facts in order to scare the bejesus out of us we can barely believe anything it says any more. Even Eastenders has confessed to letting the government’s nudge unit edit their scripts. Is nothing sacred?

The Big Cheese

The Big Flip, remember, coincided with a brand new leader of the free world. At first sight he may have seemed an odd choice being an elderly, straight white male. But as we learnt to enjoy our avuncular octogenarian’s cognitive mishaps we can see now how he’s the perfect Commander-in-Chief for a crazy new world logic.


Pre 2020, cities used to be the engine rooms of the economy where gleaming glass skyscrapers, purpose built for pumping out a thousand emails a minute, looked down upon the rest of us as we waltzed along swinging our bags for life. But a clever plan, cooked up by the Mayor of London with help from the rail unions, has hopefully put a stop to this sort of disgusting privilege and corporate elitism. Topsy-Turvia’s glass towers now stand largely desolate, and emanate, not arrogance or hubris, but a sense of sadness across our city. It’s as if our capital knows that its fun-loving, swinging days are but a tiny blemish on the rearview mirror.  

London doesn’t just tax, fine and surveil us harder and smarter than ever before, it also takes every opportunity to tell us off. I can remember when seats would be given up voluntarily and doors held open with a tip of a hat for ovary owners and chest feeders of all ages. Here in TT-land by contrast, non-menstruators are constantly warned to ‘be kind’ with ‘Maaaate!’ warnings plastered across the city at every major intersection.


This new world never ceases to amaze me with its dazzlingly fresh logic. In retail, for example (I always get round to it eventually) we must accept that demolishing M&S’s iconic Marble Arch flagship: smashing apart all that concrete and asbestos, all that steel and stone, burying it in landfill and then rebuilding it, brick by brick, with brand new steel and bigger, shinier glass is ‘sustainable’. No need get all carbon-anxious over the excavators, the diggers, the towering cranes, the builder’s lorries and vans, the millions of diesel fuelled to-ing and fro-ing over three or four years, the hundreds of thousands of consultant journeys, the copper wiring, the lighting, the escalators, the new computers…I am assured that all this disruption is completely offset because rainwater flushes the bogs. Incredible, isn’t it? I’m sure some highly educated architect will explain the maths to me one day.

Heaven or Hell?

Enough of this wry, cartoon banter. Topsy-Turvia is hell incarnate. Indeed, some of our biggest and most influential celebrities, notably Madonna, Rihanna and Sam Smith make a deliberate show of worshipping wickedness and all round satanic behaviour at every opportunity. When our superstars start dressing head to toe in lipstick red rubber complete with horns, scorpion tails and tridents in order to entertain our children with mimes of group fornication and golden showers you know something has gone awry. But don’t blame them. Our most privileged idols and cultural icons cannot help but accentuate and celebrate their moral distance from you and your mainstream mundanity.

Make no mistake, Topsy-Turvia has been a resounding success. In less than three years it has overturned logic and reason in order to flatten pretty much everything we thought we’d built over the last century. Now that the ground has been cleared there’s only one small problem. It has absolutely no idea where to go next. 

Topsy-Turvia, you see, has zero vision.

*CMU Completely Made Up Statistics Inc.

Join me on X  @retailfuturist  for cherry picked proof that we’re all going crazy

  Howard Saunders   Sep 21, 2023   culture, Future, Retail, sustainability, 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


Don’t read this blog. Try AI yourself. Go to OpenAI, sign up to ChatGPT and have some fun. You’ll soon see that it changes everything.

You’ll have read a fair bit about it: how it will make most of us redundant (not true) and how it will transform transport, healthcare and education (true). You will have heard that the digital behemoths (Apple, Google, Microsoft and Amazon) have invested billions in it and you may have briefly dwelt on the potential disruption it’s likely to unleash before going back to your cornflakes. But none of this means anything until you’ve tried it yourself. Like I did.

If you’re an accountant or desk bound lawyer of some sort you’re probably half hoping you’ll be put out to pasture on UBI and craft gin within the next five years. But the future isn’t likely to be that cruel, thankfully.

Like me, you probably thought that AI will take many years before it becomes truly creative. Obviously, we thought smugly, it will solve problems, produce huge reports, create spreadsheets and work alongside Jeff in those vast warehouses, but as for anything creative, it simply cannot understand the human condition.  And when it does we’re all shafted anyway, so there’s no point fretting. 

We were wrong.

Driving to Heathrow with my son yesterday we messed around with ChatGPT. Obviously, first up we asked it to write a few silly poems and limericks. It answers instantaneously. Some of them were hilarious, largely because the results appear so instantly, rhyme and rhythm intact, you can’t quite believe it’s happening. Next up, I asked it to write me a blog about AI. Here it is. Ok, so it’s a little dry but it would damn well sneak into LinkedIn without looking out of place, that’s a fact.

But our jaw dropping moment came after we asked it to write a poem about Roger a guitar playing squirrel. Within a few short minutes the poem blossomed into a screenplay for an entire musical. The AI suggested movie titles, merchandising ideas, marketing concepts, it wrote all the song titles and lyrics, it proposed the creation of a rival band of forest dwelling musicians, named all the characters, suggested a love interest (Samantha the squirrel) wrote a gentle ballad (to break up all the rockin’ melodies) designed the movie poster, the trailer, the tag line and even food concepts for the squirrel themed cafe in Roger’s theme park. No exaggeration, within twenty minutes we had a complete media franchise. And all this was possible within a month or so of launch. Imagine what it will be capable of in a year, five years, twenty-five years! We surely will not have to wait very long before it can instantly animate the entire musical. At least the credits will be short.

Oh, and if you have any doubts as to its musical talents Open AI has also developed a nifty little thing called Musenet that will write all the songs. Musenet is a bit like a digital Bill Bailey in that it can play Lady Gaga hits in the style of Mozart. Or Mozart hits in the style of Lady Gaga for that matter.

Pop culture, it seems, is pretty easy to emulate. From silly make believe musicals to modern pop ballads AI has decoded so many it innately understands how to construct something that will slip seamlessly into contemporary culture. And therein lies the challenge.

Governments think the answer is to retrain. But anything governments propose to retrain you as is surely already out of date. Others believe we should learn to become programmers, to stay one step ahead of the game. But that’s like learning how to build a typewriter when the computer arrived. No, the answer is staring us in the face.

When culture is so predictable, when films are focus grouped into mediocre uniformity, when music is formatted to homogeneity and when art has grown predictably political to the point of irrelevance then it’s for genuine, creative, living, breathing humans to dig deep and retaliate. The birth of AI is not a marker for surrender or throwing in the towel. AI is the starting pistol for a new wave of mould breaking, non formulaic creativity that celebrates our superiority here on planet Earth. Let the browbeaten retreat into the comfort of their self-made defeat. Human creativity will always push through. 

Don’t panic. A genuine renaissance is on the horizon.

Join me on Twitter @retailfuturist for daily rants and light hearted banter

  Howard Saunders   Jan 03, 2023   Apple, culture   0 Comment   Read More