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


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 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   1 Comment   Read More


Here in the West we may have lost faith in ourselves, but an unlikely gang of superheroes may just have come to our rescue.

Not long ago, our once steadfast ship charted a clarion course, sails puffed taut with pride and principle. We rode the waves knowing who we were and where we were going. We had turned our backs on religious dogma and we ruled the world as the vanguard of free speech, free markets and freedom of movement. After the war we had a party to celebrate: a rock n roll rollercoaster of a bash that made gods of lowly Liverpudlians and a teenager from Tupelo. It was the democratisation of fame and fortune, and what a party it was! There was singing, dancing, drink and drugs but somehow through the fog of inebriation we managed to play golf on the moon, invent the internet and put the sum of all human knowledge on a little black slab of glass in everyone’s pocket.

But sadly, every silver lining has a cloud lurking inside. The great dump of absolutely everything onto absolutely everyone ignited a fire of self doubt that’s been raging for over a decade. The party is clearly over and I’m afraid the music you’re listening to is nothing but the drumbeat reminder of the good times we once had. Ask the East what they think of us. They admire our history and tradition but raise their eyebrows over our concocted narcissistic outrage. We bicker over gender, race and religion and squirm over made up pronouns. Instead of facing the future we attempt to dismantle the past: the very history that got us here. Self doubt has grown into self loathing which in turn has morphed into the kind of cultural masochism that saw us wishing Covid 19 was The Plague. We thought we deserved it.

This then is today’s West, the force that faces our latest foe: outraged, entitled, terrified and led by a soon to be octogenarian that cannot enunciate his own name. Surely the battle is already lost. 

But hang on a minute. Who are these superheroes in tight fitting primary colours I see in the skies above? Why of course, it’s Coca Cola, McDonalds, Apple and Starbucks, I could spot them a mile off! They may be greedy, capitalist, exploitative virtue-signallers but at least they’re our greedy, capitalist, exploitative virtue-signallers! They may be flying in the wrong direction but they are our superheroes and I just knew they’d come to our rescue. I’d lost faith in our brand behemoths but here they all are: Amazon hand in hand with Adidas, Aston Martin, Levi’s and Burberry, and good old Pizza Hut arm in arm with Chanel, Disney and Dior. What an historic spectacle! Hurrah for the West!

While we dither in our vacuum of self doubt, these perfectly packaged superstars know it’s time to stand up for Western values and rehang the rusty old iron curtain. As we fumble to find a principle we can agree on, our iconic giants have stepped in to speak up for us. And while we torment ourselves with modern day perplexities such as ‘what is nationhood?’ and ‘what is a woman?’ Ukranian women, unburdened by such decadent debate, prepare to defend their own nation with force. The contrast is sickeningly stark.

Right now it seems brands can say more about our values than we can. But the yearning for the comforting embrace of a mature, motherly, reliable consumer brand runs deep in our DNA, whether it’s a Dior trouser suit or a Big Mac with fries. Russia will never be short of burgers or trouser suits of course, and Kvass is a perfectly acceptable fizzy brown alternative to CocaCola. But the missing ingredient is the tasty bit: the magical zest of the West: the glorious tang of mass produced, unhealthy, delicious, free market capitalism that permeates all our branded icons. That’s what they queued around the block for in 1990 and again in March this year before McDonalds shut up shop. Our appetites may have faded but theirs clearly haven’t.

Yes, consumerism has mollycoddled us into vacuous brand narcissists lacking any sense of purpose or direction. But love them or loathe them, they are our superheroes and they built the Twenty First Century. This superbrand exodus is nothing less than the Twenty First Century turning its back on Russia. That’s some WMD.

Thanks for reading. Now, do the right thing and follow me on Twitter @retailfuturist for daily retail rants and musings.

  Howard Saunders   Mar 13, 2022   Apple, Blog, Brand, Levi's, pizza, Retail, smartphone, Uncategorized   0 Comment   Read More