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

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

About Howard Saunders

The Retail Futurist, otherwise known as Howard Saunders, is a writer and speaker whose job it is to see beyond retail’s currently choppy waters. Howard spent the first twenty five years of his career at some of London’s most renowned retail design agencies, including Fitch & Company, where he created concepts, strategies and identities for dozens of British high street brands. In 2003 he founded trend-hunting agency, Echochamber, inspiring his clients with new and innovative store designs from across the globe. Howard relocated to New York in 2012 where the energetic regeneration of Brooklyn inspired his book, Brooklynization, published in 2017. His newfound role as champion for retail’s future in our town and city centres gave rise to the title The Retail Futurist. Howard has been interviewed on numerous television and radio programs and podcasts for BBC Radio 4, BBC Scotland, the British Retail Consortium, Sky News Australia and TVNZ, New Zealand. His talks are hi-energy, jargon-free journeys that explore the exciting, if not terrifying, retail landscape that lies ahead. When not in retail mode, Howard has recorded, literally, thousands of digital music masterpieces, most of which remain, thankfully, unheard.

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *