“If you want to know your past, look to your present conditions. If you want to know your future, look into your present actions.” – Asian proverb
This past March Bottlenose CEO and co-founder Nova Spivack spoke at SXSW on how the information age and our ability to process data have begun to transform social and cultural perceptions of time. Check out the video here, or embedded below.
In his talk, “Present Tense: The First Now-Centric Civilization,” Nova discusses the implications of “Nowism” and the shift from the future-oriented focus of the Industrial Age to the now-centric focus of the Information Age. He explores how it has manifested in our technology, thinking, and culture, and unpacks what it means for the business of today.
Real-time analytics in the data-driven information age, Nova argues, has produced foundational shifts to civilization and, likewise, to our concept of “now.” “Now,” in fact, has become shorter, as the basic clock-rate of our lives gets faster.
As he explains, it is impossible to perceive the present – our nervous system and brain have a cognitive delay of a few milliseconds. This means that the present is really the future, and all of our interpretations are of the recent past. We can’t detect the actual present, only the just-barely-past present. The time it takes to measure and collate results, we call that the present.
Nova’s key argument is that if you want to know where you’re going, look at what’s happening now.
For businesses in particular, it’s paramount to be able to anticipate, adjust and analyze all in real time, over and over again. With the fragmentation of data, prediction of the future is an exercise in omniscience since our “now” is shorter than ever and the constant change of information creates exponential uncertainty in the future.
In short, the timeframe has shortened considerably – from annual to quarter to moment.
In his talk, Nova also explores this new reality of the business environment. If there isn’t a pixel on the wall that is constantly monitoring, sensing, anticipating (based on real-time data, monitor media, and metrics), then the data and news you need is out of sight, out of mind. Our culture, technology, and mindset are all adapting to a Now-Centric Civilization.
Nova concludes, “Trust that we have the ability and the process in place and the culture around us to rapidly adapt to change as circumstances dictate. We can create the future just by doing the right thing in the present, that will lead us to where we want to go. If you want to know where you’re going, look at what’s happening now.”