Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members


Disruption is often a confluence of various trends. There are sudden or gradual changes in technological adoption, perceptions, the human psyche, and social behaviour. A singular event, like in recent times, can spark radical change.  This can have a profound effect on life, industry, and commerce.  In many ways, a crisis is also an opportunity to re-examine old models and pave the way for new models that act as game-changers.

In present times, years of behavioural and technological change has been accelerated in a short span of time. It’s like we have travelled in time amidst an era of constant uncertainty. Based on insights from Forbes, let’s take a quick look at the cultural trends that shall canvas the near future.

Enter the matrix

As technology advances, the notion of a more immersive virtual world that is indistinguishable from the real world becomes closer to reality.  Once considered the staple of science fiction with movies like The Matrix, Total Recall, Upload, and Dark City among others, an immersive virtual reality is not only possible today but also immediately appealing. Living amidst the global pandemic, with stringent social distancing norms, has let a certain degree of ennui and disillusionment set in.  A digital environment could play a critical role in fulfilling the need for human connection.

In 2021, with several advancements in graphics processing prowess and cloud computing, the conditions are ripe for a connected virtual reality.  The gaming industry, a $180 billion industry, is the key to this shift from a physical to a virtual world. Complex and immersive worlds have already been created in sandbox simulations like Red Dead Redemption 2, Dark Souls, Grand Theft Auto V and MMORPGS like  Black Desert Online and The Elder Scrolls Online among others.

These complex worlds are described as The Metaverse: a connected virtual world or universe where people can create new avatars, spend time with friends across geographies, and explore possibilities that are only limited by the human imagination. It is expected that these virtual spaces shall become a distinguishing facet of the collective human consciousness.

Hollywood is passé

Hollywood has been a cultural phenomenon across the world for nearly a century.  Hollywood movies are arguably the most famous exports from the United States to the world. These movies have been a channel to extol American virtues, ideals, and philosophies. Some of these films have been cultural zeitgeists that have subtly permeated our collective consciousness. From Asia to countries in Africa, American culture through Hollywood movies has impacted cultural identities and traditions.  This cultural dominance by the United States is also a subconscious sign of economic supremacy.

Since 2020, the dominance of Hollywood and mainstream cinema has waned. More people are watching foreign films from different cultures on Netflix. They are paying a greater emphasis to the story-telling far more than anything else. A Tumbbad or a Mongol, which are foreign films, garner a bigger audience on these streaming platforms than run-of-the-mill Hollywood films.  These changing trends are also indicative of an economic shift in power. China is set to become the world largest economy in less than a decade, as per Centre of Economics and Business Research.  The emergence of new media platforms like Instagram, Twitch and YouTube have democratized content creation in 2021.

A new digital panorama

There has been a drastic improvement in living conditions in 2021. For instance, 63% of the world lived in extreme poverty in the 50s. Since 2015, this number has fallen below 10 percent.  This also holds true for public health and literacy.  Despite the pandemic, conditions in the physical world shall continue to improve. The advent of technologies like 5G and the internet of things shall help address the digital divide.  In the meanwhile, the virtual world shall act as a sieve for the vagaries of real world conditions. However, in time, the inequalities of the real world shall also permeate in to the virtual world.

– Lionel Alva

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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