Have you ever heard of the concept of ‘Protopia’?
I only just came across the concept today in a book by Kevin Kelly called ‘The Inevitable’.
In the rawest nature, Protopia defines a state where we’re not longer fighting for survival (Dystopia), nor are we accepting perfection (Utopia). We’ve become accountable for our need, our desire to perpetually chase the better.
We displace ourselves in a state where the uncomfortable gives us a rush of endorphins, excitement, joy, happiness.. along side anxiety, pressure, panic and stress (go figure).
But of that which we seek, in our Protopian state, we’re seeking the better self-betterment rather than self-improvement. We loathe perfection to a point where the word ‘perfect’ is abused and misplaced instead of ‘good’ or a simple positive notion.
In every opportunity that we have, there is a desire for better. It’s an endless chase that will outlive us all. It will never see completion in our generation or even our lifetime. That’s a harsh reality that we as a global community must face.
What’s interesting is the concept of ‘Protopia’ is so close to reality – it’s disturbing.
We enabled ourselves to be engaged with the ‘best of’ everything in every aspect of life. Right to the degree of subscription.
We’re subscribed to the latest in technology.
To position that within reality, how many of you or your friends have the latest iPhone or Android phone? Say.. less that 12 months old?
We know they’ve been engineered to last for only a limited time. The demand is artificially created by social expectations and it’s evident that as technology progresses by the literal second, the rate of maturity is distinctively high.
We’re subscribed to the latest in medical and the concept of prolonging our lives.
How many of us have received vaccination so that we ensure our prolonged lifespan? That we discover a new ‘painkiller’ to obstruct any form of triggered displeasure, or a vaccination to curable diseases? I for one, am not just a culprit of this, but – I endorse vaccination because we’ve made it available.
Until we can effectively clone a living being instantaneously, our medical research will not be satisfied. At the point of instantaneous duplication, the absolute requirement for medicinal treatment is almost null (notice how I still place ‘almost’ ?).
We’re subscribed to opportunity.
We seek opportunity. Whether it’s the opportunity to advance in our careers, to fall in love, to build something that represents who we are, to leave our footprints in the world, to feel alive.. as a generation of ‘new age’ thinking, we can only fathom value in opportunity.
We’re subscribed to the reality of ‘becoming better’ but not being satisfied.
That’s precisely Protopian. Sound familiar?
Every opportunity to create something new, something faster, something ‘better’ – creates a new world of problems that we would have never initially created. This is not a bad thing, some problems are good to have.
That is the consequence of growth and the generation gap between Baby Boomers and Millennials is a division fuelled by the development of Baby Boomers, reacted by Millennials.
Now the term itself ‘Protopia’ was originally coined by Kevin Kelly.
In an interview with Edge.org:
“I am Protopian, not Utopian. I believe in progress, that things are getting better by a little bit. I don’t believe that we can eliminate problems without introducing new ones..”
“..I believe in progress in an incremental way where every year it’s better than the year before but not by very much—just a micro amount. I don’t believe in utopia where there’s any kind of a world without problems brought on by technology.”
“..It’s an accumulation of increasing choices, and that’s why people move from countries into the cities. There are lots of reasons, but in the end the main motivator is a pulling of people to a city because it has more choices and options than they had in their beautiful country home, and that’s what the future is doing, the same thing. It’s pulling people from the past into the future.”
From my perspective, of which I share with Kevin, it’s rather comforting to know an endless cycle is at the very least – optimistic. It’s comforting to know that there are destinations, times and opportunities that offer a better perspective to what we enable ourselves to do.
As a digital marketer reading this, I’ve been pondering how the evolution of making money online will be influenced by a softcore variant of Protopianism. As we mature beyond just offline marketing and focusing on the importance of words, what’s next? We’re ruled by ‘keywords’ and trending designs. But seriously, what is next?
What goes beyond the concept of keywording a digital page? When we go beyond Google dominating as the Index of the Internet – Investigating deeper into trends, I have some favourable predictions of where the digital market will cycle a new lifespan, potentially even within our lifetimes.
1. Mobile and Desktop Operating Systems will merge together
2. Downloadable Applications Will Die Out. Web Apps Will Conquer Again
3. Cryptocurrency Will Divide And Conquer Online (ooooo controversy)
4. Our Digital Identities Will Open Our Audience To Our Influence
5. Facebook will be replaced by the ‘next big thing’
These five monumental moments in digital technology will slowly creep upon us.We won’t see it now. But inevitably, in our search for perfection – we will create new solutions for problems we never knew we even had.
One of the most influential quotes I’ve ever been given was on my 21st birthday.
I had a hard time grasping the placement of where I’d ever find it applicable until I came across the very real concept of Protopia.
“When you aim for perfection, you discover it’s a moving target.” –
That ‘discovery’ may very well be the end of our existence or the amplification of our growth as digital marketers.
The fundamental problem with a moving target in this instance is that any misfire, any opportunity that we miss, the bullet we fire will impact something other than perfection.
If we retarget – we’re thinking within too little of an audience.
If we’re chasing the next 1% of growth – we’re not achieving enough.
If we are always aiming at the low hanging fruits, we’re not cementing our strength as marketers.
See how the state of Protopia skews our perspective of what perfection and success looks like? It completely voids results of growth hacks that aren’t achieving 10X results. That hockey stick growth that we expect every time we relaunch a growth hack, will inevitably erode. This is mainly because we saturate the world with the same marketing ploy that eventually, ‘Conversion Corrosion’ as I like to call it, occurs.
Our conversion rates decay and slowly but surely – that ‘special’ growth hack, that tiny trick you did to bump conversions by 2x, 3x, 5x, 10x, 100x etc.. will dwindle through the diminishing stages of digital death and decay.
During the stages of digital death and decay – a new technique will be born.
A new marketplace, a new method, technique, funnel, schema – you name it. They’ll appear from nowhere because there is a new need. A new set of problems that we’ve yet to encounter because we’ve persisted through the evolution of technology today.
All of this of course, leads us to a better place tomorrow filled with better opportunity and a wider selection of decisions with an ever-growing capacity to think beyond the confinements of our digital displays.
We’re here today to program a better tomorrow. Even if there’s a new set of problems, challenges and roadblocks, make the most of it today so that greatness might *just* be within reach of our lifetime.