How to perceive the trends and flows of the times

In my last article, I introduced the approach of reinterpreting the team’s vision to answer the question, “As a team member, how do we recognize the visions we already have?” and I talked about how anyone, in any position, can set a vision.

In this article, I would like to talk about the third question that I often receive in the visioning process: “How to perceive the trends and flows of the times?”

The strength of connections among people, goods, money, and information is bringing about the age of VUCA

Have you ever heard of the butterfly effect?

Butterfly effect
A small difference in the initial conditions that makes a big difference in the result. A term in meteorology meaning that the mere movement of a butterfly’s wings can change the weather at a distance is applied to chaos theory (Daijirin).

The stronger the connections between the elements, the stronger the butterfly effect and the greater the uncertainty. The stronger the connections between people, goods, money, and information, the stronger the butterfly effect becomes, and the greater the uncertainty.

Connections of people: Diversified and faster means of transportation, such as airplanes and trains, are making it easier for people to connect with each other. In addition, with the spread of social networking services, human connections have been established through the Internet.
・・・SARS and the recent pandemic were caused by the strength of human connections.

Connection of goods: Supply chains have been established on a global level. The supply chain is widely and strongly connected, and conversely, the structure is such that a partial failure can affect the entire supply chain.
・・・The reason why localized disasters and problems, such as the 2011 floods in Thailand, affect the entire supply chain is due to the strength of connections of goods.

Connection of money: The financial system is connected at the global level. The financial markets of each country are connected, and changes in some areas can affect the global level.
・・・The Lehman shock was fueled by the strength of financial ties.

Connection of information: Through social networking services and other means, information is connected on a global level, and it takes less than a day for a piece of major news to spread around the world.
・・・The Arab Spring of around 2011 is based on the strength of information connections.

In a word, the world’s trends are getting harder to grasp.

The strength of the connections between people, goods, money, and information will continue to grow, but it will never weaken, and uncertainty will increase, but it will never decrease. Based on this premise, it can be said that “the trends of the world will become more difficult to grasp than ever before.

Perceive the flow at the conscious level

“Is it then impossible to capture the flow of the times?”

This is the kind of question that comes to mind. I think I’m half right and half wrong about this. Half right means that as far as actual events are concerned, as I have said, they are becoming more and more difficult to predict. On the other hand, when I say half wrong, I think it is possible to capture the flow, not at the level of actual events (not at the level of phenomena), but at the level of the flow of consciousness.

Simply put, I believe that it is difficult to grasp the flow of the times at the level of phenomena, but it is possible to perceive the flow of the times at the level of consciousness.

Let me show you one example. It is the SINIC theory, which was presented by Kazuma Tateishi, the founder of Omron, and others at the International Future Research Conference in 1970.

SINIC Theory — An approach to the Future

Although this theory was first published in 1970, it clearly foresees the state of society in recent years, and positions the current society as an “Optimization society” that has moved on from the “Cybernation society.”

Cybernation society (1974–2005): The human beings in this society will be freed from such disregard of humanity as were necessarily found in Mechanization and Automation societies and will establish their subjectivity and responsibility.

Optimization society (2005–2025): In this society, individual and social desires of men and women will change, and a function fo finding out the best route to satisfy desires will be developed. Thus, increased selective function for the optimal information will enable one to find the most suitable and pleasant job, according to one’s own individual ability.

Autonomous society (2025–2033): This society represents a transition form the societies of conscious control beginning with the Collective Period to the Natural society of non-control.

SINIC Theory — An approach to the Future

(Fig1:Quoted from, which is operated by Human Renaissance Institute, an OMRON subsidiary.)

I am sure I am not the only one who feels that this article captures the current social trends so well that it is hard to believe it was written in the 1970s.

Why is it that this article is able to capture the flow of the times despite the fact that we live in an era that is difficult to predict? There are many ways to look at it, but I believe it is because the SINIC theory captures the flow at the level of consciousness.

Look at the cone diagram in Figure 1. Here, two axes are shown, “mind and matter” and “individual and group,” and the composition of the spiral development is shown as it moves back and forth between the poles of each axis.

This is my interpretation, but the two axes of “mind and matter” and “individual and group” are the axes that indicate the “center of gravity of the consciousness of the entire world,” and the center of gravity of that consciousness is a model that spirals back and forth between the poles of the two axes and develops.

How to capture the flow at the level of consciousness

So how do we capture the flow at the level of consciousness? It is best to perceive the flow on the axis represented by the two poles that represent the center of gravity of consciousness.

The axes are individual and collective, relative and absolute, conservative and innovative, and mind and matter. I would like to talk about why these four axes are important at another time. The SINIC theory that I mentioned earlier can be seen as describing changes in two axes: individual and collective, and mind and matter.

What are some of the changes in these axes that you see in your industry?

In the education industry, for example, I believe we can read the following flows along these axes.

Group -> Individual (-> Group)
There is a trend to seek education that meets the individuality and developmental stage of each person, rather than group-oriented, uniform education. Recently, as a reaction to this trend, there has also been a trend to seek out places where people who are interested in learning can gather together. (Group -> Individual -> Group)

Matter -> Mind
There is a trend to shift from education that focuses on visible things such as knowledge and skills to education that focuses on less visible things such as mind and attitude.

Absolute -> Relative
There is a trend to move away from an education that considers it good to have an absolute correct answer and an efficient way to derive it, to an education that allows for a variety of correct answers and different correct answers.

And these shifts in the center of gravity of consciousness can be repeated historically. However, it is not a simple repetition, but a spiraling development, as described in the SINIC theory.

Let me give you an example from the education industry. In the Edo period (1603–1868), there was Terakoya education. In Terakoya education, there was no fixed school age, and advancement was based on individual ability. In the axis of the group and the individual, it can be said that the center of gravity was on the individual.

In the Meiji era (1868–1912), elementary schools were established throughout the country, and group education began to be implemented. This trend is still being carried over to public education today, and there is a need for individualized education in the form of a review of that group education.

From this point of view, it can be seen as a revival of Terakoya, but it will not be a revival of Terakoya in the exact same form as in the Edo period, but rather the realization of individualized education in some developed form. This may be in the form of e-learning, or it may be an educational system that uses AI for individual optimization.

Hegel’s Law of Spiral Development

When trying to grasp the flow of the times in this way, I think it is useful to know Hegel’s laws of spiraling development. The three basic laws of Hegel’s dialectic are as follows. There are many theories about the interpretation of these three laws, but I have provided the explanation that I personally feel most comfortable with.

1)The law of the passage of quantitative changes into qualitative changes: When the quantity increases and exceeds a certain level, the quality changes dramatically; one example is the phenomenon of water turning into ice at once when the temperature reaches zero. One example is the phenomenon of water turning into ice in a flash at zero degrees Celsius. This implies that not only continuous changes but also dramatic changes can occur in the development of nature and things.

2)The law of the unity and conflict of opposites:
In opposites that form relative poles, there is a pull of relative forces, as well as a mutual influence and integration. One example is the shifting of the center of gravity of consciousness on the axis of polarities such as group and individual, mind and matter, relative and absolute, conservative and progressive. This implies that the interaction of opposites is the driving force behind the changes in nature and the development of things.

3)The law of the negation of the negation:
Things develop through the overcoming of contradictions or the negation of negations. In an axis with two poles, one example is that when the center of gravity of consciousness turns around and comes back, it is not reproduced as exactly the same thing, but in a developed form. This implies that the Aufheben of contradiction leads to a spiral development.

By understanding these laws, you will be able to understand the certainty of perceiving the flow of the times as follows.

How should we perceive the flow of the times?
▼ To see it as a shift in the center of gravity of consciousness on an axis with two poles. -> 2)
▼ Historically speaking, it should be seen as a spiral development. -> 3)
▼ The development is not only a continuous change, but may also appear as a dramatic change. -> 1)

Here are the quests of the day. (If you’d like, please share your thoughts in the comments.)

・In your industry or company, what changes at the level of consciousness can you identify in the following axes?
(collective vs. individual, relative vs. absolute, conservative vs. innovative, mind vs. matter)

・Historically, what kind of “spiral development” can you see in this change? (e.g., changes in the axis of group and individual in the education industry can be seen as the spiral development of Terakoya)

Bunshiro Ochiai

Founder and CEO of a training company, Alue | MS in Particle Physics. | BCG | Questing “What is the paradigm for integrating contradictions in management?”