Something intriguing happens when you ask a man who?s just placed a bet about his chances of winning. His outlook becomes just a little more optimistic than the person still waiting in the queue to hand over his money.
This increased confidence in our recent decisions is a fundamental driver in life, in business and in investment. It helps us to move on, rather than becoming stuck in the past. But it?s worrying because it can blind us to changes in trends.
The financial markets are going through a major adjustment. In the face of it, most of us prefer to hold on to the trends of the past: to trust in the inevitability of globalisation, awaiting a resurgence of growth that will help the over-indebted to recover once again. This is a comforting vision. It essentially means not deviating from what we know ? the established patterns of recent decades.
The problem is, reality itself is deviating from those patterns. Something big is happening. Something seriously sobering. For decades we have borrowed growth from the future, but that?s now coming to an end.
Economic life is dominated by concentrations of power; in the corporate world, new technologies have enabled an immense scaling up over the past century. This shift towards supersizing is a trend that?s been almost impossible to miss, seeping into many aspects of our lives. And after years when gigantism has been a dominant theme, it seems that we?ve passed a critical turning point. It?s remarkably inconvenient for those businesses and investors obsessed with bigness, because the future is small.
The Future is Small, by Gervais Williams (Harriman House). Available for £14.99, including postage, from The Sunday Times Bookshop on 0845 271 2135 or thesundaytimes.co.uk/bookshop