I recently signed up to do a course in online marketing, called the ‘Thirty Day Challenge‘. In it, I had to research a niche, then start building a content-based blog around it. Considering the fun I’d been having finding way out options to annoy my car-loving boyfriend, I chose the niche “alternative vehicles” and set up alternativevehiclesreport.net. Then I got into my research.
What surprised me is how much development has been going on, just one level under the surface of the automotive industry that everyone knows. Even the major manufacturers are pushing innovation, like Toyota’s concept cars, which are rolled out every year. But there are also literally hundreds of smaller players who’ve been developing alternative technologies, options and vehicle designs for over a decade now – some of which are amazingly clever (some of them look like heaps more fun, too. I want a Carver!)
Then I turned my research onto discussions of alternative transportation, and found a lot of very lively, very intelligent debates. What a large part of it amounted to was that there is such a huge infrastructure built around the current model of private vehicle ownership that the only practical course open appears to be something supplemental or complementary to that infrastructure, that doesn’t require a huge outlay to re-outfit the roads and traffic systems already in place. More so than outlay, the resources needed also have to be factored in. Considering the current crisis has emerged from a shortage in fossil fuels, and a perception that we’ve moved past peak production, it’s probably not a good idea to suddenly start depleting reserves of copper, for example, to place wires along every road and street. There are huge consequences as to whatever model is chosen to supplant/supplement the current one. For new cities, like Masdar in the UAE (also known as the ‘zero carbon city’, it’s a lot more feasible to build in alternative transportation technologies from the ground up, as it were, than it is to convert something already existing, but the existing structures already service a huge majority of the travelling population.
Once I started looking at the forces arrayed against that model, though, a longer term picture emerged. Obviously, the cost of fuel, which has risen as it’s scarcity has become more apparent, is putting a lot of pressure on people trying to use the system – especially in view of the current mortgage crisis. Financially, private transport is moving to become a prerogative of the elite, rather than a right of the majority.
Then I looked at the environmental issues, and the intriguing shift of this movement from fringe ‘greenies’ on the outside of general society to mass acceptance and something now considered the domain of anyone with any degree of social awareness.
In seeing both of these movements shift in patterns similar to that of a normal or bell curve, I started thinking. The principle of the 99th monkey, also known as the tipping point, could be seen behind the sudden exponential growth of environmental awareness – and I remembered seeing a program not long ago about how private vehicles were brought to a similar shift when Henry Ford deliberately pushed his prices lower on the Model T’s, so that his vision of every family owning a car could happen. That was the tipping point or 99th monkey for the private transport model, and as time has grown on the curve has increased to the point where the vast majority of people in western developed cultures are so caught up in that model that it’s almost inconceivable for most people to see any viable alternative. But some people have been, and with the increasing pressures brought to bear against the status quo, the number is growing. Whether an alternative is found or not, the private transport ownership model is on the way out. Even the executives in the industry agree on it.
I started wondering, is there a point in the development of a trend that ‘mirrors’ the 99th monkey effect – the point where, like goliath, the very size of the trend works against it and it inevitably starts going into decline? Maybe a ‘millionth monkey’ principle? If so, where else could it be seen?
I looked at fame. Again, I saw a bell curve. Look at any single famous person over time and you get the same thing – growth and eventually decline as they shift out of public notice. Bearing in mind the “six seconds of fame” concept, this could theoretically apply to everyone, with individual different starting points along the fame axis depending on whether they were in that infamous, majority or famous group. You can even look at the curve in 3 dimensions. At any one point in time, there would be a few famous, a few infamous, and a vast majority not.
I looked at finance and it seemed to be happening there too, but again slightly varied. There are 3 legs in the financial market – cash, property and stock, which usually rotate. But looking at any one of them seemed to produce something that rose and fell but generally trended upwards over time. Then I remembered inflation. If you cancelled out inflationary impacts on the dollar value, would you have a bell curve? I haven’t done the studies, but from what I remember seeing of stock market charts, I think it’s very likely. So for this area, the three sectors of the market each following their own curve, the picture seemed to resemble a biorhythm chart more than a single sine wave.
Time? I know that balancing money and time is a big part of my ideal lifestyle, and the same for many others. But battling the 80/20 principle, where you usually only have a majority of one and a shortage of the other: selling your time in a job, or on the flip side having lots of time and no income, is the majority of people’s status quo. It makes sense, if the point of balance where the two are equal is actually towards the edges of the bell curve, that it’s going to be enjoyed by only a few.
My next thought was to wonder: Is this something like the fame axis, where you can shift your position over time? I’m hoping so. I’ve heard it said time and again that persistence is what separates the successful and unsuccessful, so could that be the factor that keeps people plugging further and further away from the masses?
So success is another bell curve. I’m seeing the things everywhere!
What are the bell curves you can see in your life?