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Subject To Change: Creating Great Products & Services for an Uncertain World by Brandon Schauer, Todd Wilkens, Peter Merholz, David Verba

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Chapter 8. An Uncertain World

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“To be uncertain is to be uncomfortable, but to be certain is to be ridiculous.”

Chinese Proverb

“Complex problems have simple, easy to understand, wrong answers.”

Henry Louis Mencken

As we plunge deeper into the 21st century, it’s clear that for the foreseeable future things will remain uncertain. This uncertainty pervades the social, cultural, political, and economic aspects of our lives. It’s natural to respond to this uncertainty with fear, trepidation, and a desire to put our heads in the sand until things are settled. But will anything ever truly be settled again? It seems a fool’s hope. Rather than biding our time, we should adapt to and embrace the uncertainty around us. After all, as Walt Whitman said, “The future is no more uncertain than the present.” This uncertainty opens up all manner of new opportunities.

One key opportunity driven by this uncertainty is how the old categories will break down. David Weinberger discusses these trends and their implications in his excellent book, Everything Is Miscellaneous.[59] Though the book is ostensibly about the nature of information in a digital world, the forces underlying that miscellany pervade all aspects of society. Google and Yahoo!, once technology companies, are now media players, and their advertising-based business models mean they compete more with Los Angeles and New York than their Silicon ...

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