This is a book about the present and the future. But while writing it, we found ourselves constantly drawn to the past, particularly to the second half of the nineteenth century. The opening line of Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities, first published in 1859, encapsulates the spirit of our own time better than anything written since. Dickens wrote during the Industrial Revolution and about the French Revolution. He described a time of rapid change when both risk and opportunity were heightened to an unusual degree.
It was a time very much like ours. Retail spaces were becoming social and experiential. People were working out of coffee shops and lobbies. It was often difficult to distinguish between apartment buildings and hotels. Streets were bustling with new transportation devices. Consumers were more educated, better informed and, at the same time, more frivolous and seemingly irrational. New companies were emerging in new industries that reached unprecedented scale.