How “yesterday might point to what’s still to come.

This excerpt from an entry for the Nextness Prize is by a copywriter in JWT’s Melbourne office. For more of Frenkel’s thoughts on how “yesterday might point to what’s still to come,” see the full entry here.

My high school history teacher always used to say that if you want to understand the future, you’ve first got to come to grips with the past. So in pondering “what’s next,” I dusted off the history books and asked a slightly different question: What’s yest?

Then: In ancient Egypt, ordinary women and men wore magic amulets made of precious stones as a way to ensure luck and protection from misfortune. In the words of one historian, the amulets, worn constantly around the wrist, ankle or neck, “helped muster confidence in times of self doubt, and empowered them to believe in themselves, to heal themselves.” Empowerment? Confidence? Sounds pretty familiar …

Now: Nike+ says its FuelBand is for “motivating and inspiring” the everyday athlete. Designed to be worn around the wrist full-time, the band displays fitness progress in a little gem-colored strip of light, “measuring your moves and turning them into Nike Fuel.” If that’s not magic, with its sleek obsidian-colored curves, its instant cult following, and its mysterious mastery of occult forces (does any user really understand how the electronics work?), then I’m an ancient Egyptian.

NEXT? Amulets are back, but why should Nike have all the magical fun? Obesity isn’t the only bogeyman we need supernatural protection from today—there are plenty of things to worry about, and technology can now make those worries tangible (and profitable). One company recently released a patch that monitors the user’s blood chemistry for what it terms “protective stage zero care” against kidney disease and high cholesterol. Another is marketing “mood-enhancing” jewelry containing tiny living plants, “to make the world a happier place.” And next? Well, what about an amulet that delivers spiritual peace, or true love, or untold riches?