Some of the interesting trends he discusses in the book include:
People are retiring but continuing to work.
Teens are turning to knitting.
Women are driving technology.
Dads are older than ever and spending more time with their kids than in the past.
What exactly is a microtrend? How do they grow?
Surprisingly it only takes a small number of people to start a trend. As Penn points out, if a social trend reaches a mere 1% "it is ready to spawn a hit movie, a best selling book, or new political movement." To reach that level takes a medium for these people to communicate with each other. The internet supplies that medium.
Some of the implications of the counter intuitive trends he discusses bear further examination. "For every trend there is a countertrend. For every push to modernization, there is a drive to hold onto old values." These seemingly contradictory conclusions are possible because of what the notion of microtrends represents: "the human drive toward individuality."
This drive toward individuality though makes it difficult to see many of these trends. For me, this raises one of the most interesting points in the book. As Penn points out, "an average person cannot tell the difference between 4 percent unemployment and 8 percent unemployment. " Given how many people we know and that we mostly get our information from these people or observing them we simply cannot tell the difference between an economic boom and a recession (which would be the difference between 4 percent and 8 percent unemployment).
Given this, most people get their news from highly unreliable sources various web sites, chats with friends, the occasional news show, and "their own gut." That means, surprisingly, that "most people end up being wrong much of the time about what is actually going on." It's not for lack of facts that people end up wrong but lack of interest in the facts.
But, the facts are there for the taking and the microtrends are there as well. Learning to observe them and infer from them could greatly enhance our ability to actually know what is going on. A good reason to study them indeed!