The decline of fascination and the rise in ennui
A generation ago, a clever idea could run and run. We talked about Space Food Sticks and Tang and Gilligan's Island and the Batmobile for years, even though there certainly wasn't a lot of depth. Hit movies and books stayed on the bestseller lists for months or even years (!)
Today, an internet video or an investment philosophy or a political moment might last for weeks or even a few days. It's not unusual for a movie or a book or even a TV series to come and go before most people notice it. Neophilia has fundamentally changed the culture.
The result is that there's an increasing desire, almost a panic, for something new. Yesterday was a million years ago, and tomorrow is already here. The rush for new continues to increase, and it is now surpassing our ability to satisfy it.
When that need can't be filled (which is not surprising, if you think about it) then we're inclined to declare that it's the end, the end of new ideas, the end of progress, the end of everything that's interesting. Spend a week or two watching TED videos and once you catch up, you might find yourself saying, "sure, but what's new now?"
If you're in the business of making a new thing, this churn may be an opportunity, because it's easier now than ever to send a hit up the pop charts, whatever sort of pop you make. But it comes at a price, which is that it won't last, and you'll quickly have to go back and make another one.
The real opportunity, I think, is in trying to build longer arcs. Now that the cycle of new is eating itself in a race to ever-faster, there's a bigger chance to make long term change by consistently focusing on what works (and what's important), not what's new and merely shiny.
What's important, what's always important, is useful change.