For those of us fortunate enough to tune into TV1 last week, we now know exactly what the future holds for us, and what we need to do to make it better.

For this insight we have to thank John Campbell and Nigel Latta courtesy of their "groundbreaking show", What's Next.

We're lucky to have Latta, a man who, based on his many TV shows, seems to know pretty much about everything; a bit like Gareth Morgan, the difference being people seem to listen to Latta. He's inoffensive and a bit nerdy, which makes him believable, especially in the apparent shadow of the bumptious Campbell.

He's a clever presenter, for sure, with a great understanding of the human psyche. His favourite technique is to make a dubious assumptions and then question us about the possible implications of that assumption, which means we tend not to debate the actual assumption itself. In fact, by following his lead, we subliminally accept his assumptions.


One night last week, for example, he glibly told us about stuff. According to Nigel, some people have too much stuff, and then he asked us to consider if we could make do with less stuff.

It's clever, of course, but it's also extremely deceptive and manipulative.

There is, as far as I am aware, no official definition of how much stuff is enough. And surely the only person qualified to say if you have enough stuff is you.

What Latta really means, I suspect, is "some people have more stuff than you - let's make that a bad thing, let's call it unfair". He's actually driving a social equality narrative that has its roots in socialism.

Like all good pieces of agenda driven propaganda, What's Next was superficially plausible. Two professional presenters delivering a coherent set of arguments backed up by some rather impressive statistics. What is it they say? Lies, damned lies and statistics.

A good illustration of this is the impressive number of votes that were received, 200,000, which allowed them to claim that New Zealand had spoken. But the devil is in the detail. Votes, not voters. Given there were 24 separate voting questions, that averages out at just over 8000 people voting. Hardly all of NZ, is it?

Predictions about the future are notoriously unreliable, which is probably why we are in the mess we are today, yet John and Nigel delivered theirs as if they were cast-iron certainties.

They were ably abetted by a panel of earnest Millennials and grey-haired sages whose carefully scripted and clearly well rehearsed lines were seemingly quite convincing. Only when they were called upon to ad lib in conclusion did we realise they were simply driving their own narratives.


Don't get me wrong, it was a reasonable slick and entertaining production, and good on TVNZ for giving us a break from their usual relentless diet of reality docos about motorway cops. I know you will say you can't get enough of motorway cops, but surely 8 shows a week is too much, even for the uber enthusiast?

But please, don't bet the house on the guesswork of What's Next, and certainly don't vote based on what you saw or heard. Soothsayers have a habit of being wrong.

As technology increases our opportunities and options, so there will be many more potential paths for our future.

Predictions based on statistical extrapolation need to be sanitised - in other words they assume everything else remains equal, and as we have seen in recent times, this world that we live in has developed a handy knack of surprising us.

Yes, it's important to plan for the future, and yes, it's important to have a better understanding of the factors which will shape that future, but, in all honesty, what we saw last week was just one of many possible futures.

And until the future becomes the past, no one really knows what lies in store.

Jerry Flay is a freelance writer based in Hawke's Bay.