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To every trend there is a countertrend, which is why media pundits are able at once to describe, for example, trends to greater liberalism and greater conservatism.

Both are true - of different tribes in the same society. So gay rights movements continue to make advances at the same time as America is becoming gripped by cultural con¬servatism, with ideas such as marriage, religion and civil society seen as the answer for the future.

Drug use soars, with growing calls for decriminalisation, at the same time as a neo-prohibitionist movement seeks to make it all but impossible to smoke a cigarette in a public place.

Expect to see millennial culture clashes between opposing trends, a world increasingly of extremes with tendencies to intolerance as groups fight to dominate the future. But not driven merely by culture clashes, the greatest forces will be unleashed by clashes of conscience influenced by religious conviction, or lack of it.

Which trends will be dominant?

The big question is this: if trend and countertrend coexist, which will be dominant in the new millennium?

The truth is that in a pluralistic, multi-track society there are a number of pendulums operating.

Dominance is less important with the emergence of micro-communities, micro-markets where all that matters is being able to target every trend with a package of products and services.

Expect to see whole industries built around micro-marketing techniques, micro-advertising, micro-distribution networks, micro-affinity groups.

* Patrick Dixon is author of 16 books on the future including The Future of Almost EverythingFuturewise and Sustainagilty.

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