By Randy Moore
As I think about the cycles of life, I find myself reflecting on the challenges and opportunities of the next generation. What will occupy the minds and hearts of our children and grandchildren when they are mature adults? Will their sense of reality mirror our own, and what differences can we expect?
Being a student of history gives me a perspective about the modest impact any one generation has on human evolution. We can witness greatness in the snapshots of time, but it’s almost always in the rearview mirror. For example, many people refer to the World War II generation as “great” because of the magnitude of the events these men and women faced. The generation was not regarded as great until decades after the guns were silent.
Beyond the drama of a global war resulting in the death of more than 65 million people, the post-war generation in the 1960s distinguished itself in the realm of social consciousness. This led to both positive and negative characterizations. The children of this era were an expressive group eager to explore new ideas, skeptical about the status quo, open to alternative reality with or without drugs, and opposed to war-making and conventional authority.
Some people refer to more recent generations less admirably. Think of labels like “the lost generation” and the “me generation.” Even reference to the children of the “me generation” refers to aberrant and self-centered behavior. This historical perspective is a reminder that who we become is influenced by our circumstances, and that trying to predict the full impact of a generation is mostly guesswork.
The similarities between generations will continue. We all want to feel secure and connected to others. We all focus on personal goals and the welfare of our loved ones. Even our search for meaning is a constant since the first tribe of humans organized on the African plains.
Generations evolve slowly even if the current moment feels like the proverbial cutting edge.
I’m not talking about new models of cars, fashions or the latest gadgets. Significant shifts in how people actually think and behave are more elusive than product trends. These shifts reflect the influence of social norms and the innate cautiousness of human nature.
So, what can we predict about the future of our children and grandchildren? Most children in the modern world will continue to be influenced by the use of technology in communications, education, commerce and all forms of problem-solving. This will expand in the decades ahead and eventually we will witness the integration between technology and human biology. Yes, I’m referring to modified robots beyond our wildest imagination.
Technology has a downside. It’s a poor substitute for human communication and the art of relating. Many people are likely to learn that spending too much time with technology has harmed their social skills and brain functions. “Safe technology” and “human-friendly technology” will morph into trillion-dollar industries; future employers for many of our grandkids.
The next generations will continue looking for ways to balance high-tech with high touch. That may be more important than we think. It could be a call to practical environmentalism in the face of a corporate-managed society driving mindless consumption and gross materialism. Perhaps it will be our grandchildren that finally stand up to the abuse of our natural resources. Mother Nature will give the future youth a hand with the consequences of climate change and sea level rise in full display.
The next generation will be less afraid of cultural differences because they will grow up in a multicultural society. Changing voting patterns might result in new political parties that are more relevant to more people. Then again, some ideologists, supported by the wealth and fear of institutional power, will fight positive change until their bitter end.
Another likely trend will be the continued demise of religiosity. Atheism is growing and especially with younger, more educated people. Even people adhering to the religious traditions of their families will expect greater tolerance from their faith-based leaders. Hard to imagine that human hate will ever go out of style completely, but that may be necessary if conventional religions expects to be relevant. New religions are also feasible in the decades and centuries ahead.
The next generation is likely to play a role in determining how social norms evolve regarding privacy. Will they continue to believe that privacy is a basic right or will the trumpets of fear convince them that privacy and security are the purview of government? The current demise of the media as an independent watchdog should be alarming; especially if the next generation can no longer discern why a “free media” even matters.
The distrust of government has always been justified. Many of our electors have continuously misled us and justified their actions with self-serving intelligence and doublespeak. The call for blind patriotism overwhelms intelligent questions and concerns about the misuse of power. Will the next generation ask questions or will that be considered non-patriotic?
Whatever the changes ahead, I hope the next generation builds more bridges than walls.
Randy owns Triple 3 Marketing. He’s a long term advocate for positive change, having owned community magazines since 1999. Randy sold Positive Change Media in April 2009 and took a year off before launching Triple 3 Marketing. In addition to helping business owners, he also provides private coaching. Randy has a masters degree in communication arts from the University of Wisconsin at Madison where he studied persuasion and attitude change. Contact Randy at email@example.com.