Here come the ALPHAs - children of the Millennials
When I was a child watching Captain Kirk in Star Trek, blazing a trail through the universe as a citizen of Earth, I bought the vision of humans wisely giving up their tribes and internal tensions in order to survive. Might the Alphas be the first global generation to insist that those in power start to do the same?
Fast forward sixteen years from today and imagine it’s 2035. Generation ALPHA (born since 2010) are all grown up and well imbedded in the workforce around the globe. What might the world look like then? The marketing profession and social researchers are already on this and making some predictions. They say an estimated 2.5 million Alphas are now being born every week and when the global population reaches 8.6 billion in 2035, they’ll be around 30% of the people alive.
Way beyond the “digital natives” of the previous generation, many of the Alphas will have had an online profile from even before they were born. Created when mum was pregnant and photographed and shared from day one, the digital impression of their existence and identity will seem as normal as a birth certificate. Will privacy online have become nothing more than an illusion?
Predictions are that the Alphas won’t care because having an online identity will have become, wait for it… an integral part of being human. Artificial intelligence will blossom in the form of robots, virtual reality and intelligent systems - doing more and more everyday tasks and much of the manufacturing. Humans will control the artificial intelligence and do the jobs it cannot do.
Already, we see iPads replacing books in schools and this is just one sign of the connected world that Generation Alpha will inhabit. One of the most staggering predictions I came across is that wearable diagnostics in clothing may help eradicate cancer by monitoring our health indicators around the clock and flagging up any significant changes instantly. Just imagine, nowhere for growing cancer cells or a tumour to hide. Incredible. And that data may be winging automatically to your doctor before you even consider making an appointment.
Further education delivery will be much more flexible with rolling programmes of on-demand courses streamed into the devices of learners wherever they are based and world-class tutors using global conferencing, rather than the campus, to reach more students. The availability and efficiency of public transport will have been transformed in order to save the planet from climate change and vehicles will no longer be powered by fossil fuels. Might it have even become socially unacceptable to drive a vehicle for sole personal use?
Social scientists also predict that single child households will become much more prevalent in the western world and, ironically, that may lead to lots more communal and multi-generational living as humanity increasingly understands the catastrophic health impacts of loneliness and isolation.
And what jobs will Alphas be doing? No-one knows because those jobs haven’t been invented yet. Workers will have to be agile, adaptable and ready for anything. Just fifty years ago, the public didn’t have computers, smart phones, the internet, social media and no cheap and easy way to speak to uncle Bob across the globe in Oz. Everything has changed and there’s no sign of the pace slowing.
We are more connected across the globe than ever before in human history. Although that connectedness has arguably seen the rise of toxic expression and human tensions, there is hope of new ways of doing things and positive change. MIT Professor, the late Lester Thurow, famously said “brainpower, imagination, and invention” are what will really count in the 21st century.
Though some older people today see the rise of online connectedness and social media as negative by reducing face to face communication, there are strong signs that children and young people don’t see it that way and are positive about its necessity.
Recent research by Pew in the USA found that 81% of teens ages 13 to 17 say social media makes them feel more connected to what’s going on in their friends’ lives. Two-thirds said it helps make them feel as if they have people who will support them through tough times. Teens also tended to associate their social media use with positive rather than negative emotions (71% vs. 25%). Would you have thought that to be the case?
Social media, whether we like it or not, is here to stay. Boundaries of all sorts are becoming less important in the free world and teens, especially, credit social media for helping them to build stronger friendships and exposing them to a more diverse world with which they are completely at ease.
I’ve always thought it short sighted not to make the most of human potential of all ages and abilities and have never understood why we have so few young people of both sexes in power and politics. Social media is changing that by letting everyone have their largely uncensored say and allowing like-minded campaigners, activists and influencers to easily connect with each other.
Just look at how 16-year-old Greta Thunberg has harnessed the energy and actions of millions of teens around the world on climate change. And don’t underestimate the power and reach of the many superstar influencers with millions of online followers - like Taylor Swift, who has the ear of 106 million people – way more than the population of the UK.
Here’s what I envisage for Generation Alpha. I hope they make their voices heard. I think, more than any previous generation when young, they WILL be heard and will steer us towards a kinder, happier, more environmentally aware way of life as diverse global citizens. It’s inevitable that the establishment and the media will find it ever harder to “keep them in their place” and I’m glad of that.
Families, teams and workplaces thrive when folk of all ages contribute as equals. When the power sits mainly in one age group, as it has traditionally always done in world politics, we miss out on so much human potential and progress. The Millennials and Generation Z have started to challenge that and the young will no longer be held back. Let’s always value experience, but stop undervaluing and underestimating youthful optimism, talent and vigour. I can’t wait to see how Alphas change the world.