If you were wondering what comes after Generation Z, which are people born between the mid-90s and 2009 or so, the answer is in: Generation Alpha (at least according to a post from Axios where they find out the details about Generation Alpha from Australian research group McCrindle‘s Ashley Fell). Generation Alpha is, roughly speaking, people born since 2010 and they are experiencing life quite a bit differently than anyone who reads this post.
Generation Alpha: Technology and what else will Define them
The obvious difference between Generation Alpha and previous generations is their immersion in tech. I was born in the mid-80s and I can remember a time when my family didn’t have a computer, much less access to the internet or having a phone perpetually at my side like some kind of Borg-like hive mind that enables me to have access to so much of what humanity has created through a very small window making me and everyone else into techno-voyeurs. But it’s not all bad!
For these kids today, and Generation Alpha certainly qualifies as kids, their lives, according to the Axios article, are going to be defined by the following:
- Technology: They’ve been wired all their lives. McCrindle’s Ashley Fell says this generation is part of an “unintentional global experiment,” in which screens are placed in front of children at the same time as pacifiers.
- Alphas are accustomed to and reliant on instant information and communication.
- Diversity is a standard for Alphas, with women in the workplace, the value of inclusion and a focus on equality as overwhelming norms.
- Life markers such as marriage, children and retirement are expected to be delayed, much like previous generations.
- Education is a strength for the group. Alphas are expected to surpass their predecessors, Generation Z, as the most formally educated generation in history.
- Labor and tax dollars are expected to be in high demand from Alphas, with a boom in aging populations just around their adulthood.
At the end of the piece they do include the caveat that since the senior members of Generation Alpha still haven’t achieved double digits in terms of age that they cannot be certain about any predictions (forward looking statements and the like). And that’s fine, even responsible to say. But I think that Fell has definitely hit the high notes and everything here seems reasonable.
For me, however, I think the biggest difference between Generation Alpha and all previous generations is technology. One bit that wasn’t fleshed out in the Axios article (and Axios isn’t necessarily the place to go for fleshing out, it’s special built for people who want the gist) with technology is the nexus between technology and work (and life in general) as it relates to Generation Alphas. How will their careers differ from previous generations? Will automation help or hurt their employment prospects? What will their response be to the intricate details that tech companies know about their lives? What kind of effect will technology have on their personal lives?
All interesting questions, and Fell is spot on saying that the ubiquity of technology is an “unintentional global experiment”. Outside of a couple of intrepid science fiction writers, no one predicted how the internal combustion engine would revolutionize everything about how we live. The same is going on here but instead of transportation forever being changed, this time around what is being revolutionized is communication. The hope is that technology will bring us closer together, the fear is that it will tear us apart. Who knows? There are good arguments for both sides.
Generation Alpha and Entrepreneurs
Making far flung predictions is a fools game that is fun to play so I’ll play it here.
Taking everything outlined in the Axios post into consideration, it’s plausible that Generation Alpha will turn out to be extraordinarily entrepreneurial. Their access to information, technological innovation, automation of back office jobs, openness to different people, education, and the older generations leaving the workforce can all be a perfect storm for innovation.
Contra all the Ludditical worries, it’s entirely possible that all of these factors will enable Generation Alpha to harness the power of iterative innovation and make tremendous strides in all areas of the economy. Yes, many jobs will mostly or completely disappear but new jobs will come along that will replace those that are lost. What those jobs are, I don’t know, but I believe, and history has so far proved this, people are needed to make humanity work and new jobs will come on board thanks to entrepreneurs.
It is my hope that Generation Alpha will have a greater innovation mindset than previous generations have had, which is something to say about Americans since our country is one of the most entrepreneurial to have ever existed. Growing up in a time when knowledge is easily accessible the focus for kids growing up now will be in leveraging that information and creating things. Entrepreneurs are tinkerers and I can see Generation Alpha as a generation of tinkerers.
As those barriers to entry that prevented the vast majority of people from even having rudimentary access to the knowledge they need to innovate continue to crumble the forces of creative destruction will accelerate and much more progress will be made along so many avenues of life. It’s already happening with transportation (Tesla, Uber, and Lyft), retail (Amazon and eBay), travel (Airbnb and Expedia), media (YouTube, Netflix, the crumbling of print media, need I go on?), and so much more. Innovation is only going to increase.
At least I hope that to be the case. Either way, Generation Alpha will live in interesting times.
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