Saturday, 30 January 2016

Why do Millennials feel scared about their future?

I think baby boomers see me as a sort of ersatz millennial. Old ladies have only just stopped calling me 'young man' and old men still regard me as a whippersnapper. If I'm stuck slightly in the past it's more like the Athens of Pericles than whenever I actually was a kid. And, generally, teenagers who I know seem to turn to ask me about technology rather than the other way around.
Still, people do seem to turn to me to ask questions about millennial, and one comes up a lot. Why do millennials feel scared about the future?

So here is my take.


Jack Ma has it exactly right here (as always). When Thomas Friedman published "The World Is Flat", globalisation looked like "a perfect strategy" for the US: "We just want the IP, the technology, and the brand, and we'll leave the other jobs" to other countries like Mexico and China. The outcome has created a huge political backlash in the US as those who are not directly working in IP, the technology, and the brand struggle to compete on salary with workers from those countries. The effect is hidden by cheap imported technology and mass produced foods but things that can't be imported like property cut millennials out of access to the basics that generations before them aspired to and formed a basic part of the post-war American Dream. Following your Dream And of course they've been told to follow their dreams and had the idea forced down their throats that a simple, honest life of nurturing, caring and contributing to friends, family and society is somehow worthless. Part of this involves everyone being told and sold the idea of doing one of a handful of jobs - entertainer, dancer, artist maybe lawyer. These were great aspirations in the 1950s, but when half the population train for them it means that many people will spend their lives disappointed and empty. [Digression - Mark's Law of Job Value - how to see if a job is truly valuable - what would happen if everyone on your type of job disappeared today: Doctors? – moderate difference today – but life would be shorter and more miserable in the long term; Grade school teachers? – something similar; Garbage disposal – big problems for most people with disease and vermin within weeks; Farmers – not much difference today – but maybe 80% of the people you know would be dead by this time next year if farmers went; Rockstars, Soap Opera Stars, Movie Stars – not as much difference as consumer society might make you think – just think that one through especially if you know good amateur performers.]

Technological Literacy

What? Whaaat??? This is sacrilege. Millennials are supposed to know all about technology and everyone else is supposed to be dumb about it? You remember all those movies where a cave man is brought back from the past and doesn't understand anything - rushes around out of touch with his era?

Well, the thing is that most of us are exactly like that. You can turn on the iPhone, you can tap the screen and talk to it, but you haven't a clue how it really works. How to program it. What microcode is and how it works. What a chip really is and how it really works. And it's alienating at a deep level.
People love to laugh at those splendid people in the Pacific islands, the Cargo Cult tribes, who try to bring technology to their islands by copying the outward signs of western technology. So they build a runway, put two halves of a coconut on their heads as headphones, talk into a pineapple as a microphone. But they are not the odd ones. They've seen right through us. They know that the westerners who they meet don't understand the technology in the world they move around in, can really describe how it works or how to make it. They know that they are dealing with consumers and the stuff really comes from elsewhere.

But remember it isn't about millennials, its about the era they live in.

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