Generation Z consists of those born in 1995 or later. As per a 2017 media research report, generation Z is 26% of the total audience overall and the millennials are now trailing behind at 22% of the total audience.
Just so to be clear, a “millennial” is a person reaching young adulthood around the year 2000. Generation Z, also known as the post-millennial generation, is the demographic cohort following the millennials.
Here is a graph from that report:
A few weeks ago, when I went for one of my long morning walks, I was passing by a bunch of kids in the joggers’ park. Kids who were seven to nine year olds. One of the kids was having a cell phone which looked pretty expensive. He was talking to someone. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop but I could hear that small boy talking presumably to his girlfriend, “Hey baby, where are you? I’ve been waiting for you for half an hour, are you coming or should I go with my boys for a ride.”
My reaction to this was, “What the fuck?” I stood there for a while before I could continue my walk.
I was visiting one my uncle’s home back in Rajasthan last year. I have a 15-year-old cousin. He knows about gadgets no less than any of the self-proclaimed tech gurus of YouTube. He knows about most of the latest smartphones, laptops, headphones and even drones. But he is not alone, most of his friends are like that. He is not an exception but a norm.
18 years ago, when I entered my teens, I was a tech head myself. I had access to a computer. I knew about computer languages and was starting to learn C++ on my own. I knew about complex computer setups, though cell phones weren’t accessible at that time. Internet was a dial-up connection on a 56K Modem. Each time you connected to the Internet, you had to dial a number and your modem would make funny sounds before it connected you to the World Wide Web. The Internet (the network of networks) was launched on 6 August 1991. But even after a decade, the network speed was so slow that if you sent a person from today to the 2000s, they wouldn’t be able to handle the low speeds. It was a time of practising patience and I had a lot of it.
I always stayed busy with my computer doing stuff people around me wouldn’t understand. I was a total computer geek. In those times, people like me were an exception.
Fast forward to present years, when I see kids of my friends or seniors, I find them much smarter than the kids in my early years. This triggers so many questions. But the biggest question of them all is – have humans silently gone through another cycle of evolution?
I was so intrigued by this question from so long that finally, I put together the pieces of this jigsaw puzzle. Here is an interesting graph I made which reflects the cornerstone developments of modern technologies.
As you see in this graph, in the past two decades, technology has developed so much. Disruptive modern innovations happened in the early 2000s till years around 2010. They became the underlying platforms for the innovations happening right now or the ones to happen in the future. As the platforms were set, the later growth of technology happened at an exponential rate. Now we have drones, accessible home automation solutions and even reusable rockets! We (humans) have come a long way.
While technology was growing in these years, millennials were making babies too. Those babies grew smarter. Not because of a biological or genetic evolution but a technological evolution. Technology developed so fast and products started becoming cheaper. That gave access to these amazing technologies first to the millennials and then to their kids. Even the middle class or the lower middle class could afford a smartphone in the mid-2010s.
The cell phone became a smartphone with its integration with the internet and millions of applications. It can do simple things and also complex things which were unthinkable of in the early 2000s. Technology has gone from telling what’s the weather like to accessing your email to complex things like measuring your heartbeat to now very very complex things like measuring even your blood pressure. Samsung’s latest S9 smartphone literally have a sensor for that which detect any variations in your blood pressure. Smartphones have done what seemed impossible a decade ago.
The second important point is that the income per capita has increased. Business went digital and started making more money and jobs started paying better after the 2008 recession. Now people can afford things to make their lives better which wasn’t the case in the 80s and the 90s. For millennials, it has been a financially evolving journey but for their babies, that was not the case. They got a good headstart. They may not have been born with smarter minds but they certainly got the enhancement tools like smartphones, iPads and Google from the day they became conscious.
Well, I’m not trying to do a gibberish comparison between 80s kids and 2010s kids. I’m trying to make a point about the advantage which the babies of millennials have but millennials didn’t. So if we want to quantify it in years, they already got a 20 years headstart.
That doesn’t mean they got to skip their schools or colleges and directly started earning money. But the advantage they got was the methods of consuming information and ease of access to that information. In my early days, when Google wasn’t there, I had to look up the Encyclopedia Britannica. I remember I installed it from 4 CDs (Compact Disks) on my computer back in the day. It was quite good and gave answers to most of the general knowledge questions. But now we have Google. It can give not only the answers which are related to general knowledge but any question in any field. With the latest technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning, search engines are becoming smarter and smarter day by day.
Yesterday, I was watching the Google I/O 2018 keynote of their CEO Sunder Pichhai. He introduced the latest version of Google Assistant which can now even call on your behalf to a hotel and book a table for you without even letting the hotel desk guy know that he’s talking to a robot. It’s so human-like. It’s only because they could make use of the artificial intelligence technology and make a platform like Google Duplex.
It feels like the technology development has given our life and time a huge thrust – indeed, we are living in the future.
Another aspect of the story is the health of the current generation. There are two sides to this coin. One is the type of people who became conscious of their health and started taking help of these technologies to become healthier. But there are also people who became lazier because of these technologies. They can now order everything from e-retailers or food ordering services that they don’t even need to take a step out of their homes to get anything. They hardly move from their bed at home or from their chair in the office. Of course, it is their own fault than the fault of technology. However, the technology was a trigger in their influenced behaviour.
What does the future look like?
I am not a fortune teller. But the growth happening in the technology world is making the next generation smarter already. I can see many impossible things coming into being. I can see space cars becoming a reality. I can see machines doing human work. I can see people living on the moon and on Mars. I can see earth becoming smaller from the travel point of view with faster transportation mediums like Hyperloop. Or any other similar technology where pods will travel underground in vacuum medium and with magnetic thrust.
I can see banks going extinct and new P2P transactional technology (probably not BitCoin or any of the cryptocurrency for that matter) becoming the new bank (or maybe Bank will shift their Business models, who knows!). I can see a product which may make smartphones extinct. We will be able to do things we are able to do on a smartphone today from our own body sensors like a screen projected on our wrist or in front of our eyes. Our hands acting as input sources on those projections or maybe something more unthinkable than that. I can see scientists making progress to save the earth. I can see people becoming more conscious towards saving the earth.
I have faith in this next generation of mankind. I hope they live up to it.
About the author: Himanshu Sachdeva is a writer and blogger at Lifestyle Architecture Lab based out of Mumbai, India. When he is not writing blogs, he is road-tripping and travelling.