Evaluating generations is no easy task because it is difficult to remove oneself from the perspective of one’s own generation. The first attempts at an extensive study of generations were made in 1950’s, but almost 50 years passed before it became evident that the present socio-economic situation actually requires knowledge about inter-generational differences.
Even Socrates was aware of these differences… This may sound anecdotal, but in his time Socrates was concerned that young people’s memory capacity would suffer if they learned to read and write. How would they be able to remember anything if everything was written down?
Today it is impossible to retain the multitude of information available and it is impossible to read all the knowledge at our disposal. Young people truly don’t need to remember endless volumes of encyclopedic content. Anything can be easily found on the internet. We use our memory to remember how to access critical information.
So a new set of skills is need to access knowledge. We need to know the processes and the right combinations to know how and where to search for desired content. If alive today, Socrates would surely surf the internet, have a Facebook profile and a Twitter account and possibly contribute Wikipedia articles with great passion.
Scientist are even noticing that the brains of today’s youth have a different structure compared to older generations. We often hear how young people are addicted to computers and that they are unable to do anything would the help of electronic devices.
They even claim that they exhibit withdrawal symptoms if they are not on-line for extended periods of time. It is of course true to certain extent, but it is hardly a pathological addiction. Even someone who has no concept of internet, but lives in a large community, can find isolation an ordeal.
How they function is closely linked to how society functions. Society can no longer operate without modern communication technologies. If one seeks to regard youth pejoratively, claiming they are addicted to the computer, this simply means that they are unable to let go of the traditional, even stilted way of thinking.
One universal truth, also rediscovered by positive psychology and taken as a core tenet, is that man cannot be content without progress. This extends to all levels. Man must develop on the inside within the scope of personal development, as well as on outside, experiencing the development of society. If modern man does not see this all encompasising and lifelong development, he becomes discontent, even miserable. Once this discontent spreads to a large number of individuals, we see civil unrest …
This may sound banal, since there are many shades of grey in between, but it generally holds true.
When someone is discontent because they are not pursuing their instrinsic need for development, they initially become apathetic and feel useless to themselves and their environment and, if they do not take action, they can easily fall victim to depression.
Society operates by the same principle, it can easily be regarded as a living organism. If it does not follow progress, if it does not accommodate the natural laws of development, it will become ill. The first stage is stagnation, followed by economic depression, protests, wars …
So what are the changes the new generations have in store for us?
The veterans or the Silent generation (1920 – 1945)
If we look at the timeline going back almost 100 years, we see the period between the two world wars. This was a time when economic recession and unemployment were at their worst. The time when WW1 had just finished and WW2 was looming on the horizon. But children were born even in this dark and gloomy time. An entire generation of children, many of whom are still living among us today, was born between 1921 and 1945. This generation had a very thumultuous childhood.
The radio and telephone came into their homes and began to be widely used. It was during this period that they realized the importance of communication technology.
Perhaps the modest life and the war itself turned them into silent participants in society. Today we call them veterans. Perhaps it was their youthful optimism in combination with the war that shaped this generation’s characteristics. It is a fact that discipline was demanded of these children. Their parents raised the with strong hand and schools did not employ permissive educational methods.
The war also demanded extreme discipline in order to survive. Adherence to the rules was thus ingrained in their very essence and cultivated since early childhood. The only thing changing was the authority figure giving the orders. First the parents, then the teachers, then the military commanders and after peace was achieved, the politicians, once the economy was restarted, superiors at work.
They are used to the hierarchy, which is for them self-evident. They approach their supervisors and subordinates in a formal, official and standard way. They follow the rules and orders to the letter. They do what they are told to do by their supervisors. They do not change their values for years or throughout the entire spans of their lives.
The “Baby boom” generation – children of abundance (1945 – 1965)
They were born at a time of relative economic stability and growth. In the period of the BB generation’s childhood, life was good and the future was full of promise. One reason this generation was so large, besides the optimism and economic growth, was the fact that hormonal contraception had not yet been invented. In addition, medical science was developing and health care was improving, leading to a drop in child mortality.
During the time of their youth, a sexual revolution was taking place, accompanied by the first hormonal contraception, Woodstock, the beginning and end of the Vietnam was, the period of the Iron Curtain etc. In short, many social and political changes affected the Baby boom generation.
Although this was a period of political turmoil, it was also a time of optimism, economic stability and perceivable progress. The typical representative of the BB generation was growing up under the influence of television. At the time, television was not merely a way to spend one’s leisure time and a filler for boredom, like today. Television then played a very important role.
We need to understand that television was a mass medium which surpassed the radio as it offered a live show, moving image, from the comfort of one’s home. Before this experience was only possible in the cinema, which was not accessible to just anyone.
In this period, women made important steps towards the liberalization of gender roles. They had previously stayed at home, even if they were educated. A career was becoming important for her as well, and she began to put her career first.This was the first generation of women to be raised with the belief that there is nothing they can’t achieve, They can have a family, a career and personal satisfaction.
This led to significant changes in the basic unit of society – the nuclear family. It became a union of two employed people with children. As women occupied part of the labour market, society began to change and tear itself away from the patterns which had been in place for millenia.
Science started to make great leaps forward, becoming ever more specialized, while the demand for expert staff grew. Even new jobs were opening for highly educated individuals.
Consumerism became widespread, the circuits were joined, the banking systems supported individuals who wished to acquire basic permanent assets. By this, we mean a house or residential unit and one’s own car.
Changing the world was part of their mindset and they would work until the work was done. They do not despair, as they were born with a sense of optimism and prosperity. Work has been their highest priority, with the family taking only second place.
Work, work, work for oneself and for building a better tomorrow, progress and general well-being.
The children of abundance grew up to be materialists who believe that the ideal life can be achieved through material means. The work ethic of the BB generation has also brought great development and progress in the macroeconomic context.
Generation X (1965-1980)
Generation X was not born in a time of such grat promoise as the previous generation. The conditions in their formative years differed greatly. In the late 1960’s and 1970’s, the socio-economic conditions were very different, this was a time of the political tension of the Iron Curtain, and later fall of the Berlin wall.
The severe financial crisis of the 1980s followed by those in the 1990s left a strong mark on their youthful optimism about the future. They lost their thrust.
Representatives of generation X were also experiencing changes in the family, as this was the first generation to grow up largely in single parent families. Well, certainly more than before. The conditions in which they grew were not encouraging. Many representatives of the generation X were left to themselves. Not only due to higher number of divorced parents, but also because both parents had jobs and were less present. Thats is why many of them became more attached to their friends that their parents.
Despite the above factors, which sound dreadful, generation X was also born in a period of relative comfort and a high standard of living. During their childhood and youth, no revolutionary communication devices were introduced, but the previous ones were being upgraded and becoming more useful and accessible. Things simply became more widespread and/or improved.
Perhaps it was these improvements and upgrades of existing devices that created a certain complacency and scepticism towards novelties in this generation.
Technology came, entering the home from all directions and industry began to develop the first robots. Radio was broadcasting in hi-fi and stereo, and vinyl records were being pushed out by the more practical cassette, the black and white television set was replaced by the colour TV, the first personal music players (the walkman) were introduced, the telephones were becoming prettier, lighter, better designed etc.
They are a generation less driven by achievement, and maintaining a balanced life between family and work means the most to them. Nevertheless, representatives of this generation are very independent, resourceful and rely on their own skills. That explains why they operate better in smaller environments and being self dependent is what makes the happiest.
They are not so motivated to accumulate personal wealth. The amount of time they put in at work is balanced against the amount of time they invest in their family, and this prevents them from creating the conditions to accumulate personal wealth in the first place. The gen Xers are a generation that creates their own goals and pursues them, and one might easily say that they are individualists.
Generation Y (1980-1995)
Unlike generation X, this generation has experienced the great communication and technological revolution. Fax machines, telephones, radio, television and all kinds of gadgets, large airports, broad highways …. One, two, three cars per household. They regard this as a given fact, and do not even stop to think that 30 years ago just the most advanced visionaries would only have dreamed of such progress and widespread development.
During their childhood years everything was easy and accessible, and the world was experiencing rampant economic growth. It more or less seemed like the household could gain access to anything without putting in any significant effort.
The most decisive facts characterizing generation Y was the arrival of the mobile telephone and the internet connection. Nevertheless, the first representatives of generation Y had just left their childhood toys behind when the rampant development of mobile telephony and computing began.
They were able to actively access the virtual world. They could voice their opinions and establish live connections, something TV and radio were only to do in a live talk show scenario, which was usually carefully moderated and coordinated. Internet communication provided a freedom to express opinions previously unheard of in the mass media. Gen Y thus grew up at a time of the revolutionary growth of modern age communications, a new medium, as well as the skyrocketing development of digital technology.
Such a great change in the way society operates is bound to leave a mark; we are just now witnessing an unexpected turn because Gen Y is entering its active consumer period as responsible and serious adults.
They are much less driven by personal property. At first glance, this might seem absurd, how Gen Y assumes that they are simply entitled to material wealth by default, yet they are not following consumer behavior path of previous generations.
Generation Y is signalling great changes in society at large and consequently in working environments, yet they are not revolutionaries. They are setting goals, but they have no vision. They are a generation with a broader outlook on the world.
They forge friendships with their peers who they have never met, from other parts of the world, and from entirely different cultural and economic environments. This has helped them develop greater tolerance for different environments, different people, culture etc.
Generation Z – Digital native (1995-2010)
It is a fact that generation Z was born in a period in which all communication devices have been ubiquitous. Generation Z has no concept of life without a mobile phone and the internet is more accessible to them than books or the children’s playground in the neighbourhood. And the essence of their activity mainly lies in the fact that they simply don’t understand and cannot comprehend a world without modern communication technology.
It is also said that Generation Z is an overstimulated generation. More than half of their toys are educational in nature. Some education experts are sceptical of the benefits of this situation as they believe that children should develop their skills through creative games. Generation Z is therefore not engaging in a traditional play.
It has been also noted that Generation Z is maturing at a faster rate that the generations before it. The average 12 year old genZer is at the same maturity level of the average 15 year old generation Y teenager. This has been attributed to information being widely accessible via modern communication technology.
They are very quick to learn new information and before the teacher can finish introducing a specific subject, they are able to find it on the internet themselves and they can soon see that the teacher is not giving up to date information.
This can undermine the teacher’s authority. So it is necessary to invent a teaching method whereby the audience, or the pupils and teachers learn simultaneously. The teacher’s calling will no longer be to be adept in their field, but also to be extremely flexible and able to coordinate the ongoing discovery and acquisition of knowledge.
By their very occupation, teachers will become life long learners with the task of delivering knowledge. Generation Z is currently creating a great challenge for the education system. And they will also pose a great challenge for society, the workplace etc.
Generation Z will be the first truly global generation. The Gen Zers have been establishing global connections from an early age, because social networks represent an almost basic method of social interaction.
They use new technologies to be creative, to network and learn about the world outside. No generation has to date had such a great deal of information about the world and influence during their youth.
They are strong proponents of environmentalism. We can also see that they do not notice or ascribe importance to various cultures, religions, race etc. Their friends come from different cultures, religions, language groups and before they have time to develop prejudices they accept them based on their own values and common interests.
Ultimate generation (2010-2025)
This is the generation which is only now beginning and can be expected to start their active period in about 30 years. However, to some extent we can still predict which types of effect this environment will have on the development of this generation.
They are being born into a world of sluggish economic growth. Yet we cannot ignore that communication technology is developing at a rapid pace and will be offered to these children by their parents without any bad consciousness.
Their upbringing will be entirely adapted to the modern age and free of any prejudice linked to the harmful effects of these technologies. The education system will also be better adapted to their needs, since generation Z is currently paving the way.
A great deal of this education will be acquired in the form of self education. They will have a broad spectrum of possibilities of choice and will have the best insight of all previous generations into the set of their interests.
Hybrid generations (2025-2040 & onward)
The trend will continue with these hybrid generations. Their behavior will adapt to the communication and transport technologies of their time, becoming more advanced and practical. It’s possible that these generations will want to implant communication devices under their very skin.
Their way of life will be marked by multiple migrations during their active consumer period. The hybrid generations will actually be residents of global village and not just in the virtual sense. National borders will be a purely administrative matter. Most descendants of the first hybrid generation will come from mixed marriages in terms of race, religion, nationality etc.
From above written, one can make a reasonable assumption in which direction the whole of the culture is moving. It is obvious the vector is influenced decisively by development of technology and assurance of basic material needs (less urgent to acquire), giving new generation space and time to dwell on completely different plane of existence.
The new generations will not seek to own personal property because this will hinder them in choosing everything else which will be essential for quality of life. We have to understand, however the new generations will not give up any goods, they will still want more, but the possession of good will become an increasing burden from generation to generation, a waste of time and an unnecessary source of worries.
In the following table we are able to observe behavioral pattern of last 100 years extending through generations that moves from need for personal ownership to completely abolishing the need for personal ownership.
Once society ensures basic survival needs and internalizes the means to achieve it as a basic societal operation that is well structured with many redundant tools to ensure uninterupted support, individuals can now move on the hierarchy of needs to a higher plane.
We have spent an entire section to depict vector of change which is obvious. Based on immense technology upgrades as one of important factors of how we perceive life around us, which also ensure way more connected world with way more chance to survive as species, we all experience further needs of “self realization”.