A New Generation Hard-Wired to Technology

For youngsters born since 2010, social researcher Mark McCrindle says they are growing up surrounded by technology they will regard as part of the hard wiring of normal life. The rest of us will have to adjust. Illustration Credit: Michele Marconi

For youngsters born since 2010, social researcher Mark McCrindle says they are growing up surrounded by technology they will regard as part of the hard wiring of normal life. The rest of us will have to adjust.

Illustration Credit: Michele Marconi

A new generation is walking around and will likely confound parents, teachers and marketers as much or more than Millennials.

Generation Alpha, which consists of people born after 2010, will be more digitally savvy – and digitally enslaved. As social researcher Mark McCrindle discovered, technology will permeate every aspect of life for Generation Alpha members – from toys to consumer expectations.

Grandson Hudson deftly manipulates an iPad, almost as if it is an extension of hand.

Grandson Hudson deftly manipulates an iPad, almost as if it is an extension of hand.

I can attest. We just bought a birthday present for Hudson, our 6-year-old grandson, that will allow him to assemble a robot and code how it operates. In my day, I thought it was a big deal to have a puppet with strings that moved its lips and limbs.

McCrindle and his project partner Wired Consulting predict voice technology will become more dominant in the Generation Alpha era. No one will debate how much screen time is good or bad because almost everything will operate with a screen. There will be an internet of toys that responds to commands and demonstrates their own emotional intelligence.

Delayed gratification will be an extremely hard concept to sell this generation, which will be accustomed from an early age to instant feedback.

“Virtual Reality” may recede as a term, replaced by prevalent virtual experiences – from space exploration to house-hunting to dating (less risky and expensive).

Robots may go from scrappy metal competitors for good jobs to trusted companions offering uncomplicated relationships.

In short, Generation Alpha will be different than any generation before it, perhaps by a greater extent than any previous succeeding generation. That difference could further strain educational pedagogy, consumer marketing and parental patience. “We have been doing this for a long time” won’t be an effective message to this emerging cohort.

This new generation bursts on the scene before existing generations have answered all the questions digital technology has posed. Many of us aren’t sure we have thought of all the questions yet. For example, is Facebook as addictive as nicotine in cigarettes? Was the Facebook addiction accidental or intentional? Is there a market for Facebook farms where people can unplug for a week or more and learn how to talk someone in person?

Our grandson competes in chess tournaments and whips older kids. He may just be bright. He could assemble 100-piece puzzles when he was three. But when you watch him and his buddies deftly manipulate iPads, you realize these kids don’t separate the normal course of things from technology. Technology to him is the norm.

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Gary Conkling is president and co-founder of CFM Strategic Communications, and he leads the firm's PR practice, specializing in crisis communications. He is a former journalist, who later worked on Capitol Hill and represented a major Oregon company. But most importantly, he’s a die-hard Ducks fan. You can reach Gary at garyc@cfmpdx.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @GaryConkling.