Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Next Great Generation?

Running the risk of being viewed as single threaded in my posts I have decided to take this generational issue one more step. Our future lies not with “The Greatest Generation” or the “Baby Boomers”. It can be argued that they have done their part from an economic standpoint. It could also be argued that they fell short when it comes to real social change. The inventions, achievements and discoveries are extraordinary. Just to name a few:

  • Quantum Physics
  • Proliferation of modern computing power
  • Transistors and nano-engineering
  • DNA mapping for science and crime fighting
  • Commercialized Nuclear Reaction
  • Space Travel (manned space flight, Mars landing)
  • Lasers (light wave transmission and fiber optics)
  • Massive Government entitlement programs (from farmers to urban dwellers)

So what about the future? Who will carry the flag into the next battle? The Millennials as they call themselves? Now Neil Howe and William Strauss would have you believe that they’re the ones. I for one hope it’s true. In their book Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation“ Howe and Strauss would have us believe Millennials are part of the generational cycle of four. That means that they will, according to the authors, as part of their rebellion, emphasize manners, modesty and old fashion courtesies. They will bring trust to politics, rebel against individualism and social ennui. Fundamentally right almost every wrong.

I don’t know that I would go that far. What I do believe is that in every generation there are those who stand out. My parents thought that long hair and rock and roll was going to end civilization, as they knew it. To some extent it did. But out of that rock and roll era came great minds and leaders. I expect that the Millennials will have the same impact. Some will rise to the top while most will continue along their chosen path without really giving much thought to the future, other than their own. I am just as concerned about this generation as my parents were concerned about mine. I was as outspoken about my parents as the Millennials are about theirs. Sure they irritate me at times, I irritated my elders. The key to their fame is in their passion. What are they passionate about?

American Millennials face a growing challenge to their greatness with competition from Asian and Indian Millennials. Overseas they are studying Physics, Math and Engineering in greater numbers. We are not. I have heard it said that their schools are not as good as ours. They will be. In the mean time they will just go to ours. Think about this, every year, China produces more university graduates than the US and 60 percent of them cannot find a job. The massive growth in their capitalistic societies will mirror the Golden Era of Capitalization in America during the 1950’s through the 1970’s. Every year since 2004 China has been building enough power plants to supply a major European country. They will gobble up every natural resource they can consume. Suppliers will be looking east for trade not the west. Currently the United States annually imports $200M worth goods more then it exports to China.

China has a population of about 1.3B. India has a population of around 1.1B. The combined population of Europe, Canada and the United States is only 1.1B. There is already a 350 million English-speaking, educated Indian workers. In China, an estimated 200 million people are learning English. There are only 250 million English-speaking Americans.

Millennials can meet this challenge. They must start to take control of their future. They will need the help of all of us. We need to nurture this generation into greatness. I don’t see a “rebellion to the light”. I see the natural evolution of a generation.

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. - Anne Frank

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