generationAnne M. Schüller and Alex T. Steffen just released their book “Fit for die Next Economy: Sustainable with the Digital Natives”, which is currently only available in German, but got my whole attention, since it made me understand the so-called “digital natives” a bit  better.

The demographics gave the Millennials the names Y and Z, although they do not call themselves so, and such names are of course only auxiliary constructs, because not all people born in an arbitrarily selected period can be pigeonholed. Nevertheless, lived events in early life are formative and generate a common social character, together with group conformism.

What the authors highlight is the fact that Millennials do not rebel against the old, and makes them so ‘different” compared to the transformation generation of the 68s. Laid-back they simply make new, hence, wonder about digital transformation, since they live long ago in a digitally transformed cosmos and adapt to working worlds when they create them.

I myself, don’t really believe in the distinction between digital natives and digital immigrants – probably, since there are many among the old folks who are very active with smartphones, tablet computers, Facebook & Co., and there are 30-year-olds who almost completely refuse the web. Some 50-year-olds are more skilled in dealing with digital tools than a 20-year-old. So, let’s put it this way: "There is no digital native", rather a continuum of being digitally fit and unfit.

Y and Z follows Alpha?

If you ask, who are the generations Y and Z, here are the essential characteristics in a nutshell:

  • Generation Y (GenY) includes all age groups between plus / minus 1980 and plus / minus 1999, and has grown up with the World Wide Web that exists since the 90s - so this age cohort is very familiar with digital applications.
  • Generation Z (GenZ) includes all age groups between plus / minus 2000 and plus / minus 2019, depending on the source. They were born into the age of social networks that have existed since the beginning of the new millennium and are often called Internet natives, as digital applications reveal themselves usually intuitive.
  • And what is the name of the next generation? It seems as if the term "Generation Alpha" becomes accepted. This sounds appropriate for those who see this generation as the precursors of a whole new era. On the other hand, some believe that things continue to evolve at such a high rate of change that generational schemata become irrelevant at all.

People and artificial intelligence – where is it heading?

People, humanoid robots and artificial intelligence (AI) are moving towards each other inquantum leaps. Self-learning software programs can not only become more intelligent on their own, they are also creative and intuitive by now. In fact, some are already beginning to look for autonomous fields of activity since they have reward programs implanted. They can write their own stories, compose symphonies, create their own pieces of art, interpret emotions and show compassion. Some people already confide their deepest feelings in computers rather than their fellow human beings.

Our will to transform – even without cause - is obvious. Just think about tattoos that cover the body and give it a new look. Couldn’t it be regarded as a first striking step. Invasive procedures for self-optimization are highly popular as well, not only among those who are aesthetically underserved. Not to mention that more and more "freaks" walk around with NFC chips, implanted under the skin as a remote control. Who knows, one fine day, such chips may be able to connect our brain directly to the Internet, and then we are on our way to physical merging with computers.

Are there AI-optimized brains coming?

AI-optimized brains will one day be superior to those that have not been optimized by artificial intelligence. For this reason alone, they will come into existence - despite all reservations. Higher, faster, and better in every respect is evolutionary and existentially intrinsic. Therefore, most people wouldn’t wait to use every technological innovation available as soon as they get their hands on it. From the positive experiences of such early adopters and pioneers emerge new requirements to all players in the market and makes the new an indispensable part of our lives.

Since the beginning of mankind, we are expanding what is within human power. Self-optimization is the benefit and leadership the goal. The ‘fear of missing out’ on what is about to happen will make the stragglers following the digital vanguard - as quickly as possible. Or as Jürgen Schmidhuber, one of the most profound developers of artificial intelligence and Scientific Director of the Swiss Research Institute IDSIA said: "This process continues inexorably - and soon the wisest components of civilization will no longer be human beings.”

By Daniela La Marca