Emerging Technologies

How will the next generation use technology?

Christina Sterbenz
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Emerging Technologies

This article is published in collaboration with Business Insider.

Retail and financial strategists have attempted to target Generation Z, the post-1990s generation that doesn’t remember a world before the tech boom, as early as 2014

In a note to clients Wednesday, analysts at Goldman Sachs upped the ante, arguing that Gen-Z could be “just as, if not more, influential” as millennials (also known as Generation Y).

But the alphabet ends after Z. What comes next? An answer is emerging.

Futurist, demographer, and TEDx speaker Mark McCrindle is leading the campaign to call anyone born after 2010 a part of Generation Alpha. According to him, 2.5 million Alphas are born around the globe every week.

Alpha kids will grow up with iPads in hand, never live without a smartphone, and have the ability to transfer a thought online in seconds. These massive technological changes, among others, make Generation Alpha the most transformative generation ever, according to McCrindle.

“In the past, the individual had no power, really,” McCrindle told Business Insider. “Now, the individual has great control of their lives through being able to leverage this world. Technology, in a sense, transformed the expectations of our interactions.”

Coining ‘Generation Alpha’

It all started when McCrindle and his team started wondering what comes after Z.

In 2005, McCrindle’s group ran a national survey in Australia asking respondents to think up potential names themselves. “Alpha” emerged and seemed like a natural fit. For example, scientific disciplines, such as meteorology, often move to the Greek alphabet after exhausting the Roman alphabet or Arabic numerals.

While possibilities like Gen Tech, Digital Natives, and Net Gen have been suggested, many have unofficially dubbed the group “Generation Alpha.” McCrindle, for one, hopes it sticks.

Everyone under the age of 5 falls into the Alpha category, as does anyone born in the next 15 years, what McCrindle considers the usual span of a generation. Unlike previous generations, which have simply used technology, Alphas will spend the bulk of their formative years completely immersed in it.

“Even new technologies have been transformed,” McCrindle said. “It’s not just email — it’s instant messaging. It’s not just sharing a document online — it’s a Prezzi or a YouTube video.”

‘A demographic shift’

Shifts in global population will also affect Generation Alpha’s experience. For example, as early as 2028, India could surpass China as the most populous country in the world, according to the UN’s recent data.

“Generational labeling has been a Western phenomenon,” McCrindle says. Consider Baby Boomers, named for those born in the US. during the post-World War II “baby boom.” And “teenager,” a term with roots in the mid-20th century.

Such labels are a much newer concept in developing countries, which may lag behind in both population and technology, creating less variety between generations.

In Generation Alpha’s time, however, “India and China will become the center of gravity,” McCrindle noted, especially since China recently abandoned its one-child policy after 35 years. Countries that have experienced less development until recently will naturally experience a more pronounced generation gap with Alpha.

With better technology and more people to fuel its growth, children in these countries will trade some of their traditional, Eastern values for more tech-savvy and global ideas, McCrindle explained.

The biggest leap ever

This new climate of connectivity makes the leap from Gen Z to Alpha the largest in history, according to McCrindle — even bigger than from Baby Boomers to Gen X, who experienced the invention of computers. 

For Baby Boomers, the newest computers were still mechanical and manual. They required effort and knowledge of programs to use.

“But what we have with social media is a shift from the auditory and visual to the kinesthetic process,” McCrindle explained. “The platform may stay the same, but it’s gone from a computer with a keyboard to one with a touchscreen.”

Alphas will also interact for the first time with these technologies at much younger ages than any other generation. Now many teenagers don’t wear watches because they use their cellphones for telling time, McCrindle noted. Imagine what Alphas will or won’t wear or do because of their attachment to tech.

“They don’t think about these technologies as tools,” McCrindle says. “They integrate them singularly into their lives.”

Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.

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Author: Christina Sterbenz is a reporter for Business Insider.

Image: Students play with their iPads at the Steve Jobs school in Sneek. REUTERS/Michael Kooren.

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