Monday, May 13, 2013

The Generation Gap

What’s the next big thing? Should I invest in facebook? These are the questions being asked by baby boomers today as they assess the landscape of our changing world.

  What they don’t see is the gargantuan waterfall that’s fast approaching as they float along on a barge of steady complacency. It doesn't take much thought to recognize that the newly matriculated generations of Y and Z  won’t be honoring there forbears with titles like “The Greatest Generation”.

   What is the legacy of the boomers, besides the drug culture and  the STD's, according to the Y's and Z's? Well, there's global warming, the decayed infrastructure, the trillion dollar debts and deficits, the collapsing dollar, the insupportable entitlement programs (there is no Social Security Trust Fund after all ), a third rate education system, no-fault divorce, situation ethics, the right to be detained by the government indefinitely without an attorney (the destruction of Habeas Corpus ) and an uber-expensive surveillance state , huge enough to put the KJB to shame. The best they can muster as they're voice of conscience is Tom Friedman whose book,The World is Flat  was already irrelevant before it hit the press in 2005. Speaking at an Aspen Institute Conference in 2011 at which his microphone/earpiece did not work and needed to be replaced by an old fashioned hand-held thing from the eighties he said, “When I wrote The World is Flat, Facebook didn't exist, Twitter was a sound, a cloud was in the sky, 4G was a parking place, Skype was a typo (the audience laughs and claps sympathetically )..... and I thought I was on the cutting edge,ok?...” 

  I wonder if anyone of Tom's colleagues friends or audience realize just how cutting edge he isn't. Facebook actually did exist when he wrote that book. It went live in 2004. At that time MySpace was in full swing and Friendster was up and running for a year before that. But most likely Tom's audience consists of observers of these things,not users.They watch it after the fact, in awe and wonder when the younger world has been consuming it under they're radar for some time. The thinking that comes from these different frames of reference is as divergent as black is from white. Tom Friedman's latest book That Used to be Us, is a sad testament to just how out of touch that generation is with the new world that's already become today.His boomer-buddies at the New York Times gave him great reviews.

 Tom Friedman’s generation set out to change the world  in the 1960's with proto maxims like “over thirty doesn’t know” and songs like ”The Times they are 'a Changin'” designed to discredit the values and thinking of there parents and grandparents.They self identified as 'Cool' and listening to them now , one gets the impression that they still view themselves this way,when in fact they're Grateful Dead song Old and In the Way seems a better fit.

 Aspen Institute 2011 Host  and Friedman contemporary Walter Isaacson, mostly bald with a few white hairs remaining, refers inquisitively to the changes which have come from what he refers to as the “new media”.He hangs on Friedman’s every word. What Isaacson and Friedman hold out as extraordinary and mysterious is not new at all  for the Y’s and the Z’s who would never discuss technology in those terms. For them, tech is not a separate thing. It just is. It’s organic to who they are and how they live. Herein lies the great divide between the relevant generation and the irrelevant one.Theirrelevants have conferences to discuss and dissect the technology which has left  them in the dust. The relevants don’t talk about tech as something to be discerned, they just use it. They also make it.

  As China improves the world's fastest supercomputer and builds it's high-speed rail, America is digging up land mines in the remote mountains of Afghanistan, making the region safe for "No Child Left Behind", a failing education system designed by policycrats from the Cold War era. Than there are the geriatric voices of Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles  talking about "a new plan" they've come up with, " for the sake of  they're grandchildren",  meant to fix the enormous mess they've already made. Neither Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook, nor Steve Jobs' ifone , nor Sergei Brin's Google came about from  policy wonks or central planners.These three visionaries with their teams of kids, facilitated  the Arab Spring, among other things. Stay tuned Brookings and AEI because there is so much more to come,not from you.

  As totalitarian governments like China move away from frozen ideologies and centralized power dynamics, Tom Friedman recommends that  the necessary  change to fix America needs to happen in ”a new collective“. A collective made up of whom,Tom? Charlie Rose and Anderson Cooper? Do they know the latest updated version of HTML5 ? Friedman predicts a third party with Michael Bloomberg at the masthead. Who’s going to break it to these guys that the times, they have been  'a changin’ for a good while already. Micheal Bloomberg was over thirty over thirty years ago.

  Instead of planning the world which they no longer own , the boomers need to prepare for imminent future scenarios such as when the Y’s and Z’s refuse to pay into there Medicare and Social Security , or  when the dollar collapses and their pensions disappear and they don't have the necessary skill set for gainful employment or online banking. They need to “plan” for the day when they don’t get to use 911 services  because they've passed the age limit for fair allocation of public resources. How will they reinvent themselves in a world  where the  new owners see them as losers and wreckers? They need to prepare for the policy paper/legislation which mandates euthanasia. What's the plan for that?


  1. If you think that the baby boomers left a mess at Woodstock, wait 'till you see the federal debt in 2050, after they have all departed.

  2. " ... and admit that the debt around you has grown."

  3. as a boomer, I have to admit there's a whole lot of truth to this. Good article!