Generation Z is the buzzword of the moment. Those now-16-year-olds born with iPhones in their mouths and social networked from the womb.
But, with all this excitement around a new generation to categorise and stereotype, I couldn’t help but wonder: who comes after Generation Z? What defines them, the kids being born now, and what can we call them?
There are no more letters left, so I went for the Post-Alphabet Generation.
And based on the Apple Watch keynote that just took place – post-alphabet is exactly where mobile technology is taking us.
Doodles and personalisable emoji are going to be the most frequently used form of communication. If you want to send a reply, the language in the messages you receive is scanned to automate responses. Alerts and notifications are a series of vibrations, like a tap or a nudge. Motion sensors know when you’ve lifted your wrist to even engage with your Apple Watch. There’s no keyboard, so the written alphabet is already gone in favour of dictation.
To the Post-Alphabet Generation, this first Apple Watch will be like a Nokia 3310. These, and Google Glass, won’t be fads tech giants are trying to make work. (The Apple Watch is the first sign that we’re on the way there.) In 16+ years time, they’ll have struck gold and converted us all.
Here are my initial thoughts from last month when I started thinking about the Post-Alphabet Generation and their relationship with tech. I’m publishing now after the official Apple Watch announcement because I’m interested to hear everyone else’s thoughts!
Voice commands, physical gestures, maybe even thought-connects will be the norm, and will be the natural method of device control (and therefore communication) for this generation. Reaction GIFs and emoticons will have evolved and be 100% customisable. Video chat will be the norm. (No worrying about having enough data or fast enough broadband.)
They’ll communicate verbally with language, but there will rarely be a need to write it down – except in formal settings like work. And by write, I mean type. Writing will be phased out, like Latin.
Think of the depth of the relationship these kids will have with their tech. Desktops stayed at home or the office – and on a desk – putting clear confines on your relationship. Laptops brought that closer, being our first companion and resting on our legs. Tablets and phones are caressed in our hands, in our beds and always on. Watches and beyond are a true extension of the self.
TV will be personalised and interactive, with multiple augmented experiences running simultaneously to the action of the show that will break the barriers between fiction and reality. TV and gaming will be blurred.
Advertising will be similarly augmented, with bigger budgets to play with than the entertainment industry – and we’ll be seeing a lot of crossover between advertising and entertainment itself. This generation will find activities without severe brand intrusion a novelty.
Passive enjoyment will be difficult for this generation – they’ll be used to making active choices frequently, and being in control. But at the same time, the level of optimisation that we’ll see by then will mean that they don’t actually realise how much control they and their devices have over their environment.
Because the Internet of Things won’t be a thing. It will be everything. They’ll be used to having a living environment, working environment and transportation that’s hyper-connected, and above remotely-controlled, automatically controlled and totally optimised. Like the fitness integration on the Apple Watch for your whole life.
There are whole tasks that won’t be performed in the same way. Navigation, shopping, decoration, cooking. Here’s hoping the time freed up gets put to good use…
It goes without saying that we’ll probably have destroyed the planet by then – to keep up with this massive level of consumption. Hopefully we won’t still be having 6 new Apple products to buy every year.
Beyond that, I haven’t really considered the impact. On jobs and the economy, on relationships, on politics, health and education. On privacy and security. On everything! So, over to you, Internet – I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Disclaimer: I’m definitely not a futurologist or a trend forecaster. I just wish I was. If you are I would really love to hear from you!