Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Optimism about Teenagers

Life clears out the old to make way for the new.
                                                          Steve Jobs

Many middle-aged and older people consider young people and teen-agers very self-absorbed. They seem to have little interest in family, local, or world events. How will they solve the seemingly insoluble problems that keep emerging everywhere in the world with startling rapidity? (1)

In a couple of decades, most of the older folk will have died off and the world must continue with those who are young now, but will inevitably emerge to “inherit the earth”.  How will they solve the difficulties they must eventually face? Let’s examine the different generations and how they might approach the seemingly insurmountable problems.

Naming the Generations
In Western culture, the generation names are based on major cultural, political, and economic influences. The following is a summary from a fairly detailed listing of characteristics. (2) (3)

  • Lost Generation – Broadly refers to a generation that has ‘lost’ its values or morals, etc. Directionless, aimless young adults after the First World War.
  • GI generation (1901-1926) – self-named: the greatest generation
  • Silent generation (1927-1945) – Went through their formative years during an era of conformity
  • Baby-boomers (1946-1964) – save-the-world revolutionaries, and the career climbers. Now in their ‘50’s and ‘70’s.
  • Beat generation (1950-1960) – Rejected conventional society and favored Zen Buddhism, modern jazz, free sexuality, and recreational drugs. 
  • Generation X (1965-1980) – Latch-key kids grew up street-smart but isolated, often with divorced or career-driven parents
  • Generation Y/ Millennial (1981-2000) – Nurtured by omnipresent parents, optimistic, focused, respect authority
  • Generation Z (2001-2015) – Two age groups – tweens and teens. The term “iGeneration” acknowledges the crucial difference for this age group – that they never knew a world without the Internet.
Other countries in the world have different names for the generations, but all refer to the differences between the age groups. Each carries the values and experiences of the life stages and everyone agrees on the timeframes that mark the generations.

World’s Greatest Country

With elections in the air, politicians keep claiming that America is #1, the greatest country that's ever existed. All the Presidential candidates are in the age groups 45-75 and they repeat that mantra; Donald Trump’s slogan is, “Make America Great Again”.

To progressives, that’s a challenge to fulfill our commitments to our children, etc.  To conservatives, it's often a license for passivity. Yet, our education system is wildly dysfunctional and confused, and our health care system isn't much of a system at all. But still, somehow, underneath it all, most Americans like to cling to the idea of world leadership. Politicians, all Baby Boomers, perpetuate the phrase. Bernie Sanders uses the slogan, Future to Believe In.

Millennial Generation

The millennial generation was the most educated in American history, but that education came at a price. Average debt for graduates of public universities doubled between 1996 and 2006. Students chose to take on the obligation because they expected to find a job that paid it off; instead, they found themselves stranded in the worst economy in 80 years. 

Young people who skipped college altogether have faced something worse: depressed wages in a global economy that finds it easier than ever to replace jobs with technology or to move them to low-cost countries overseas. The only alternatives are unskilled jobs with no educational requirements and relatively low wages. (4)

Paradoxically, some studies find millennials, young adults now between 18 and 33, to be inexplicably positive despite facing higher levels of student loan debt, poverty and unemployment, and lower levels of wealth and personal income than any other generation in the modern era. But other surveys present a somewhat depressing portrait: just 19% of milennials believe that “most people can be trusted,” compared to 40 % of Baby Boomers and 31 % of Generation X.

Most millennials are strongly connected to online communities and friends.  The average millennial has 250 Facebook friends.  Strong Internet connections may lead to closed social networks and wariness to put too much trust in people who are not part of the network.

Gen Z

With troubles everywhere and popular culture disrupted beyond recognition, the world is looking for a new generation to rebuild it. Enter Gen Z, the generation born after millennials, and now emerging as the next big thing for cultural observers and trend forecasters. The oldest members of this group, the teens and tweens of today are primed to become the dominant youth influencers of tomorrow.

It’s clear that teens in 2015 really do inhabit a substantially different world than one of 2005. Millennials were raised during the boom times and relative peace of the 1990s, only to see their sunny world dashed by the Sept. 11 attacks and two economic crashes, in 2000 and 2008. Generation Z, by contrast, has had its eyes open from the beginning, coming along in the aftermath of those cataclysms in the era of the war on terror and the Great Recession. (6)

Gen Z kids are “pragmatists” who will navigate a tougher world defined by 9/11, the financial crisis, and gender fluidity. Previous generations had to worry about getting into college and finding a job. These “kids” are tasked with cleaning up their mess, though they don’t yet realize it.

Today’s Teenagers

During my recent visit to St. Pete, Florida, I spent some time with my teenage grandson (14) and tweenage granddaughter (11) and their friends. I found them to be outgoing and gregarious. My experiences were indeed enlightening, some surprising. Indeed, they motivated me to write this blog.

Today’s teens only know a black president. The video games they play are much more powerful than the 8-bit consoles of the previous generation. They can’t remember a time before smartphones, Instagram and Snapchat. They are not on Facebook (it’s for old people) and don’t really care about today’s fads. They watch Netflix, Amazon, AppleTV – and play video games like Assassin's Creed. (They consider Nintendo games like Super Mario kid stuff.)  They buy most of what they need via Amazon, with no interest in “going shopping”. (6)

The vast majority of teenage screen time is on smartphones, laptops and tablets.  They don’t watch TV. Instead they watch Youtube. I wondered at my recent spike of Youtube video hits, which turned out to be my grandson’s friends watching me strumming a guitar and singing Sioux City Sue.

Parents and adults have lots of complaints: My kids are anti-social; always face down into their phones. They have no interest in others; have lost the art of conversation; are too self-absorbed.

At a gathering of friends during my visit to Florida, I sat awhile with the adults – they were engaged in small talk, mostly about other people, which didn’t interest me.

So, I spent an evening socializing with my grandchildren and their friends. Wow, what an awakening!  I did NOT find them inward looking – on the contrary! They were seemingly oblivious that there was an old grandpa sitting on in their midst and were happy to answer all my questions.

Why are you always on the phone – at dinner, or at gatherings? Answer: because the subjects and conversations are boring!  They’d rather choose where they want to be, and with who. They can listen to whatever music they want, whenever they want. With a smartphone, they can choose to be anywhere and with anyone they wish to. Example:  text from one teen to another during a family party:  Hey, this is boring. L Let’s get outta here….

Digital Lifestyle

Digital communication has produced more changes over the last 15 years than the printing press did in 1570. The standout early adopters are teenagers, whose brains appear to have an extraordinary capacity to adapt to the world around them.

Digital communication is not just prevalent, it IS teenagers' lives. TIME magazine suggests that it’s harder to be a teen now. That’s not in spite of the Internet and the iPhone – it’s because of it. (7) Says a teen, “People expect more from you because they know you have a cell phone and they can contact you any time”.

There’s anxiety of having their lives documented online for all to see. They know that mistakes can live forever on the Internet. That mentality helps explain why they’re adopting the new wave of anonymous and private communications platforms, such as Snapchat and GroupMe, sometimes via their PlayStations.

The digital lifestyle affects a teen’s real-life interactions. Teenagers don’t make phone calls anymore, unless it’s urgent. My grandson seldom checks his voicemail, unless I text to ask whether he did.

Youtube says that teenagers all over the world are watching the same clips and laughing at the same jokes, indicating that they are more much global minded than anyone previously. Sharing the same jokes could possibly go a long way to breaking down some of the prejudices out there.

In my own view, Gen Z teenagers will change the world – for the better. They’ll come up with resolutions to current problems that most of us consider unsolvable.

Let’s Engage

Please share our discussion by responding to these questions directly via the blog. If you prefer, send me an email and I’ll insert your comments.

  1. Are you pessimistic about many different problems in today’s world?
  2. What is your age bracket? Are you a millennial reading this blog? A teen?
  3. Do you have a teenager in your family or household?
  4. What are your own views of millennials and teens? Please share.
  5. Do the millennials or teens you know seem aloof or standoffish?
  6. Have you talked with millennials and teens? What do you talk about?
  7. What kind of discussions do you enjoy? About people, politics or ideas?
  8. Please add your own comments (or send me an email).

  1. 10 greatest threats facing the world in 2014:
  2. Generational Differences Chart:
  3. What are the origins of generation names?
  4. The Six Living Generations In America:
  5. The Unluckiest Generation: What Will Become of Millennials?
  6. 16 Things You Should Know About Today’s Teens:
  7. TIME – The American Teenager in 2015:
  8. Social Media: The Death of Real World Interaction:
  9. Teenage brains in the digital world:
Jim Pinto
Carlsbad, CA. USA
27 January 2016

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

2016 Pinto Prognostications

The only thing we know about the future is that it will be different.
Peter Drucker


Another year has passed – unsteadily creeping forward at jittery speed.  The US stock market declined precipitously as 2015 closed.  With the start of 2016, the news of the China stock market being closed twice caused further decline, showing how closely the global village is linked.
There are precarious political problems almost everywhere in the world. Things continue to be quite different from what most people expect. During the next years much will change.

It’s a tall order to try and summarize and prognosticate on the multiplicity of fast-moving scenarios, but I’ll sketch out some of the things that are expected to happen. For those who wish to dig deeper, the web links I have provided will give more details. (1)

World Politics

The world has arrived in the 21st century, but the worldviews of various countries seem to be stuck in different periods. Many remain embedded in old views of more stable times. Japan is stuck in the post-WWII order. The Islamic State wants to turn the clock back by 1,000 years. Much of today's geopolitics reflects former times. (2)

Americans like to think of themselves as forward-looking and progressive. But in reality, today’s US is a mix of 21st-century idealism and 19th-century power politics. The rhetoric extols democracy, human rights, gender equality, open markets, and other obvious qualities of the 21th-century formula. But power politics retains a 19th-century view. Powerful interests still want to preserve US supremacy and are still willing to defend several obsolete, undemocratic allies around the world.

Russia is a throwback to the 19th century. Putin remains in power and is purposefully pushing his own agenda, to gain traction after oil prices have plummeted. 60% of Russia's exports are oil and gas, which make up over 30% of the country's GDP. Russia is trying to expand its sphere of influence in the nearby countries and keeps challenging Western views to protect what it sees as its core interests. This requires seizing territory or promoting wars, which it justifies as reasonable. America and Europe are too engaged in their own interests to move beyond ineffective rhetoric.

China has used globalization to boost its own economy, but is not adopting a 21st-century view of world politics. After two centuries of subjugation, the country feels rich enough and strong enough to resist foreign pressures. That requires continued economic growth, increased military power, and consistent efforts to regain control over territories or regions rightfully regarded as part of China (notably Taiwan). It also seeks to establish regional hegemony in Asia by pushing the US out of the region and motivating neighbors to accept new Chinese power. 

Poverty and corruption are still rampant in India, the world’s largest democracy. But bright possibilities are brewing, and the world’s most populous country could well become a superpower. The new Prime Minister’s initiatives to create a real free market seem to be working and GDP growth keeps advancing. According to the World Bank. India’s $1.9 trillion economy will keep expanding. The country will inevitably overtake Japan as the world’s third largest economy. (3)

George Friedman writes in his Geopolitics weekly letter, “The economic crisis, while there may be one, is unimportant compared to the conflicts within Europe and along the European-Russian borders. It is trivial compared to the chaos in the Middle East and the economic dysfunction in China.”

USA Politics

Gallup polls show an average of 43% of Americans identified politically as independents in 2014, a new high. In terms of national identification with the two major parties, Democrats continued to hold an edge over Republicans, 30% to 26%. Since 2008, the percentage of political independents has steadily climbed from 35% to the current 43%, exceeding 40% each of the last four years. (4)

Americans are angry. They are angry about school shootings and taxes and mistreatment and undeserved privilege and discrimination and government. (5)

An election year in the USA, fueled by constant discussion and rehashing on TV and the media, generates an advertising bonanza and provides a confused barometer of what people are thinking and feeling, regularly reset by a variety of polls. Political TV ad spending is expected to total more than $4.4 billion for federal races this year, up from $3.8 billion in 2012.

In a democracy, politics woos support from the electorate. This year, clearly a large segment of the population is disgruntled with “politics as usual” which motivates them to support politicians on the fringes, or even radical, non-politicians. So, who will be the next President of the USA? Right now, it’s anyone’s guess.

Continuing World Chaos

The biggest crises of the last 12 months are only going to get worse. Following a year which saw the Nepal earthquake, two sets of attacks on Paris, the biggest refugee crisis since World War 2, escalating conflicts in the Mid-East and almost everywhere else, the political landscape of 2016 will be characterized by yet more instability and a lack of global strategy. Who can guess what chaos will be? Or, what the news will be next? (6)

The savvy and prolific John Mauldin says that economists are useless at the job of forecasting; they don't have a clue about the future. The Fed or government agencies don’t really know what is going on with the economy. The mistakes and failures of Government are spectacular – and now we keep on expecting the same people to know where the economy is, where it is going, and how to manage monetary policy. Opinions are published everywhere and are virtually useless. (7)

Business Trends

There’s a tremendous change everywhere in the way people use technology to complete daily tasks. They book plane tickets, summon taxis, collect payments, pay bills and control their homes from their smartphone or wearable device. These tech innovations are converging into careers and people expect it more than ever. People value the flexibility to work from anywhere, any time, on any device, and have come to expect this. The business benefits are substantial.

The Internet of Things will affect almost every industry. IoT delivers vast amounts of previously unavailable information, leading to valuable insight into customer behavior and usage, and enabling complex new services.

Here are some key trends for as the workforce of the future: (9)

1. The Ability To Work From Anywhere, Anytime And On Any Device
2. Video Content Management
3. Smart Machines And Automation
4. Mobile Computing And End-User Computing Merging
5. Mobile Cloud Computing
6. Wearable Devices
7. The Digital Enterprise – New, ultra-productive ways to do business
8. Individual Work Style Preferences

The workforce of the future will have grown up with technology at their fingertips. Most people are comfortable with it and expect access to it in their everyday life, personal or professional.  This is best exemplified by the preference for text and social media over voice calls and email as ways of communicating. Everyone is starting to recognize that employees of organizations that empower a flexible work style not only get more done – they actually produce higher quality work.

Industrial Automation

I should cover my industrial automation roots. I have drifted away in the past few years, but I still keep track and do some speeches and consulting.

Automation, the industrial segment, is a comparatively staid and unglamorous business. Yet again, the automation industry is declining. Technology was expected to accelerate growth, but advances are simply not generating the boosts in productivity and revenue to help growth.

Walt Boyes, the savvy and prolific editor & publisher of the influential Industrial Automation Insider (8) says in his December 2015 editorial (summarized here):

“Some of the largest industrial automation & controls companies were the hardest hit this year. This is simply an example of the downward trend seen across companies and across the industry. The primary culprit behind all the predicted doom and gloom is the oil industry. Also, there is pressure from vendors who have entered the automation space from the Internet of Things arena, and who are perhaps more agile, and perhaps not so encumbered by existing product lines.

“This market is ripe for intrusive invaders from outside with new and more sophisticated technologies. The future of manufacturing automation will bring in new competitors, like IBM, GE, Cisco and Google, which all have deeper pockets than the large automation vendors. They are looking for a big money play, and will either compete with or acquire the traditional vendors.”

“The situation is only going to get worse in 2016.”

Consumer Tech Trends

Futurist Ray Kurzweil muses: A child in Africa with a mobile phone has access to more information than the president of the US did 15 years ago. The smart phone is a billion times more powerful per dollar than the computer all the students and professors shared at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1965.

At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, the world’s largest annual tech convention, held in Las Vegas Jan 6-9, there was more square-footage and vendors dedicated to cars, wearables, robots and drones than ever before — a whopping three-and-a-half football fields’ worth of space for smart-car technologies alone. (10)

There were 4 big themes:

1. Self-driving cars get real
2. IoT and wearables get useful
3. Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality
4. The real heroes: AI, big data, and deep learning

Wearable gadgets will disappear in 2016 and will become integrated very directly into everyday life to the extent that nobody knows someone is wearing a wearable. Gesture-controlled gadgets are on the way. 

Future Prognostications

In the midst of this turbulence the world progresses, seemingly peaceful on the surface.  It seems futile to predict what will happen tomorrow, let alone this year and decade. Take a minute to read the 2015 Pinto Prognostications, which are stable enough. Indeed, very little has shifted. (11) So, is my current pessimism just a state of mind? Or, perhaps I’m taking too broad a view?

Here are predictions from people I respect and admire (12):

·      3D printers will print human organs using modified stem cells with the patient's own DNA providing an inexhaustible supply of organs and no rejection issues. We will spend considerable time in virtual and augmented realities allowing us to visit with each other even if hundreds of miles apart. We'll even be able to touch each other. Ray Kurzweil, inventor, pioneering computer scientist
·       In the next 10 years we will see the gradual transition from an Internet to a brain-net, in which thoughts, emotions, feelings, and memories might be transmitted instantly across the planet: Dr. Michio Kaku, professor of theoretical physics 
·      The evolution of M-Health (mobile diagnostics, bio-feedback and personal monitoring) is set to revolutionize treatment of conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Dr. Anne Lise Kjaer, founder of trend forecasting agency 
·      Wearable mobile devices will blanket the world. By 2025, there will be a massive Internet of everyone and everything linking every nation, community, company and person to all of the world's knowledge. Dr. James Canton, Institute for Global Futures 
·      The on-demand revolution will become the on-demand world. Biological software upgrades, personalized medicine, artificially intelligent assistants will increasingly transform healthcare and well-being. Jason Silva National Geographic Channel's "Brain Games

Says Mark Stevenson, author of An Optimist's Tour of the Future: “The technologies aren’t the most important bit - it’s what society does with them”.

Millennial Optimism

Annual surveys show that “millennials” (people who are 18 to 30 years old) care about society and this reflects in their career and economic choices. A survey during the World Economic Forum conference showed that 65% of millennials said one of their top three goals in selecting a job was to make a difference in society, their city or country. They also look for an opportunity to learn, followed by career advancement. (13)

As I have done previously, I conclude my 2016 summary with optimism. In America today, eighty million millennials are coming of age and emerging as leaders. They have begun their careers amidst a recession that has seen record youth unemployment levels, yet they remain optimistic about their future. 

By 2020, this largest generation in US history will represent one out of every three adults in the country. They are more ethnically and racially diverse than their elders, they are the first generation to come of age in a truly global world, and the first to come of age in the new digital era.

Humans have a way of adapting to thrive. I am optimistic about the future!


  1. Top Ten Trends:
  2. Back to the Future: World Politics Edition:
  3. India: The next superpower?
  4. In U.S., New Record 43% Are Political Independents:
  5. TIME - Why Americans Are So Angry About Everything:
  6. Top 10 political risks for 2016:
  7. George Friedman - Stratfor Decade Forecast - 2015-2025:
  8. Automation Insider:
  9. 8 Tech Trends Changing How We Work in 2016:
  10. CES 2016: 4 business trends to rule them all:
  11. 2015 Pinto Prognostications:
  12. Top Futurists Make Some Predictions About Next Decade:
  13. Millennial generation is persistently optimistic:

Jim Pinto
Technology Futurist
Carlsbad, CA. USA

12 January 2016