Don Tapscott addresses how youth will change our future, reporting similarities between almost 6,000 youth in the 12 countries surveyed because of the Internet, but without more explanation. Although the youth bulge is in Asia, he believes western pop culture is the main influence on the Net Generation. He doesn’t agree with critics that youth are selfish and troubled. In Grown Up Digital, 2009, he lists the impact of what he calls the Net Generation (1977 to 1997) who value collaboration, open communication and freedom:
In the workplace and in education they like to collaborate with their peers rather than work in a rigid hierarchy where they’re expected to passively follow instructions, in a “communication revolution.” They’re the relationship generation. The Industrial model doesn’t work for them. They value integrity, openness, speed, and fun. Raised on playing video games and other electronic communication, it increased the speed of their visual reflexes and ability to multitask. Tapscott points to the Middle College high Schools in Memphis as an example of a school that works for the Net Gen mind.
They were raised with this same democratic spirit in their families, amplified by the fact that they’re the Internet experts, not their parents. When asked if they would rather spent time with family or friends, they chose family with the exception of Central Europe and Japan where it was more equal. This close connection leads to many “helicopter parents” who intervene for their offspring not only in school but also at work.
As consumers they have a “bs meter,” want truthfulness and fun in advertising and want dialogue to influence and customize companies and their products. Their friends influence their purchases more than advertising.
In government, they’re “bringing political action to life more than in any previous generation.” Their social activism is empowered by the global Internet, as seen in Obama’s presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2012. They volunteer in record numbers but aren’t engaged by formal politics. Although they don’t trust government officials, they expect government to work for equality.
A Digital Life survey of 7,213 adults in 19 countries found them pessimistic about the future, as 60% believe society is moving in the wrong direction and 72% worry about moral decline.[i] Four in ten sometimes think they’re wasting their own lives. They fear we’re loosing ties to nature, simplicity and intellectuality, becoming too shallow. Four in 10 say they would be happier if they owned less stuff. Seven in 10 worry about the increase in political extremism and over half fear the loss of ability to engage in civil debate. Nearly three-quarters are worried about the growing gap between the rich and the poor. They don’t blame technology as only 10% believe it will have a negative impact, although one-third of Millennials and more than a quarter of the total sample say social networking makes them less satisfied with their lives. Two-thirds of Millennials believe their generation lacks a sense of personal privacy. The researchers concluded that the future will bring a “hybrid” way of living that keeps conveniences while “holding fast to those traditions and values that are in danger of disappearing,” such as gardening.
Another 2011 report on the future using the UN Millennial Goals as a framework. On the positive side, humans are getting richer, healthier, better educated and more peaceful.[ii] (The Millennium Projects’ global futures research began in 1996). People care about the effect of disasters on others and provide aid to devastated countries like Haiti and Japan and support the spread of democracy. With 30% of us connected via the Internet, people are aware of the need for unified action to end global warming and other environmental hazards now that the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is the highest in at least two million years.
On the negative side, the futures’ report points out that half the world lives in poverty that undermines stability as the gap between the rich and the poor is widening dangerously. The population in developing countries is increasing while food prices are rising, water resources are drying up, corruption and organized crime are on the rise, and climate change is accelerating. The researchers point out we have the solutions to these problems. They look hopefully to the coming biological revolution to bring answers more profound than even the industrial or information revolutions. Perhaps synthetic life forms will be available for food, water, medicine and energy. Information sharing via computers and the Internet could lead to tele-education and tele-medicine to make them available to more people.
The Millennium Project report suggests that a simple step forward is eating less meat as it adds more greenhouse gases (18%) than transportation. It takes 2,400 liters of water to make a hamburger. China moved past the US as the largest polluter but it leads in searching for green alternatives, allocating $600 billion for green growth in its Five Year Plan for 2011 to 2015. Lester Brown lists various solutions in his free book Plan B 4.0, including raising taxes on carbon emitters.[iii] A documentary A Fierce Green Fire (2012) explores 50 years of the environmental movement. Since half of the largest 100 economies in the world are corporations, they need to be involved in the transition to a green economy. The report notes that another positive solution is the empowerment of women as “patriarchal structures are increasingly challenged.” There’s a lot of work to be done as women represent about 70% of those living in poverty and they’re about two-thirds of illiterate adults. The central issue is we have the solutions to the enormous problems that face our planet but not the will.
The best way to understand behavior and social change is to identify people’s values, their most important priorities, according to author Paul Ray.[i] Values are deeply felt and so changes happen rarely, instigated by major life changes such as going to college, having a baby, or a trauma. Groups can be understood by their different worldviews, beliefs about “how life is,” and what’s real and important. Thus, cultural differences are based on values and worldviews held by a group shared through common discussion, reading, and exposure to the same events. Drawing on hundreds of focus groups and more than 100,000 survey responses in the US, Paul Ray identified a new cultural group that’s been growing since the 1960s, the Cultural Creatives (CCs were about 35% of the US population in 2008).
Their values aren’t for the most part shaped by their demographic characteristics, although they are more likely to be female. In a 2008 survey, 27% of the people age 18 to 29 were CCs, compared to 22% over age 60. They value authenticity, spirituality, self-actualization, seeing the world as interconnected, interest in other cultures, ecology, activism, and what are called “women’s issues” such as concern for women, children and family. CCs consist of two branches, the spiritual social activist leaders at the core and the more secular greens. CCs are both inner-directed and socially conscious. They’ don’t like materialism, intolerance and inequality.
Older cultural groups are the conservative Traditionalists (their views date back to the 19th century) and the progressive Modernists (dominated the 20th century) who have a scientific worldview and believe in the neoliberal free market and financial success. Ray finds the same three categories in Western Europe and Japan, with again the CCs around one-third of the population, according to surveys by different researchers. Their values are more similar to CCs in other countries than to Traditionalists or Modernists in their own countries, creating what Ray calls a “trans-modern” culture.
In Saudi Arabia, Manal al-Sharif (born 1979) is an example of media changing her worldview. She was so fundamentalist in her religious views, she burned her paintings of people and her brother’s music tapes for violating Islam. She covered herself because fundamentalists viewed women as seductive and sinful—including name, voice, and face. Women are thus called mother of or wife of, because men can’t control their instincts. A revolution in her thinking was sparked by the introduction of the Internet in 2000. She said on a video, “It was the first door to the outside world for youth. I realized how small a box I was in and my phobia about getting my purity polluted. I was 21 when for the first time I allowed myself to listen to a song, as music was Satin’s Flute and the path to adultery.” [i]The song by the Backstreet Boys and seemed sweet and innocent to her. TV photographs of the attack on the World Trade Towers made her realize “No religion on earth can accept such cruelty. My heroes were nothing but bloody terrorists.”
She was inspired by news coverage of the Arab Spring to start Drive Your Own Life on June 17, 2011. She recorded a video with her name and face to explain the campaign and show herself driving. In contrast, before “I used to be ashamed of who I am, a woman.” The Facebook video got 700,000 views the first day she posted it and she was jailed the next day, although 100 other women drivers weren’t arrested. Two camps sprang up, between men and women on Facebook, etc. A photo showed men throwing their headgear at women drivers and women responded with a photo of high heels to throw. A rally led to her release nine days later. The harsher the attacks the greater the impact, she concluded, motivating her to campaign for full citizenship for women “to be in the driver’s seat of our destiny” as “society is nothing if women are nothing.” Manal’s activism wouldn’t have existed without the Internet and TV. In 2012, she filed suit agains the Ministry of Interior for not being issued a driver’s license. She lost her job with Aramco and cleric Shaikh Abdul Aziz Al Tarifi issued a fatwa declaring Manal a “hypocrite” which questions her status as a Muslim.