Generation x is lost

There is a name for the generation that comes after Generation Z.

X, Y, Z - and what now? The scheme after which we named the past three generations was - let's be honest - just plain comfortable. But it was never logical. And that becomes a problem for us now that a new generation is coming up. Because: what comes after Z?

The Generation X name still had its raison d'etre. A photographer named Robert Capa published a photo report about young people after the Second World War in the 1950s and called them "Generation X" - he indicated that this generation will be different from everyone known so far.

From then on, the catchphrase appeared again and again to describe the generation after the so-called baby boomers.

Why is Generation Y really called Why?

Then someone came up with the idea of ​​simply calling the next generation - those who were born between 1980 and 1995 - Y. To somehow justify the Y, hobby sociologists argued that the Y, which is pronounced “Why” in English, stands for “Why” and would suggest that this generation is always questioning everything.

As a representative of this so-called Generation Y, I can only say: Thank you for that! Because as a result, we young people were branded by our parents, politicians and, above all, potential employers as the complicated generation that is so demanding and doesn't know what it wants.

Then came Generation Z. Nobody even bothered to justify the Z in any way. Z comes after Y.

And after Generation Z comes ... A

And here we are now. For a few years now, representatives of a new generation have been born - the children of my generation, Generation Y - and we should slowly think about what to call them.

The futurologist and demographer Mark McCrindle has spoken out in favor of calling the next generation born since 2010 "Alpha". "Alpha will grow up with the iPad in their hand, will never live without a smartphone and can transmit a thought online within a second." He describes Alphas as the "most transformative generation of all time".

McCrindle has been promoting this term for a number of years - and in fact, the first marketing companies have already adopted it. In forums and articles, there is already a lively discussion about how Generation Alpha ticks as a target group and how it can be reached with advertising.

The alpha is above everything

The Australian researcher has never really justified why he wants to call Generation Alpha. He gave a hint in 2015 in an interview with Business Insider USA: “In the past, the individual had no power. Now the individual controls his life by being able to use all the levers in the world ”, alluding to technological progress. The individual, the alpha, stands above everything, one could interpret now.

But the question is: Do we want to convey to a coming generation by their name that they are above all things, that one is more powerful than all of them together? I was wondering if I was the only one who wouldn't just accept this name. And luckily I found out: it's not me.

Author Alex Williams criticizes the name in the "New York Times" for being a step backwards. “It doesn't make sense to go back to A. This generation will be the first whose representatives are completely born in the 21st century, it is the beginning of something new, not a return to the old. "

Each generation stands for itself

Indeed, McCrindle might think too short in his definition of “Generation Alpha”. Because if he describes them as the generation that grows up with technology and will always be surrounded by technology, then it is not very different from Generation Z. McCrindle therefore falsely assumes that social developments are stringent.

But as Generation X has shown, a movement is often followed by a counter-movement. If the baby boomers were a consumer society that cared little about health or sustainability (or what money the coming generations should live on), the members of Generation X were regarded as refusing to consume, who did not see a status symbol in cars or single-family homes.

If the transition from one generation to the other were as smooth as McCrindle imagines, then today we would suffocate in plastic and only eat foods with artificial additives, as announced in the heyday of the baby boomers. Instead, as an alternative to this fast-food mentality among Generation X and especially Generation Y, a movement has developed that relies on natural ingredients, sustainable production methods and an end to packaging madness. And even McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and Aldi had to bow to this trend.

Trend against technology

So it cannot be ruled out that the coming generation will start a countermovement to fully technological life. A first indication of this is that there is already a noticeable trend among young parents in Silicon Valley of all places to bring up children as tech-free as possible. The first studies that warn against putting children off an iPad at an early age will also have their effect at some point.

It is not for nothing that the author Hannah Kuchler described in a column for the "Financial Times" smartphone cessation as the new cessation of smoking. It cannot be ruled out that at some point there will not only be non-smoking restaurants, but also smartphone-free restaurants.

I am very optimistic about the next generation. I believe that it will be the first generation that can really deal with radical technological progress. She will use technology to her advantage - and only when it makes sense. She won't share cat pictures on social networks or fall for an uncle from Namibia who promises an inheritance worth billions by email. She will speak to Alexa (or whoever) to turn on the lights or preheat the oven. But she will also know when to shut down Alexa in order to create a technology-free space.

Generation E is coming

It will be the generation that will see the end of coal power and diesel vehicles. The generation who travel to Stockholm with the Hyperloop and drive to the hotel in the self-driving electric car. The generation that is traveling to Mars and maybe even the generation that is slowing down climate change. It will be the first generation to receive an unconditional basic income and who will keep changing and rewriting their life plans.

We humans have psychological needs. We want freedom, appreciation, meaningfulness and a purpose. That will not suddenly change for the next generation either. But what will change are the social conditions. The next generation will always be looking for something that meets these needs. Because all other basic needs in the western world will be covered with the unconditional basic income. Monotonous jobs that were previously only pursued to earn money will be done by robots and artificial intelligence in any case. So the next generation has plenty of time.

I propose to refer to these coming years as Generation E. Not only because it will be the electrical or energy transition generation. You will also be the ingenuity generation. She will have to think carefully about what to do with her time. It will be a little lost at times, this Generation E. Because it will have to iron out the mistakes of the previous generation. Because she has to think about how to use technology without getting lost in it.

Also read: "There is a name of its own for the generation that was born in the early 80s"

Because she will try one thing and find a new one if it doesn't work out or doesn't fulfill it. But as with all generations, one can say: it will change the world, but probably not in the way we think it right now.