In an effort to explain why the Millennial Generation seems to be strikingly different from its predecessors, we are writing a multi-part blog exploring the following areas:

  • characteristics and culture of pre-millennial generations
  • self-views by millennials
  • changes in education to meet the learning styles of millennials
  • implications for the future, generated by millennials and their interaction with the screen culture, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality

Television journalist Tom Brokaw dubbed those born between 1910 and 1924 The Greatest Generation. These individuals were raised in a tumultuous era of the first world war and economic depression. During World War II, posters of Uncle Sam Wants You, were aimed at recruiting men to join the armed services. Simultaneously posters of a woman wearing makeup, a navy blue workman’s suit and flexing her arm muscle (Rosie the Riveter) became the iconic star of a campaign targeted at recruiting female workers for defense industries. Women entered the workforce in record numbers during the war, as widespread male enlistment left gaping holes in the industrial labor force. This show of strength carried forth by these men and women resulted in the United States winning the war!

Time Magazine coined the term The Silent Generation (1925-1945) for the period that followed and was though it was marked by civil rights leaders, many of them focused more on their careers than activism. Dr. Elwood Carlson, a Sociology Professor at Florida State University also referred to this generation as The Lucky Few, because even though they were born during the Great Depression and World War II, they moved into adulthood during the relatively prosperous 1950s and early 1960s.

Men returning home at the end of the war in 1946 and starting families brought about high birth rates! The volume of new babies resulted in this group being branded the Baby Boomers (1946-1964). The boomers picked up the activist gauntlet tossed away by the Silent Generation and transformed a society that was rampant with unequal practices for woman and minorities. Due in part to their parents living through the Great Depression, qualities of this bunch included a strong work ethic, resourcefulness and competitiveness. Additionally, being structured and organized were skills needed to strategize and implement reform efforts.

Next in the succession was Generation X (1965-1980). Women joining the workforce was blamed for a decline in births, high divorce rates, and latch-key kids. This group (like the boomers) was resourceful. Additionally, they valued freedom, independence and self-sufficiency. During this time, computers emerged as a vehicle for teaching and business use.

The turn of the century brought with it a shift so drastic that it was like watching the primitive cartoon family the Flintstones turn into the futuristic Jetsons overnight! Society moved from an era of physics (such as the creation of the Atom Bomb, the transistor radio, and use of the laser) to an era of the brain marked by technological advances that threaten to replace many functions of human beings!

In essence, the older generations were dominated by human interaction or human intelligence. By contrast the Millennial Generation (1980 -2000) must to adapt to an age of technology referred to as artificial intelligence.

When a fellow classmate explained to his son that he was going to his college reunion to spend a weekend with old comrades, the young man asked why he had to show up in person. The son explained how much money the father could save on airfare and hotel costs, by merely setting up an online group chat session. The father jokingly replied, “How would we drink beer together?” The son could not conceptualize the value of friends gathering in-person to reminisce and enjoy food and drinks!

This example reveals that at the core of the cultural clash is pre-millennials fear that human identity and interaction will be replaced by artificial intelligence.

Next time we will take a look at self-reflections by millennials.

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