A new year is upon us. As always, I like to look forward to the future to try to predict the threats and opportunities we face.
I am a location independent online entrepreneur, based in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I’m 53 years old young, single, without kids. This puts me in the enviable position of being able to work online, earning in US dollars, while spending some of that money in a place where prices are very reasonable.
(The other thing to say is that I’ve got Covid, hence my unkempt appearance.)
Putting more of our lives online
More of everyone’s life is going online. The pandemic forced us to do more online. This was something that had been happening for decades prior to the pandemic but it was accelerated due to the pandemic. And it’s not going to stop.
Not only are we putting more of our lives online … our social lives, our love lives, our professional identities, our money, etc. But we are also working remotely more, thus weakening the connection between us and our physical location.
You can see this in the rise of meme stocks in 2021 where some company that nobody’s ever heard of (AMC Entertainment Holdings, Inc.) suddenly has their share price go up by 300% because of a Subreddit.
Also, January 6th 2021 demonstrations in Washington were basically concocted online. People who are anti-vax and anti-mask are also cross-cultural and cross-international boundary groups that identify together online.
What does this mean for us as entrepreneurs and what does it mean for us as citizens of the world?
I think we’re going to have more disparate tribalism online which will be built on top of our offline tribalism. These things aren’t going to go away, they’re going to increase, and they’re going to have a bearing on our lives.
The gap between rich and poor has been increasing a lot since 2008 and then since the pandemic. When you have increased inequality, you have increased chance of social unrest. I could point to examples of this just about everywhere, in Europe, Asia, and the Americas.
I believe there are two factors playing out: first the increased inequality and secondly the increased use of social media, pouring gasolene on the flames. These two things are feeding into each other at the moment which brings us to a situation that is very different to the decades we have seen before.
I remember the decades of the 70s, 80s, and 90s. The 70s and 80s had their fair share of economic shocks, however, most families were better off at the end of the these decades than they were in their beginnings. And the 90s, in particular, can be seen as a decade where there was stability and opportunities for ordinary people – this just isn’t the case now.
A rise in anti-establishment sentiment
So, I believe we’re moving into economically more challenging times. This is going to mean younger generations having very different outlooks.
The generation older than me, the boomers (generally defined as people born from 1946 to 1964), are a very pro-establishment generation. They experienced the best years of the post war boom. The millennials who are younger than me (typically defined as people born from 1981 to 1996) are a bit more cynical but they are also quite pro-establishment as well.
However, I think younger people are going to be definitely more anti-establishment. We haven’t seen this for such a long time. New generations (those born after 1996) will look at the world completely differently to the way that their parents did. This has happened before in history many times but it’s something I haven’t seen before in my lifetime.
For example, there’s a Subreddit called Antiwork, subtitled “Unemployment for all, not just the rich!”. It claims to be a subreddit for those who want to end work, are curious about ending work, want to get the most out of a work-free life, want more information on anti-work ideas and want personal help with their own jobs/work-related struggles.
It’s an example of young Americans completely rejecting the existence of the “American Dream” and not wanting to have anything to do with traditional society.
There is a similar subculture in China called “lying flat” which is a lifestyle choice or a social protest movement by some young people who reject societal pressures of hard work and overwork.
Generational art and culture
I’m expecting younger generations to come along with radically new ideas and they’re going to seem crazy to us.
But you only have to look back in history to see that periods of great suffering have produced the most exciting artistic and cultural breakthroughs. And there will be many young people who have had to put up with a lot during their formative years.
Look at what is in front of kids at the moment – climate change, the pandemic, the tribalism, the failing economy, inflation, lack of leadership and direction, etc. What conclusions would you draw based on this evidence?
I’m not just saying there will be generational differences emerging – isn’t there always? I’m also saying that some of the art and culture that comes from these new, younger generations will be exciting and inspiring.
I think we’ll see people create things that will be baffling at first but will result in a something close to a new artform. Remember, the depression of 1930s America gave rise to great jazz, blues, R’n’B, and, then, ultimately, to rock ‘n’ roll.
What do you think?
I appreciate this post is a little different from my usual ones. I thought I’d write about something that interests me and see what people think.
Also, I have Covid. Isolating at home and not seeing another person for days on end is pretty strange. Maybe it’s impacted on this post! 🙂