Diffusing Technology into Generation Z

Us “Baby Boomers” tend to believe we have accomplished a lot in the years ranging from our roots of hard rock, to the birth of basic internet technologies in the early 1970s. We started our generation with black and white television, Generation Zexperiencing everything from the assassination of President Kennedy to absorbing the wonders of man walking on the moon. We end our generation with 7.6 Terabit submarine cables connecting every continent with high speed many-to-many interactive communications and applications.

Communications for many during the early 1960s consisted of telephone party lines, daily newspapers, telegraph, and radio broadcast. While in high school (Richfield, Minnesota), some of us privileged students in more opulent areas had access to computer classes. This consisted of having a teletype terminal attached via low capacity lines to a central mainframe computer – using a service called “time sharing.” Very cool, and very exotic.

Competition for a place in computer class was aggressive, and only a few of us were able to indulge in the excitement of connecting to a machine someplace outside of our class. We didn’t waste a moment of time learning some rudimentary programming routines, and were considered very strange by a majority of students in school, who either did not make the grade for computer class, or simply did not care.

Generation Z

In an opulent city like Richfield, the only real way to communicate with other students or people outside of our community was through the “exchange student” program. One or two students from a different country, such as Germany or Japan would live with a local family, and attend school in our city. This was to both give those students a chance to expand their experiences, but also to give us a chance to interact with students from a different country or culture.

At that time a child in Mongolia would have still lived under Soviet rule, not allowed to travel beyond his or her local community without specific permission. Many children in the Mongolia countryside never made it out of their Aimag (similar to a province or state), and had no idea of the world beyond their own village.

In 1994 Sprint China was asked to support an Internet project in Mongolia, sponsored by several international agencies. Tough job, and working with visionaries such as Dr. Enkhbat Dangaasuren and the late Narantsetseg Baljin, Magicnet Mongolia started delivering basic internet services to the public, with a whopping 64Kbps satellite connection to Stockton, California.

Today, almost any child, even in remote parts of places such as Mongolia, has nearly the same level of network access a child in Rolling Hills, California enjoys. It is normal for a 7 year old Mongolian child living in Ulaanbaatar to have an online chat with others in Mongolia, Germany, the US, or other country. It is normal for the child to use an application such as Skype to call a friend living in Japan or Canada, and it is expected to be available to them 24 hours a day.

Some governments haven’t had the means or desire to fully embrace educational or social globalization, however even the most restrictive national policies are eroding in favor of enlightening their new generations.

You can hardly find a Generation Z (born after 1990) person who does not have their own PDA or smart phone, and maintaining a Facebook page offers no more challenge than putting a paper book cover on a text book presented a baby Boomer.

Technology Diffusion and the Future

Globalizing Generation ZIf the generation born between 1945 and 1955 could put a man on the moon, invent Internet, Ethernet, and other digital technologies – with a background that did not include television, mobile phones, digital computers, or anything beyond a slide rule, what might we expect from Gen Z babies?

With Hex-core CPUs ready to find their way into laptop computers, SSDs making storage an anecdote, and ubiquitous network access a utility, what is a mind that grew up as a Gen Z baby capable of accomplishing? If your child has a problem with homework and needs help, and simply states “I’ll just ask my buddy in Nairobi, she is really good at physics,” what does it mean for further socio-economic globalization?

Technology Diffusion in Generation Z

Diffusion is the random movement of atoms, molecules, or ions from one site in a medium to another, resulting in complete mixing (Encarta, 1999).

Diffusion of technology in our context has two separate meanings. The first is through education, and the “absorption” of technology into the mental DNA of young people. The second meaning is the mixing of people, cultures, languages, and ideas into young people’s identities at a rate faster than Chingiss (Genghis) Khan absorbed most of Asia.

Each generation from the start of the industrial age till now has focused their efforts on exploiting natural resources, improving their quality of life, developing really scary weapons, and leading the world to the brink of annihilation – both from war and/or environmental disaster.

It is my belief Generation Z now has made a huge leap in available intellectual tools, well diffused into their intellectual DNA, to start unraveling the damage our generations have done, and start using this powerful supermarket of technology to innovate at a rate far outpacing anything in history. They will innovate, and discover things in our world and universe that is far beyond an old baby boomer’s ability to comprehend.

What baby boomers can comprehend is that during the twilight of our watch, we have an obligation to continue aggressively providing the tools needed by later generations to take our leadership “baton,” and see how fast the younger guys can actually run. Young people scattered around the world, capable of meeting each other online, and collaborating without the burden of geography, cultural, racial, religious, or social barriers.

And then us baby boomers can sit back and watch an old episode of Star Trek.

John Savageau, Long Beach

About johnsavageau
Another telecom junkie who has been bouncing around the international communications community for most of the past 35 years.

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