The transformations the Gen-Z cohort will have to confront encapsulate climate change, career adaptations, economic and financial disruption, rapid technological evolution, social and political instability and global migration. All of this on top of 20 years of social upheaval and a constant shifting ground of unknown and unforeseen changes in the social order and academic institutional infrastructure. It seems incredible that this is the summation of human circumstance in the 21st Century.
As Dickens wrote in The Tale of Two Cities “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
The Gen-Z generation and subsequent generations will have to negotiate and adapt to far greater change in a much shorter time span than any modern generation in human history. Surrounded by disruption and blindsiding change, this Generation is fully charged with anxiety and insecurity at a parallel moment of exciting opportunity for creativity and innovation. Social change has always been driven by challenge and stress. What is new however is the level of stress and insecurity this world now is confronted with. It is an unprecedented because the future is so opaque and unpredictable and moving toward humanity at an exponential rate.
The “new Normal” is – fast, unpredictable change toward a novel unplanned future. There is no going back to a “normal” past. Technology, Globalization, Global Inequity, Climate Change Impacts and Eroding Social/Political Order have all blended together to compound the magnitude of change and unforeseen transformation; a level of transformation humans are unprepared for. And there is no magic, silver bullet to fix it. It is only with a shared sense of mutual purpose, hard self-sacrifice to over-come self-promotion over the common good, and a concerted effort over time, that a good global society can be formed.
The Gen-Z generation and their children will have to manage this change intelligently and thoughtfully – to ensure for themselves and future generations a viable and healthy global society. The challenge is so huge and complex that is it difficult to believe that it is possible to negotiate. But it is possible. The question is How?