You’ve heard all about Millennials or Generation Y, the tech-savvy youngsters who were born in the 1980s and came of age around the turn of the millenium.
And retail strategists are already paying attention to Generation Z, the post-1990s generation that doesn’t remember a world before the tech boom.
But what comes after Z? Clearly someone didn’t think this through, but now an answer is emerging.
Futurist, demographer, and TEDx speaker Mark McCrindle is leading the campaign to call anyone born after 2010 a part of Generation Alpha.
Alpha kids will grow up with iPads in hand and never live without a smartphone and the ability to transfer a thought online in seconds. These massive technological changes, among others, make Generation Alpha the most transformative generation ever, according to McCrindle.
“In the past, the individual had no power, really,” McCrindle says. “Now, the individual has great control of their lives through being able to leverage this world. Technology, in a sense, transformed the expectations of our interactions.”
Coining “Generation Alpha”
It all started when McCrindle and his team started wondering what comes after Z.
In 2005, McCrindle’s group ran a national survey in Australia asking respondents to think up potential names themselves. “Alpha” emerged and seemed like a natural fit, considering science disciplines, such as meteorology, often move to the Greek alphabet after exhausting the Roman alphabet or Arabic numerals.
While possibilities like Gen Tech, Digital Natives, and Net Gen have been posed, many have unofficially dubbed the group “Generation Alpha.” McCrindle, for one, hopes it sticks.
Everyone under the age of 5 falls into the Alpha category, as does anyone born in the next 15 years, what McCrindle considers the usual span of a generation. Unlike previous generations, which have used technology, Alphas will spend the bulk of their formative years completely immersed in it.
“Even new technologies have been transformed,” McCrindle says. “It’s not just email — it’s instant messaging. It’s not just sharing a document online — it’s a Prezzi or a YouTube video.”
A Demographic Shift
Shifts in global population will also affect Generation Alpha’s experience. For example, as early as 2028, India could surpass China as the most populous country in the world, according to United Nation’s recent data.
“Generational labelling has been a Western phenomenon,” McCrindle says. Consider Baby Boomers, named for those born in the U.S. during the post-World War II “baby boom.” And “teenager,” a term coined in the mid-20th century.
Such labels are a much newer concept in developing countries, which may lag behind in both population and technology, creating less variety between generations.
In Generation Alpha’s time, however, “India and China will become the center of gravity,” McCrindle notes. Countries who have experienced less development until recently will naturally experience a more pronounced generation gap with Alpha.
With better technology and more people to fuel its growth, children in these countries will trade some of their traditional, Eastern values for more tech-savvy and global ideas, McCrindle explains.
The Biggest Leap Ever
This new climate of connectivity makes the leap from Gen Z to Alpha the largest in history, according to McCrindle — even bigger than than from Baby Boomers to Gen X, who experienced the invention of computers.
For Baby Boomers, the newest computers were still mechanical and manual. They required effort and knowledge of programs to use. “But what we have with social media is a shift from the auditory and visual to the kinesthetic process,” McCrindle explains. “The platform may stay the same, but it’s gone from a computer with a keyboard to one with a touchscreen.”
Alphas will also interact for the first time with these technologies at much younger ages than any other generation. Now, many teenagers don’t wear watches because they use their cell phones for telling time, McCrindle notes. Imagine what Alphas will or won’t wear or do because of their attachment to tech.
“They don’t think about these technologies as tools,” McCrindle says. “They integrate them singularly into their lives.”
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