Next Generations: Reactives to Civics to Adaptives, as Foreseen by an Old Adaptive

By Jim Dator

[Note: This article was first presented as a talk at the annual conference of the Hawaii Telecommunications Association, “Transformation for Next-Generation,” 6 October 2010. -js]

“Next Generation” means “technology” to you. It means “people” to me. So what do you get when you cross your technology with my people? Let’s see.

Two of the theories I use to make what I hope are useful statements about the future are age-cohort analysis and a more sophisticated version of Marshall McLuhan’s famous statement, “We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.” Nothing changed my life more than cheap and abundant oil, the automobile, the jet plane, air-conditioning, space satellites, electronic communication technologies, and bottomless consumer debt. So I constantly am interested in what new technologies are on the drawing board and especially what technologies are about to be rolled out of factories into a Wal-Mart nearby.

Age-cohort analysis is another theory/method I use. It is based on the fact that people born and growing up during the same time span, and in the same cultural space, share ideas and beliefs about the world which are very different from the ideas and beliefs held by members of age cohorts only a few years older or younger than they are.

Thus, when an age cohort with one “worldview” retires and leaves positions of political and economic power, and a new age cohort with a very different “worldview” comes in, the world changes because, holding different beliefs, the actions and policies of the newer cohort differ substantially from those of the older cohorts. Continue reading