Updated: Apr 1, 2020
Global pandemics have a way of changing everything about daily life. Some ways are temporary, others will have lasting implications and a few developments could even impact multiple generations. In that vein, the Coronavirus pandemic marks a stunning end to the birth years of the Gen Z cohort. Born roughly from September 12th, 2001 to December 2019 Gen Z is educated, diverse and as the first purely digital native cohort were originally given playful names like iGeneration.
Generation Alpha: Born 2020-2039
The Coronavirus marks the end to Gen Z and the beginning of Generation Alpha.
The shuttering of economies and people across the globe for social distancing inevitably means that more people are stuck indoors than in any time in human history. People are getting bored and there will be a baby boom akin to the end of WWII. Without distraction couples do tend to make babies. In their fantastically titled paper "The Fertility Effect of Catastrophe" Johns Hopkins researchers found hurricanes and blizzards have a positive"positive and significant" impact on births nine months later. Social Distancing is not a localized short term event like a snow storm. Quarantines are in place on every continent, so this boom will be a truly global event in itself. While the very oldest members of Generation Alpha (2020-2021) may not have been conceived under the confines of pandemic itself, their entire lives will be defined by it--even at birth. In many hospitals mothers are now giving birth alone because loved ones are not allowed into the delivery room. Many more home births will also occur. The first months of new infants lives are also different because of they are the first generation to see significant time with both parents at home yet with limited-to-no contact from proud grandparents.
Generation Alpha Attitudes
Defining an entire cohort is always precarious business, especially before the generation is even born. However Freehand Circle sees culture as a cyclical (if stochastic) process and predicts Generation Alpha will be an audacious and proactive age group. Generation Alpha will wash away the worst excesses of every generation since the Greatest Generation and view their purpose as to remake the world anew. They will be shaped by the profound failures of their forebears: selfishness, self-absorption and short-sightedness. This shaping, paired with the existential threats to their existence (the rise of totalitarian control, the threat of the surveillance state, climate catastrophe) they will return the emergent technologies like AI, robotics and the internet itself to their original altruistic promise of freeing human creativity by removing the burdens of soul sucking labor. Just like the Lost Generation that faced WWI, The Spanish Influenza and The Great Depression, trauma will define Generation Alpha's early years. The promises of the old world will simply ring hollow.
A post capitalistic ethos will enrapture Generation Alpha and they will use every form of communication as an equalizer and tools for mass mobilization and organization rather than self-gratification and validation. Generation Alpha will see themselves as saviors. With a deeper understanding of neuroscience and psychology forging a new humanistic ideology shared on both the left and the right (Also shared on both the right and the left will be extreme forms of eco-consciousness.)
Generation Alpha will be exceptionally community-minded and covetous of personal interaction and connection, as they have been raised by parents who were driven to distraction and isolation (and sadly even neglect) by mobile devices. Alphas will be fiercely independent and hostile towards any top-down authority — especially those whose aim is to temper their passions or constrain their ambitions pursued for “the greater good” no matter how radical.
Generation Alpha and Technology
Unconstrained by the partisan arguments that mired previous generations, they will take action to improve society and start to repair the environment. As with every generation since the Scientific Revolution Generation Alpha will simultaneously renounce and revamp the technology of their day, thus vastly improving designed environments (both physical and digital). As technology improves significantly raw technical skills like coding and engineering will decrease compared to previous Millennial and Gen Z cohorts. Alphas will spend less time creating and much more time examining the psychological impact of our designed worlds. As the 21st century unfolds, the separation between digital and physical will lessen substantially (Alphas children will be the first Singularity-native generation). Given current lifespans members of Generation Alpha will be around well in to the 22nd Century--the future of humanity and the planet will soon be in their hands.
Just for reference here is how Strauss & Howe define generations going back over the last 500 years.* **
Generation Alpha: Born 2020 –2039
Gen Z: Born 2001–2019
Millennials: Born 1981– 2000
Generation X: Born 1965 –1980
Baby Boomers: Born 1946 –1964
Silent Generation: Born 1922 – 1945
Greatest Generation: Born 1900 –1924
Lost Generation: Born 1883 –1899
Missionary Generation: Born 1860 –1882
Civil War Generation: Born 1843 – 1859
Gilded Generation: Born 1822 – 1842
Transcendental Generation: Born 1792 – 1821
Compromise Generation: Born 1767 – 1791
Republican Generation: Born 1742 – 1766
Liberty Generation: Born 1724 – 1741
Awakening Generation: Born 1701 – 1723
Enlightenment Generation: Born 1674 – 1700
Enlightenment Generation: Born 1648 – 1673
Glorious Generation: Born 1618 – 1647
Cavalier Generation: Born 1588 – 1617
Puritan Generation: Born 1566 – 1587
Parliamentary Generation: Born 1541 – 1565
Elizabethan Generation: Born 1512 – 1540
*It is actually 527 Years
**Our Goal is to stand on the shoulder of giants such as generational experts William Strauss & Neil Howe (Strauss & Howe). However we re-categorized more recent generations into what we see as more meaningful cohorts. For example, incredible scholarship by social psychologist Jonathan Haidt and policy advocate Greg Lukianoff argue that Generation Z began in 1995, while Strauss & Howe peg their beginning at 2004.
Freehand Circle advocates for cohorts to be seen in light of the global events that shaped them--therefore events like September 11th and the Coronavirus define the opposing endpoints of Generation Z.