In the past, we used location of consumer as part of the proof of identity, and location of producer as part of the process of delivery. What happens if these are no longer held to be true, if Generation M decides that these constraints no longer make sense? What happens if we have to stop “using the tools of an old paradigm to try and solve the problems of the new“, paraphrasing Einstein?
I remember having dinner some months ago with Professor Richard Scase; he spends time looking at social and demographic trends, and painting pictures of what might be. One of his pet tangents was the structure of information we require of people, whether for job applications or credit ratings or whatever. How age and sex and marital status and number of children and time-at-address and time-in-job were meaningful attributes fifty or more years ago, when people tended to live close to where they were born, get married in their early twenties, stay married, have and raise children when they were between 25 and 44, retire at 65 and so on. Low mobility, high job tenure, low divorce rates, one heterosexual partner, and so on.
These things were then used to help predict people’s behaviour. Take views of their “riskiness” in different aspects of their lives, be it health or wealth or even happiness. Make assumptions on their preferences and project their likely buying habits. Put them into neat classifications of socio-economic status. ABC1 and all that jazz. You get the drift.
Until I heard him, I never questioned why we had boxes to tick the way we had them. What the boxes represented. Why they existed.
Generation M has changed all that. I’m not sure that “residence” is a meaningful factor in an employment form; how do I classify members of the opensource community? I’m not sure that “income” is a meaningful factor in determining propensity to buy. If that was the case, then someone would have told Steve Jobs “I think … there is a market for maybe five iPod videos”.
Generation M will not sit down and be classified the way we are used to classifying people. They will not be taught the way we are used to teaching people. They will not be hired and employed the way we are used to hiring and employing people. They will not be compensated and rewarded the way we are used to compensating and rewarding people.
Generation M will not use technology the way we are used to doing. For one thing, they have real mobility. Mobility is key. Multitasking is key. Multimedia is key. The three Ms of Generation M.
What we are used to is Assembly Line and McLuhan. Two wonderful dinosaurs. Gone the way of all dinosaurs.
And we have to work out a way of describing identity in a non-deterministic manner. People in Generation M will have n identities at the same time. N jobs at the same time. N residences at the same time. They may choose to converge these things and settle on one in each case. Merge their different identities into one. In fact I think they will. Over time. But what do I know?
The key phrase is They Choose. Not us. And what we build has to recognise that. Not now maybe, but soon.
Something to think about.