Blames the one before
And all of their frustrations
Come beating on your door."
- Song "The Living Years", B.A. Robertson / Mike Rutherford
The Generation Gaps
Since the Baby Boomers entered the world in the years immediately following World War II and were old enough to snatch the microphone from the Greatest Generation, they proclaimed how different they were from all who had come before. They heralds of the Age of Aquarius, the Real Thing. The Boomers came of age in the wealthiest and most powerful nation in the history of our species, following the bloodiest and most savage war in the history of that same species. They knew they were smarter than their parents. They knew they would usher in world peace, right the wrongs, and make everything fair and equitable. In retrospect, it didn't quite turn out that way. Like their parents, the Boomers did great things and had glorious failures. However, they weren't truly any different from those who came before.
The 20th Century was different. Vastly different. It was the century that changed everything about humanity, and nothing. The Greatest Generation set the century in motion, but the Boomers were stage center for most of it. They WERE the children of the 20th Century. Greasers and Sock Hops gave way to Hippies and free love, and that gave way to Yuppies and bottled water. During the height of their reign, they created the 1970s, which forged the modern culture we live in today. They even invented the concept of the "Generation Gap."
The term "Generation Gap" is a modern construct. In the millennia before the Industrial Age, little changed from generation to generation. It is only as result of breakneck technological change since the late 19th century that our humanity has definable mile-markers to record the pace of change within a human lifetime. The broad-brush strokes our culture uses to paint and label an entire generation aren't necessarily accurate or fair. Generations are made up of individuals, no different than those that came before, only exposed to a different set of circumstances. Same fallible humans, same rules of behavior, only with new toys and trapped in the prison of their own time. Baby Boomers weren't any different from the Greatest Generation, they only had a different starting point and faced different circumstances. The Gen-Xs and Millennials were the same, too. However, I think this might be changing.
Gen-Z, or whatever culture is labeling those who follow next, are truly different. The technology that surrounds them isn't just changing, its changing them. Boomers and Gen-X's birthed the Information Age. Those who follow are being assimilated by the Information Age, transformed in every way imaginable into something truly new. It's happening now. You are seeing it. Humanity is on the cusp of permanently changing: mentally, spiritually and physically. Some of it is happening by circumstance, your children are becoming it mentally and physically wired. Yet, it is also beginning to happen by choice.
“On the scale of the discovery of fire, the wheel and cultivation of crops, the interconnection of humans will be judged as a very important step toward becoming the beings of the universe that we are destined to be.” - Ray Schroeder, associate vice chancellor for online learning at the University of Illinois, Springfield. (Pew Research Center, Oct 2019)
If you're under 30, you were practically born holding a personal electronic device (PED). All of this device usage is changing us. German researchers found too much smart phone usage actually shrinks parts of the human brain. This damage is similar to effects of drug-addiction. In children, this rewiring is more pronounced, and may forever change how a child will develop into an adult. Hungarian researchers found children who spent at least 15 minutes a day on a PED for over a year processed information differently than children who barely even used a PED. Device-wielding kids tended to see small details first, and seemed to miss "the big picture" when it came to problem solving. Being mired-in-minutia wasn't the only change in PED-using children. Screen time also affected happiness in teenagers. A San Diego University study found that happiness rose steadily with screen time.
"Study participants born after 2000 were less satisfied with life, had lower self-esteem and were unhappier than those who grew up in the 1990s."
Intentional Changes: Body Modification to Transhumanism
Information technology might be unintentionally changing the next generation, but what if they want to be intentionally changed? We've seen the rise of body modification and trans-genderism. Body modification is evolving beyond tattoos, piercings and even sex-change operations. Now enter the "trans-humanists." We entering a time where people are beginning to cybernetically modify their bodies
transhumanism (TH), social and philosophical movement devoted to promoting the research and development of robust human-enhancement technologies. Such technologies would augment or increase human sensory reception, emotive ability, or cognitive capacity as well as radically improve human health and extend human life spans. Such modifications resulting from the addition of biological or physical technologies would be more or less permanent and integrated into the human body.
Robotic and computer augmentation of the human body and mind is becoming more common and more advanced. From sophisticated prosthetics to computer chip implants, humans are beginning to alter their own evolution. Much of this has been driven by medical necessity, such as helping amputee victims and those paralyzed, Now, it is taking on a cosmetic and voluntary element. Long speculated about in science fiction, The next generation is apparently moving toward embracing TH. Why? Well, why not? If one can readily change physical appearance and genders, what physiological or cultural barriers remain to changing the physical essence of one's traits as a species?
Body modification comes in many forms. Perhaps the easiest and most accessible form is cosmetic body alterations. Body alterations have existed for thousands of years, and often have cultureal and religeious significance, such as neck elongation and circumcision. Body alterations are usually not transhumanism, but transhumanism is always a body modification. Body alterations such as tattoos and piercings, logically may become a gateway to greater modifications.
In 2017, John Hopkins University found up to 42% of all adolencence already had a tattoo or piecing, and over 50% were interested in getting one. The growing phenomenon of extreme body alterations crosses the line into transhumanism. While mostly cosmetic and having no practical purpose, extreme tattooing, implants and appearance-altering surgery, and self-mutilations have the effect of physically distancing an individual from their traditional humanity. Some may argue the effect is intentionally dehumanizing. Cosmetic body modification is only "skin deep", but is perhaps symbolic of deeper changes in the modern culture. " If a generation is so open to cosmetically altering their bodies, how much farther would they go? Another gateway concept into transhumanism is transgenderism.
From the Bradley University "BodyProject": We tend to think of human bodies as simply products of nature. In reality, however, our bodies are also the products of culture. That is, all cultures around the world modify and reshape human bodies. This is accomplished through a vast variety of techniques and for many different reasons, including:
Transgenderism is defined as one feeling different than the gender they were born as. A transexual is a transgender who chooses a sex-change surgical procedure. Sex changes are body alterations, and not transhumanism. However, they are indicative of a growing acceptance of permanent body changes in our culture. In 2019, over 11,000 Americans underwent sex change operations. This is growing by almost 15% per year, and by 2030, the gender-reassignment industry will be approaching a billion-dollar market. Gender fluid is a term unheard of only a few years ago, and now is now a way of life.
Body appearance and sexual identify were concepts that, only a generation or two ago, were rigidly dictated by culture and considered permanently assigned at birth. Now the fluidity surrounding these concepts are embraced and celebrated. Appearance and gender are plastic, temporary concepts changed at individual whim. So why not the concept of "humanity" itself?
Transhumanism -The Ultimate Body Modification.
TH comes in many forms, and science fiction has explored many of them, from cybernetics to genetic engineering. Now speculation has become reality. Many of these enhancements and changes can be seen in medical fields, but as the technology advances and becomes more affordable, it is spreading into the consumer market - and then it becomes a choice.
Choices become new realities. Medically, genetically and cybernetically altered humans will live longer, be stronger, faster, more intelligent than those who have come before. They will simultaneously exist in the real and virtual worlds. They will become specialized and highly differentiated as we branch out into the solar system. These changes will happen earlier in the human lifecycle, perhaps even before birth. Humanity may even split into new species.
This is happening now. Transhumanism and the "Age of Humanity X" is rising. Soon we will be defined as versions associated with alterations, and not the time period we are born to. What they do, the history they experience, and how they see themselves will not only be associated with shared culture and history, but by their similarities and differences down to their core being. There may even come a day (a day many who are reading this blog may live to see) where a future generation may no longer consider themselves human at all. We ourselves become the AI. We may become "The Rise of the Machines." We ourselves may become the alien invasion, or our own saviors.
It all begins with a simple choice, and then the generation that follows truly is different than what came before.
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