Posted: June 14, 2013

The futurist: More on the new radical

Here's what replaces open protest

Thomas Frey

(Editor's note: This is the second of two parts. Read Part 1.)

We currently have a generation of highly educated young people trying to make a name for themselves. Many are deeply in debt from student loans, either unemployed or under-employed, and often sidelined because they lack experience.

  • Both Newsweek and NPR are referring to millennials in the U.S as the “screwed generation” because student loans – which now exceed $1 trillion and are not dischargeable through bankruptcy – will haunt many of them for the rest of their lives.
  • The promise of “better living through high-priced education” has turned out, for many, to be a total lie. Over 43 percent of recent graduates are now working at jobs that don’t require a college education, according to a study by the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development.
  • Since 2008 the percentage of the workforce under 25 has dropped 13.2 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while that of people over 55 has risen by 7.6 percent.
  • Median net worth of people under 35, according to the U.S. Census, fell 37 percent between 2005 and 2010
  • The wealth gap today between younger and older Americans now stands as the widest on record. The median net worth of households headed by someone 65 or older is $170,494, 42 percent higher than in 1984, while the median net worth for younger-age households is $3,662, down 68 percent from a quarter century ago, according to an analysis by the Pew Research Center.
  • The unemployment rate for people between 18 and 29 is 12 percent in the U.S., nearly 50 percent above the national average.
  • 72 percent of those under 35 feel government programs appear to perpetuate dependency rather than provide a solution.
  • Our excessive number of laws, rules, and regulations are viewed as background noise. In the minds of millennials, too many rules equal no rules, so why bother.

These factors, combined with a host of other perceived injustices, have combined to create a festering cauldron of hostility waiting for the right opportunity to be unleashed. But with the ominous eyes of big brother lurking on every street corner, a new breed of revolutionary is now in its infancy. 

Portrait of a New Radical

Rule breakers need the latitude to make mistakes, but transparency increases the pain threshold for making those mistakes.As we remove people’s ability to perform open and visible forms of protest, the portrait of a new radical begins to emerge.Future radicals will share many common characteristics:

  • Feeling trapped, trapped, trapped!
  • Ultra-paranoid, wary of social networks and visible ties to others.
  • Pervasive desire to become invisible, wanting to disappear at a moments notice.
  • Subversive, digitally destructive, able to spot vulnerabilities almost instantly.
  • Multiple identities make life easier, both online and in the physical world.
  • Very little need for money. Able to find a “free” option for almost anything they need.
  • When money is used, it’s transferred through alternative currencies, games, cash, and foreign exchanges.
  • They will fight for causes that don’t make sense, just to throw people off.
  • At their core, they are simultaneously anti-government, anti-police, anti-corporation, and anti-military.

The emerging new radical will be both highly destructive and highly creative, with an ability to orchestrate, manipulate, and influence battles that they can sit on the sideline and be entertained by.

Final Thoughts

In much the same way a magician has no act once the trick is known, or the poker player has no bluff once the cards are revealed, a hyper-transparent society becomes a devastatingly efficient playground for the true puppet masters. 

People on the higher end of the food chain will have access to the master control rooms where countless “levers of oppression” can be pulled if anyone crosses them.

Our ability to abuse transparency cannot be overstated.

Those who are willing to “go to war” against this kind of person will have to play by an entirely different set of rules.

In a desynchronized society, where the brute force workers on the bottom are woefully unaware of the ultra-manipulative tools being used by those at the top, we appear to be on a collision course with destiny that seems unavoidable.

My apologies to those who perceive this as little more than an uncharacteristic personal rant. Perhaps in many ways it is. I’d love to have someone tell me where I’m wrong. So please take a moment to weigh in with your thoughts.

Thomas Frey is the executive director and senior futurist at the DaVinci Institute and currently Google’s top-rated futurist speaker.  At the Institute, he has developed original research studies, enabling him to speak on unusual topics, translating trends into unique opportunities. Tom continually pushes the envelope of understanding, creating fascinating images of the world to come.  His talks on futurist topics have captivated people ranging from high level of government officials to executives in Fortune 500 companies including NASA, IBM, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, Unilever, GE, Blackmont Capital, Lucent Technologies, First Data, Boeing, Ford Motor Company, Qwest, Allied Signal, Hunter Douglas, Direct TV, Capital One, National Association of Federal Credit Unions, STAMATS, Bell Canada, American Chemical Society, Times of India, Leaders in Dubai, and many more. Before launching the DaVinci Institute, Tom spent 15 years at IBM as an engineer and designer where he received over 270 awards, more than any other IBM engineer.

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