Millennial Tech Malaise
Today’s post is from Ypulse Research Associate Phil Savarese.
It’s been a long time since a piece of tech made Millennials say “wow.” We wait anxiously for a new device, thinking, “This one will be so much better than the last. It’s revolutionary!” Then we find out that it’s not. It’s better than its predecessor, but only moderately. Maybe it’s faster, better battery life, smaller, but in the end its function is the same. Millennials (myself included) grew up while the internet grew up; it progressed and developed along with us. We have the expectation that technological possibilities are endless. We expect technology to move fast because that’s the era we were born into, but lately it feels like we’ve stalled out.
In terms of accessible consumer tech I can think of a few big advances I’ve personally experienced: the internet, easily one of the most defining concepts in human history, WiFi, laptops, and smartphones. Each of these leaps in tech innovation felt like a new era, and profoundly changed us. 68% of Millennials surveyed by Ypulse in January said that they would be lost without their cellphone, and another 41% would agree that their phone is an extension of themselves. But in a post-smartphone world, the real innovation of the Digital Era seems to have maxed out. Tablets are basically really big smartphones. Smart-watches are just smartphones you wear on your wrist. Google Glass may be the gateway to a new era of wearable tech, but again, it feels like the same repurposed functions of a smartphone: portable, personal, always connected. The consolidation of devices has also altered our perspective. We’ve watched iPods become obsolete and desktops begin to feel unnecessary as products like tablets and smartphones have become multiple devices all in one. Gaming consoles have turned into entertainment centers, containing a world of film, TV, music, and games in one place. But the awe has worn off, and as we’ve become used to do-it-all devices, we’re no longer impressed by minor improvements to those devices’ functions. When you think of the realm of possibilities, and the speed at which we’ve watched tech develop so far, a finger print scanner on an iPhone doesn’t feel like much advancement.
Before you think, “Ok, you need to chill, this stuff is innovative and great,” I agree. It is great, and I’ll envy anyone I see walking around with Google Glass. But for me, and Millennials like me, it just doesn’t impress. Recent research by Intel found that Millennials ages 18 to 24 “are the least enthusiastic about technology today.” Though they cited dehumanization and over-reliance as the motivators for Millennials’ poor tech outlook, the generation’s overall beliefs about technology are still overwhelmingly positive. The real reason behind the negativity might be more about an emerging sense of apathy about the tech we have access to now. We’re used to tech developing at lighting speed, and we’ve been blown away by some of the innovations we’ve seen in our lifetime. What we’re feeling now is a tech malaise: after decades of purchasing life-altering devices, nothing is managing to surprise and amaze us these days.
But that doesn’t mean we’re just tech-jaded. Staying true to my Millennial optimism, I don’t think we are far from the next game-changer, and I’d certainly hope to see it my lifetime. Ypulse research conducted in February showed that when it comes to life-altering tech, 81% of 14-29-year-olds feel we have reached only halfway or less of our full potential, and 71% think the world will change a lot in the next ten years. What does the future hold for us? To impress us, I think it has to be something we thought impossible. Nanotechnology is an excellent example of this. Computing power capable of altering matter at a molecular level. The possibilities in that technology would be comparable with the premise of most science fiction movies. Imagine incredibly small computers analyzing your body consistently, flowing in your blood stream to detect early threats of illness. Imagine your eyes being able to function like Google Glass, no lens required. This is the crazy type of innovation we are waiting for, something that takes personal and custom to the genetic level. According to the same Intel study, 61% of Millennials think tech makes us less human. The key for tech going forward will be to integrate with humanity rather than distract us from it. Millennials will be the driving force behind tomorrow’s tech. To know their interest is to know the direction these new technologies will eventually take, and where we will go in the future.
PHIL SAVARESE, Research Associate
Phil studied at St. John’s University, graduating summa cum laude as a marketing major with a minor in media management and finance. He started at Ypulse as an intern in his junior year and is now working with the team full-time. He enjoys diving deep into trends and statistics that help him better understand his own generation, while learning a bit about himself along the way. He enjoys all sports, but is a die-hard New York Yankee fan at heart. He’s also a proud member of the Knights of Columbus.