Martin Gurri on Generation Z, Elites & Institutional Change

Young men in an internet cafe, December 2022.

20th Century institutions have no idea how to deal with 21st Century virtual-world young people. The elites in the 20th Century had it good but the “digital tsunami” has blown everything up. The elites want to talk about “matters of control” and regulation (global warming etc.) whereas the public is concerned with the economy. We have to think about what we want left after the digital revolution. Online, you are decontextualized, ahistorical, flattened, your digital self is “mutilated”, everything is fluid and open to any behaviour (you have no more “imperative”). This is how Generation Z has grown up. The Pentagon leaker testifies to this view: he got top secret documents and showed them to his friends online “look what I just saw”. For this generation, “history is where bad things happened” and you can’t learn from it, only repudiate it. On the internet “you’re just you”, the old broadcast/institutional ways of communicating are dead. What’s the solution? We need a better elite class rather than the current reactionary/defensive elite class.

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