“Future Shock” re-visited… cars and Millennials

Do you remember reading Futurist Alvin Toffler’s “Future Shock” and “The Third Wave” back in the 70’s? These books foretold the coming major changes to culture and society based on the explosive rate of technological development. A major point of these books was to help people to understand what was happening, and how to prepare for the coming changes (processing information instead of raw materials, robots in assembly lines, people being replace by computers, etc.).

One of the most notable examples of NOT preparing for the change was the US automobile manufacturing industry. As their world changed rapidly around them, and consumers switched to Japanese-built products, they could/would not let go of their world-view; as a result it took two decades before they became competitive again.

Are YOU like that… at least when it comes to thinking of “change” in Round Lake Beach?

The trap is: the values and expectations of the “Replacement Generation” of home and business owners do not match that of the previous generation. Especially the “chasing the American Dream” values of the “Baby Boomers”.

“Once a week or so we come across yet another sign that Millennials care much less about car ownership than previous generations. They’re less likely to drive than their parents. They’ve got less debt tied up in cars. They’d rather hang out with their friends on Twitter than get in a car to go see them.

And here’s yet another: Ask Millennials which piece of technology they could least live without, and it turns out they’d more happily part with their cars than their computers or cell phones.”

The suburban variety of Millenials has grown-up as chauffered “commuter kids” needing to be driven everywhere, in sub-developments all across the country which were built for maximum throughput of cars-per-hour, with no place to just “hang out”, seeing both parents HAVE to work in order to pay for the McMansion and the SUVs.

In the meantime, they’ve grown up connected AND exposed (in a good way): They’ve watched TV series, documentaries, and videos from all over the world showing people happily living in cities without having cars at all (think “Friends” and “Seinfeld“). They have grown up hearing about problems with pollution and dwindling energy supplies, and more open to public transit, and are adopting things like “car sharing”. When they visit “real” cities, they love the variety of restaurants and shops within walking distance, the bus stop at the corner, and places to go and do and see and be seen and shop and eat and mingle… Via the Internet, they’ve learned about others’ successes big and small in making places liveable, walkable, bike-friendly, and sustainable. THEIR expectations are that change is both needed AND possible!

How does all this relate to our little “Reimagine” effort in Round Lake Beach? Well, when the brigade of established Trustees, business owners, and lifelong residents chant in unison “It can’t be done!”, the replacements will respond “Yes it can!” and “We’re going to try!”, followed by “Get the heck out of our way!”

Maybe you don’t care about being able to walk a couple of blocks on a nice day to get some groceries for dinner. Or taking the family for a quick bike ride to grab some ice cream cones on a nice summer evening. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that because they’re not important to you that they’re not important to anyone else!

“According to those results, which are based on a national online survey of 1,015 adults, cars are the most prized piece of technology…  among every age group but the under-35s.”

Link to: Millennials Say They’d Give Up Their Cars Before Their Computers or Cell Phones

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