The Generations

A list of today's generational cohorts


Inter-Generational War

There's an inter-generational war happening on the streets, in our homes, and across our offices. But don't worry about it too much. There has always been one. Today's war, however, might be slightly different.

As with all inter-generational name-calling, the older generations berate the younger ones for being soft, lazy, and disrespectful. That, of course, sounds a lot like today's inter-generational scrapping, doesn't it? However, the context this time might be different. So far in the digital era, the pace of human advancement has been unprecedented. For the first time, we all have the answers to everything at our fingertips, and we can all communicate with anyone (literally at the speed of light). Language? That's no barrier either. Today's world is just how 1970s Star Trek predicted it would be, less the "beam me up" part.

So, if the wheel's inventor made the next generation lazy, and if the loom's inventor reduced their trade-craft skills, and if the printing press's inventor reduced individual thinking, and if the internal combustion engine's inventor protected them from the logistical challenges of weight and distance, then what did the digital era's pioneers do to their next generations?

Before we discuss the key points of the modern inter-generational fight, there is another idea at play. The effects of all these life-lightening inventions might be cumulative. Kids nowadays have wheels, looms, mass media, cars, and the internet. So, it might be the case that today's generations are the softest, laziest, and most disrespectful ever. In other words, every generation that berated the next offered a sound observation, making the most recent generation the worst of all time. Hey, don't worry about it if you're Gen A (the latest). Gen B will be even worse.

today's generations

Today's Big Fight

Today's inter-generational fight lines are clearly drawn between the iKids (those who have only ever known a world with the internet, i.e., the Millennials, Gen Z, and Gen A) and the surviving non-iKids (the Baby Boomers and Gen X). According to the latter, the iKids are:
  • mentally fragile, disproportionally suffering with mental-health issues
  • physically weaker
  • easily offended
  • disproportionally gay, bi, trans, or non-binary
  • unable to concentrate for more than 20 seconds
According to the iKids, the older generations are:
  • responsible for a planet-busting level of consumerism
  • unable to recognize the sexual diversity among their own generations
  • too literal and excitable to be allowed unsupervised access to the internet
  • unable to acknowledge their good fortune for being born into a world with guaranteed jobs and pensions
  • overweight hypocrites with alcohol issues
  • too quick to proliferate conspiracy theories
  • all of things they accuse the iKids of, but hidden from public view
So, it's a war out there. But, it doesn't have to be. Bridges can be built. Here's some common ground: 80s music. I mean, war? What is it good for?

The Generational Cohorts

Here is a list of the different generational cohorts over the last 150 years, with a summary of what makes them unique, their notable failings, and their shortcomings.
the lost generation
The Lost Generation (1883-1901)

The Lost Generation endured WW1. However, at this time the idea of generational cohorts was restricted to ex-patriate American writers, wandering Parisian cafes, sipping absinthe while lamenting a world gone mad. They penned angst-filled novels and debated life's futility, while giving us literary classics and a legacy of stylish despair.

the greatest generation.
The Greatest Generation (1901-1927)

The Greatest Generation (aka the G.I. Generation and the WW2 generation) saved the world from the Nazis, then settled into suburbia. Masters of grit and frugality, they repurposed everything, including wartime trauma, into stoic silence. Champions of discipline, they raised the Baby Boomers to question everything.

the silent generation
The Silent Generation (1928-1946)

The Silent Generation earned their name by dutifully keeping their heads down. They survived wars and built economies, made modest strides in workers' rights and laid the groundwork for later social, gender, and racial equality movements. Their cautious approach often meant slow progress, and they left the heavy lifting to the Boomers and subsequent generations.

the baby boomers
Baby Boomers (1946-1964)

The Boomers arrived on a tide of post-war optimism and economic prosperity. They gave us rock 'n' roll, civil rights movements, environmental degradation, the housing crisis, and surrendered working rights for subsequent generations, all in pursuit of the "American Dream."

generation X
Generation X (1965-1980)

Gen X are the "latchkey" kids who grew up in the shadow of Boomers. Having two working parents, they are said to be independent, resourceful, and skeptical of authority, but also paranoid, apathetic, and cynical.

generation Y
Generation Y (1981-1996)

The much-maligned "Millennials" are the digital pioneers who brought us social media and avocado toast. They're adaptable, tech-savvy, value-driven, and (allegedly) financially irresponsible and with a sense of entitlement matched only by the Boomers.

generation Z
Generation Z (1997-2015)

Gen Z are the first true digital natives. Born with smartphones in hand, they are socially conscious, diverse, and incredibly connected. Unfortunately, many of them are also addicted to screens, lack face-to-face social skills, have no sense of history, and seem to think that the politics of identity are all that matters.

generation A
Generation Alpha (2015-present)

Gen A are the toddlers and young children of today. They’re set to be the most educated and tech-immersed generation yet. Hopefully, they will be able to roll up their sleeves and and negotiate the world they have been left by the boomers and their Millennial and Gen Z parents.

The Concept of Generational Cohorts

The concept of generational cohorts, or groups of people born around the same time and shaped by similar historical and social events, has been around since at least the beginning of the last century. Shortly after World War I (WW1), American writers Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway first wrote about the "Lost Generation," but the idea was popularized and formalized by a few key figures:
  • Karl Mannheim: A sociologist who is often credited with introducing the idea of generations as a distinct social category in his 1928 essay "The Problem of Generations." He argued that individuals are significantly influenced by the historical and social events occurring during their youth.
  • William Strauss and Neil Howe: Two American authors and historians who further developed and popularized the concept of generational cohorts in the late 20th century. They are best known for their theory of generational cycles in American history, outlined in their books such as "Generations" (1991) and "The Fourth Turning" (1997). They categorized and named several American generations, including Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and Generation Z.
Although many Baby Boomers seem to believe that society started to go downhill after their generation, since time immemorial each generational cohort has had its own quirks, triumphs, and its share of faults – especially in the eyes of previous generations. In fact, one of the earliest verified quotations criticizing younger generations comes from an inscription attributed to an ancient Egyptian priest named Ipuwer. In a text dated to around 2000 BCE, he laments the state of society and the behaviour of the youth:
  • "The young are rude to the old, the poor have become rich, and the rich have become poor."

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