Generational Shift at the Daily Show – from Boomer Jon Stewart to Millennial Trevor Noah

Kind of analogous to my contention that Generation X may be shut out of the Presidency, as were the Silent Generation, it looks like we are being skipped over by Comedy Central for delivering political commentary and fake news.  The Daily Show has just announced its new host, Trevor Noah, who was born in 1984, solidly in the Millennial age cohort. He is of course replacing tail-end Baby Boomer Jon Stewart (b. 1962) in the host’s chair.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out for Comedy Central.  In addition to getting into early trouble for his tweets, it remains to be seen if Noah can connect with the GenXers, who, would appear to be the bulk of The Daily Show’s current audience.  Of course, it is surmised that Comedy Central is trying to reach a younger audience, and the Millennial cohort is larger than Generation X, so it would make sense over the long term to target them.

GenX 50th Birthdays of the Day

Today, March 29, 2015 is the 50th Birthday of former shuttle astronaut William Oefelein and former Victoria’s Secret model Jill Goodacre.

When I was a boy, watching the Apollo Missions launch to the moon and cutting out pictures from LIFE magazine I dreamed of becoming an astronaut.  I’m sure many of us early GenXers did.  So it is good to see some of us made good on the dream.  Unfortunately, Oefelein is probably better known to the public for the love triangle that sent fellow astronaut Lisa Nowak on a cross country drive wearing a diaper to kidnap his then girlfriend.  Life never quite turns out how you planned it.

As for Jill Goodacre, she lived another dream, becoming one of the early faces of the Victoria’s Secret catalog.  And Later marrying singer Harry Connick Jr.

Does the Germanwings crash make the case for pilotless airliners?

In my previous post I briefly mentioned how the Germanwings crash made me think again about how and which jobs might soon be automated.  The information coming out about the co-pilot Andreas Lubitz has me more convinced that we might get to automating flight controls sooner than we might have imagined.   Certainly having no pilot, and even no cockpit might make more sense than locking cockpit doors against potential hijackers but having to keep two people on the flight deck to guard against an insane pilot.  The question is, will people accept it?  I think that as we get used to self-driving cars, and unmanned drone cargo delivery – both of which I think will be ubiquitous within 15 years – we will be more accepting self-piloting passenger aircraft.  In which case, Lubitz’s quote – “One day I will do something that will change the whole system…” – will have come true.  But probably not in the way he expected.

Will Generation X be the last American generation to be fully employed?

The Millenials had the misfortune to hit their initial job hunting years in the face of the 2007 recession.  Since we have had eight years of high unemployment in the US, this has hit younger people particularly hard, as this graph from of  Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows: BN-FS270_jobles_G_20141124160829A lot of ink has been spilled in the last few years on how MIllenials are struggling, still living in their mom’s basement, hunting for jobs, and struggling to pay off their student loans. The other generations in the workforce (X, Boomers, and Silents) have much lower unemployment rates and are at fairly stable points in their careers. But thinking about the future of jobs, I have been wondering if, due to the incredible rise in automation and computerization in the last twenty years, if Generation X might not be the last generation to see full employment.  This thought was further crystallized for me this week with the crash of the Germanwings Airbus in Europe.

If the crash was indeed a deliberate act by the pilot, as it seems to be as of today, are we better off with complete computer control of the airplane?  Crashes due to mechanical problems seem to be rarer and rarer, with the root cause of many more crashes seeming to be pilot error, or in this and a few other cases, “pilot terror“.

While the replacement of people by machines in many repetitive or lower skill jobs is expected, people are still afraid to replace pilots, drivers, and other jobs in which some judgment is required.  But  with driverless cars, unmanned drones, and more sophisticated artificial intelligence and advanced sensors, is human judgment in these cases better than machine control? I think that ultimately, these jobs, along with lower skill jobs will all be candidates where humans-in-the-loop will be phased out.

So, the question is, what will we all do?  I guess we will all be free to be artists, poets, mathematicians, or carpenter’s wives. But I don’t see everyone getting paid for their poetry.  I would certainly starve. Ultimately, if large corporations are churning out consumer goods, all made by machines, they still need consumers to buy them, which implies a large middle class.  So, if we don’t find something useful for people to do in the face of automation, what happens?  Will corporations each support some portion of the population?  Have their own armies? We might truly be Microserfs or hold McJobs then.

Or, we may have to consider a guaranteed minimum income or some other version or Social Credit.  But I don’t think we get to that point within the Generation X or Millennial working lifetime.  But perhaps “Generation Z” might have to grapple with these issues.

GenX’s evolving political views – plus our favorite President

A year ago this really neat interactive feature appeared in the New York Times that showed how the political leanings of Americans changed over time, but broken out so you could compare birth years.  The research concluded that our political opinions form mainly around age 18 (sort of like our musical tastes I guess!).  So, according to the interactive chart, those of us born in 1965 are predominately Republican leaning (56% in 2012), and these opinions were formed in the Reagan years.  According to the New York Times feature, Nearly all of GenX leans Republican, except for the tail end of the generation that was born in the 1980s.

This would seem to fit with the results of a Pew survey on generational views going into the 2012 election.  I found the most interesting part of the Pew survey was the section asking (by generation) “which President in your lifetime has done the best job?”  The Pew survey notes that older GenXers were more strongly Republican than the younger members of the Generation.  And GenX split their votes Between Clinton and Reagan as the best President.  I was the most surprised in all of these results to see how highly the Boomers rated Reagan.  I guess I think of them as more Democratic-leaning than they really are!


GenX 50th Birthday of the Day – Sarah Jessica Parker

As I noted before the 3/4 of Sex and the City main actresses are Gen Xers, and turning 50 just behind her co-star Kristin Davis is Carrie Bradshaw herself, Sarah Jessica Parker.  Born this day (March 25) in 1965.  Fortunately for us, there is a You Tube video that purports to tell us everything we need to know about SJP.

GenX 50th Birthday of the Day – Rick Harrison from Pawn Stars

Turning 50 today, March 22, 2015 is Rick Harrison, star of Pawn Stars.   Now, I don’t watch a lot of TV — usually some news, Food Network, some HBO, Netflix and movies.  But when I do channel surf and find Pawn Stars I will usually stop and watch it.


I was a bit surprised to find that Rick Harrison and I are contemporaries.  I guess I thought of him as being older than myself.  At first I figured maybe it was the shaved head, since back when I was in my thirties I found out that Michael Chiklis was about the same age as I was, but I had figured that he was much older!


So, now I am not sure why I think of Harrison as older, or at least more mature (!) than myself.  It might be that he is working with a grown son, while I am dealing with a four year old.  Or my generally delayed maturity from that time spent in graduate school.   Or it is just plain old denial on my part!

Drug Use Across Generations

I received a note from Lisa Walker from the Coalition Against Drug Abuse regarding my post about Baby Boomer approaches to the war on drugs.  She sent me a great link to a study on Drug Use Across Generations that has some excellent comparisons of the degree to which recent generations have used drugs at various points in their lives.  What really jumps out is the degree to which the Baby Boomers consumed drugs in their teens to 30s!  In most categories it is twice the rate of Generation X, and nearly outpaces Millennials by the same amount.  Painkillers and alcohol are the only areas where we (Gen X) are, er, competitive with the Boomers.

Even alcohol use seems to be suppressed in Generation X, as we have only risen above the other generations now that we are hitting our 40s.  I have to wonder if some of that is related to the fact that the Federal government forced the increase in the drinking age in states back to 21 right when the first wave of GenX was turning 18.  When I went to college in 1983 this was just changing, and in New York State the drinking age was 19 and if you turned 19 in time you were grandfathered in.  But most of GenX would have lived under the 21 age limit for alcohol.

So, the results sort of confirm my worst suspicions about the Boomers and their do as I say, not as I did attitudes.  The Drug Use study is well worth checking out and has a great section where you can interactively look at the data for different drugs and the use rates over time for four different generations.  Well worth a look!