With little real news these past few weeks and with even the dreaded euro crisis hitting the usual summertime pause button, our nation’s pollsters and pundits (when not occupied predicting November election results) have discovered and belabored a fascinating set of statistics: many (though certainly not all) members of the generation known as Y (as in “Why work?” “Why earn money?” “Why wear decent clothes?”) is also asking the following questions: “Why drive? Why own a car? Why ‘go’ anywhere?”
Generation Y eschews all this. To them, that electrifying moment we all experienced when Dad first gave us the car keys and told us to be back at 11 p.m. (no beer stains or other spots in the car, for God’s sake) has been beneficially replaced by the glowing moment when their eager little fingers lovingly, incredulously caressed their first smart phone.
“How silly of these young twerps,” harrumph the older generations. “Don’t they know the car enables freedom, travel, friends, dating, and (cough), even….teen-age sex?”
I have news: It’s we older folks who don’t get it. Armed with the capabilities of their ever-more sophisticated iThings, replete with social networking enabling close, immediate exchange of thoughts and experiences with countless “friends,” who needs to actually get in a car and go to a drive-in?
Financial transactions, purchases, games, movies…all rendering travel to banks, stores, sports events or theaters redundant. Generation Y stands at the forefront of the next chapter in mankind’s evolution: experiencing everything while going nowhere. Meeting members of the opposite sex for a bit of fun? The smart phone will do it! Why hang out at some expensive joint? And, with the shyness of face-to-face contact removed, virtual romances can proceed quickly from one stage to the next. Let me spare the reader from the revelation that many Gen Y sons and daughters routinely send pictures their parents would not like to see…the exchange of intimacy and trust is fast, anonymous, does not cost a bunch of expensive dinners. It also must be categorized as “safe”. No dangerous back-seat contortionism here. Break-ups simply involve an e-mail or two, followed by activation of the “delete” button.
It has long been my contention that, with the rise of electronic interactivity and the ever more convincing, more satisfying level of virtual reality, the human need for actual travel will diminish. In 100 years, it may be almost entirely redundant, as we sit in our rooms, chatting, every participant except one’s self a highly realistic hologram. We will become sedentary, largely-immobile nuclei in a personal virtual world of which we are the masters. And brand badges on cars will, in the future, have as much meaning as the names of famous steam locomotives my father used to glowingly tell me about. It’s going to take a while, and it will be gradual…..but the more distant future, in my opinion, does not bode well for the “mine’s cooler, mine’s faster, mine’s more expensive” car culture we’ve experienced up to now.
Sad? You bet! Now we’ll all know how the horse lovers felt when the automobile started its unstoppable rise to transportation dominance.
Found on Forbes.Com at http://shar.es/tbrTN
Written by Bob Lutz, Contributor