Gen Z and the Fate of AI Self-Driving Cars

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By Lance Eliot, the AI Trends Insider

Which gen are you?

Maybe you are a Baby Boomer, having been born sometime around 1946 to 1964, and having grown-up during a time when there has generally been good prosperity in the United States. In the news, you hear about the Millennials, born generally around 1980 to 1994, and were allegedly spoiled by their helicopter parents of the Baby Boomer era, always watching over their children and pampering them.

It is often said that those “spoiled” millennials seem to think that they are special, and the world owes them something (hey, I’m not making such accusations, it’s what is being reported about Millennials!). Some companies have claimed that millennials aren’t willing to put in a day’s full work. Millennials supposedly insist that they want to have a life outside work, and so put work as a secondary priority in their busy lives. Meanwhile, purportedly Baby Boomers were the workhorses and look at disdain at a younger generation that doesn’t seem to think that they need to do whatever it takes to make a career.

I am somewhat loath to make such generalizations about the generations. I certainly know many Baby Boomers that are not the all-vaunted will kill to get and keep a job, and likewise I know a lot of Millennials that take their careers very seriously and routinely put in 60 to 80 hour weeks. We need to be careful when asserting that an entire segment of society has one way of thinking and one way of acting. It can be a slippery slope of over-simplification and cause concerns that hang around the neck of every person in that particular age group.

Many also argue about the ages that pertain to any particular generational classification. If you look at ten different experts on the categorizing of the generations, you’ll likely find somewhat differing start and end dates for the age brackets. I won’t get into the stickiness of that debate and instead for purposes herein let’s just go with some overall age brackets that most seem to agree on.

Here’s a rough estimate:

  •         Baby Boomers: 1946 to 1964
  •         Gen X (Baby Bust): 1964 to 1975
  •         Xennials: 1975 to 1985
  •         Millennials (Gen Y, Gen Next): 1985 to 1995
  •         Gen Z (iGen): 1995 to 2012
  •         Gen Alpha: 2013 to 2025

Take a look at Figure 1 for a chart of this generational indication.

Should you be interpreting these age brackets in a precise manner? No, heck no. If you were born in 1993, you presumably are a Millennial. But, since you are very close to the end date range of the bracket, one could make the case that perhaps you are more like a Gen Z than a Millennial. If you were born in say 2010, it’s kind of a stretch to say that you are a Millennial, and it would likely make more sense to toss in the towel and agree that you are a Gen Z. As I say, though, individual differences make these categories kind of wacky at times.

You might have been raised in a manner that differs from the overall notion of your generation. You might have been raised as suggested by your category, and yet have rebelled or otherwise opted to not conform to the stated nature of your generation. Certainly, your formative years would have been impacted by the events and cultural norms of that time period. It’s difficult to extract yourself from the social milieu of a particular time period.

Baby Boomers did not have online social media while growing up. That’s a fact. Millennials got the initial tastes of social media and were at the cutting edge. Gen Z has been pretty much steeped in social media and for them it is part-and-parcel of their lives. Some like to refer to the Gen Z as the “digital natives” generation and suggest that they are all about high-tech. They embrace high-tech. Furthermore, they expect high-tech. The prior generations were surprised to see high-tech evolve and emerge. For them, it’s an add-on. For the Gen Z, it’s a foundation, it’s an assumed expectation.

I’m not going to say much herein about the Gen X, the so-called baby bust generation. They are referred to as the “baby bust” because they were a much smaller baby boom than the Baby Boomers generation. The Baby Boomers were spawned by the post-WWII activities of society. Once that tsunami of births ran its course, there was a secondary min-boom of those eldest of the Baby Boomer generation opting to have kids. You’ve also got the rather small segment known as the Xennials, a kind of now forgotten segment that fits between the Gen X and the Millennials. Few seem to talk about the Xennials as a broad scope of impacting society. Sorry about that, Xennials.

The Big Three of Generations: Boomers, Millennials, Gen Z

I’d wager a bet that most of the time, whenever there are discussions about generations, it usually consists of the Baby Boomers, the Millennials, and the Gen Z. That’s the big three.

Today’s news is dominated by the aging of the Baby Boomers and the vast numbers of retirees that we’re beginning to experience. All of that massive sized generation is getting to old age. With advances in healthcare and technology, those Baby Boomers are living longer than prior generations. So, you’ve got them living longer and they are a massive sized group. It’s a segment of society to not just wash away because their getting at the end of their careers – don’t underestimate the tenacity of those Baby Boomers!

For my article about old members of society and self-driving cars, see my article: https://aitrends.com/ethics-and-social-issues/elderly-boon-bust-self-driving-cars/

Meanwhile, the Gen Z is picking up speed as it reaches the late teens and starts toward their early 20’s. Some refer to them as the iGen. This is due to the popularity of high-tech, whether it be iPhones, iPads, or any kind of “i” that you’d like to use. They are just at the start of the Internet of Things (IoT) advent, and it will be interesting to see how they embrace it (presumably, with both arms wide open and a full embrace).

For my article about IoT and self-driving cars, see: https://aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/internet-of-things-iot-and-ai-self-driving-cars/

You’ve not likely heard much about the Gen Alpha. It’s the generation that comes after the Gen Z. Right now, the Gen Alpha is still pretty much in diapers or at most going to elementary school. Plus, a large portion of Gen Alpha doesn’t even exist yet. It’s going to take Gen Z a few more years to start doing their thing, including starting families, in order to see the population of Gen Alpha take off.

What does all this have to do with AI self-driving cars?

At the Cybernetic AI Self-Driving Car Institute, we are developing AI systems for self-driving cars. When you consider the emergence of AI self-driving cars, it’s going to happen during the 2020s, 2030s, and 2040s.

That might seem like an obvious statement, well, of course those AI self-driving cars will emerge over those next three decades. Yes, but have you considered how the advent of AI self-driving cars will coincide with the shifting of the age generations of our society?

I’d bet that you’ve not yet pondered that aspect.

In the 2020’s, the Baby Boomers are going to be less and less involved in the emergence of AI self-driving cars. It makes sense that they would be less involved since they are aging and either nearing retirement or at retirement. They might be quite an audience of people that will use AI self-driving cars, but in terms of developing, refining, testing, and rolling out AI self-driving cars, all that is going to happen once they are no longer in the workforce.

The Millennials will certainly be instrumental in the 2020’s and 2030’s regarding the fielding of AI self-driving cars. But, many of them will already have defined their careers and be less likely to go whole hog into the AI self-driving car realm. Again, they will be a big-time user of AI self-driving cars. And, they’ll be of an age and position to either make troubles for AI self-driving cars or seek to gain acceptance for AI self-driving cars.

The real workhorses for advancing AI self-driving cars is going to fall squarely onto the shoulders of Gen Z.

I’d guess that there’s a collective groan coming from many of the Gen Z. What’s this, they are responsible now for the fate and future of AI self-driving cars? Don’t they already have to contend with global climate change? Don’t they already need to be dealing with weapons of mass destruction, or worldwide political turmoil and terrorism. Isn’t that already a full plate?

Well, like it or not, want it or not, the fate of AI self-driving cars is going to land on the Gen Z. It’s a heavy thing to contend with. I apologize if my mentioning this is going to keep you awake at nights.

I predict that the Gen Z is going to be the generation that either moves us all forward into AI self-driving cars, or for whatever reason decides to delay it, or perhaps even decides to stop it.

Allow me to offer these insights about the Gen Z and the AI self-driving cars fate:

  •         They say that Gen Z is a much more cautious generation than the Millennials and the Baby Boomers. Will that cautiousness translate into being cautious about the adoption of AI self-driving cars?  Will they put on the brakes, so to speak, and not be willing to take gambles on it?
  •         They say that Gen Z is less optimistic than the prior generations. Will this lessened optimism make them more skeptical and perhaps actually pessimistic about the reality of having true AI self-driving cars? You’ve got to have some substantive modicum of optimism to believe that AI self-driving cars are really going to happen.
  •         They say that Gen Z is opting to not buy cars and instead uses and prefers ridsesharing (including that they are foregoing driving). If so, and since AI self-driving cars are predicted to be a boon for ridesharing, maybe the Gen Z will want to not only have AI self-driving cars emerge but be willing to take chances to do so, under the eagerness of shifting us into the mobility-as-an-economy future that many predict we are headed toward.

It’s evident that the Gen Z has reasons to want to proceed faithfully and expeditiously on AI self-driving cars. They also though seem to have characteristics that could blunt the movement forward of AI self-driving cars.

There’s a definite kind of tension between their presumed wariness, along with their savviness of what high-tech can and cannot do (less chance of being bamboozled, some would say), and their willingness to take chances on something untried and right now still really an experiment.

For my article about the idealism expressed on the topic of AI self-driving cars, see: https://aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/idealism-and-ai-self-driving-cars/

For the egocentric design aspects of AI self-driving cars, see my article: https://aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/egocentric-design-and-ai-self-driving-cars/

As a comparison of the AI self-driving effort to the efforts reaching the moon, see my article: https://aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/self-driving-car-mother-ai-projects-moonshot/

Guessing Which Way Gen Z Will Go on AI Self-Driving Cars

We’ve certainly seen generational gaps occur in our society that have involved one generation pushing one agenda, and the next generation perhaps opting to not continue forward on that agenda. There can be a NIH (Not Invented Here) perspective by a generation that feels a prior generation “stuck” them with something that seems untoward or undesirable. That’s a kind of doom-and-gloom version of what the Gen Z might do about AI self-driving cars.

On the other hand, sometimes a next generation decides they can take something that was started by the preceding generation and move it further up the hill. The prior generation is at times thanked for having taken the tough parts of getting stuff underway. The next generation, not exhausted by those initial forays, say that they’ll pick-up the mantle and head to the finish line on the effort. They might not even have been tainted by earlier naysayers that said it could not be done. Instead, the next generation rolls easily with the punches and just assumes it can be done.

By the way, that’s the happy-face scenario of what Gen Z might do about AI self-driving cars.

Some believe that AI self-driving cars are a modern day Frankenstein, see my article on this: https://aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/frankenstein-and-ai-self-driving-cars/

For the levels of self-driving cars, see my article: https://aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/richter-scale-levels-self-driving-cars/

For my overall framework about AI self-driving cars, see: https://aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/framework-ai-self-driving-driverless-cars-big-picture/

When I refer to AI self-driving cars, please be aware that there are various levels of AI self-driving cars. The topmost level is considered Level 5 and consists of a self-driving car that is entirely driven by the AI and there is no human driver involved. Most of the Level 5 self-driving cars lack any brake pedal and nor a gas pedal, and there’s not a steering wheel available either. The notion is that the AI is supposed to be the driver and be able to do whatever a human driver could do. Self-driving cars at a less than Level 5 are expected to have a human driver present. The AI co-shares the driving task with the human driver, though this is a dangerous aspect that I continue to warn about.

For my article about the dangers of co-sharing the driving task, see: https://aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/human-back-up-drivers-for-ai-self-driving-cars/

For my article about some of the ethical dilemma involved in AI driving, see: https://aitrends.com/selfdrivingcars/ethically-ambiguous-self-driving-cars/

The reason that I bring up the levels of AI self-driving cars is that the levels less than 5 will be further advancing during the 2020’s and 2030s, and the question will loom larger and larger as to how to best co-share the driving task with humans. There are likely to be many incidents in which the human driver assumed the AI was going to handle a driving situation, and yet the AI opted to hand the driving suddenly over to the caught-by-surprise human. Today, the claim is always that the human driver is ultimately responsible, but this is going to increasingly wear thin as a defensive posture on the matter.

Meanwhile, efforts to get to the vaunted Level 5, the truly autonomous AI self-driving car, will likely hit various “roadblocks” too during the 2020s and 2030s. No one can say for sure that we can reach a true Level 5. There are variants of Level 5 that some purists would say are not the “real thing” in terms of what we hope or anticipate a Level 5 self-driving car will be able to do. The efforts to tryout Level 5’s on our roadways are likely to introduce untoward incidents and there will be a clamor about whether this public kind of experiment should continue or be modified or possibly curtailed.

Let’s consider how Gen Z comes to play in all of this.

Take a look at Figure 2.

During the 2020s, Gen Z will have its youngest portion in the ages of 10 to 20, which basically means they won’t have much to do about the development of AI self-driving cars since they’ll be dealing with mainly school. The eldest edge of the Gen Z will be in the mid-20’s to mid-30’s, a prime time for them of their lives. They are post-college. They are becoming full adults. They are choosing their career paths and starting along those paths. They will undoubtedly shift from a collegiate dating pattern to a more stabilized dating pattern, opting to get married and “settle down” as it were.

They will be in the junior and mid-level ranks of companies. They are tech savvy. Many of them are oriented towards tech related jobs. It’s at this time they’ll begin to get immersed into the development of AI self-driving cars, taking on what has come before them. They will be faced overall with the potential “crisis in faith” about AI and whether it is really going to achieve the rather high expectations that are being set right now about it. I’d anticipate that the AI mania will begin to subside as people realize the limitations of AI as we know of it today.

On the AI self-driving car front, with various incidents occurring during the 2020s, there is likely to be more stringent regulation coming along. Right now, the regulations are relatively loose, allowing for a latitude of freedom to encourage new innovation in self-driving cars. We are likely though to see this begin to turn in the 2020s. Similar to how Uber and Byrd were able to initially skate along without heavy regulatory requirements, and then it caught up with them, we’ll see the same happen to AI self-driving cars. Numerous ethics related questions will also become more apparent to the general public, which otherwise today are only being considered by those in-the-know.

Let’s next move into the 2030’s. The Gen Z is now starting a family and raising a family. This serious-minded bunch will want to avoid being helicopter parents, and nor will they be convincing their children that they can do anything and be anything. Instead, they’ll be introducing them to a world of hard work and facing a myriad of societal and environment problems. They have now moved into mid-level and higher-level positions, doing so in business and in government.

It is now the time, during the 2030’s, a momentous time of the “grand convergence” for the Gen Z, in terms of their personal maturation, their emerging and solidifying position of authority, and the direction and fate of AI self-driving cars becomes inextricably in their hands.

The Gen Z is in-charge of this crucial “tipping point” era of AI self-driving cars. In the 2020’s, the Gen Z’s were starting to get involved. Now, they are fully involved, and they are ones calling the shots. It is my hope that their serious mindedness and tenacity will get us past the shaky 2020s that had AI self-driving cars on the verge of getting expunged, and instead the Gen Z will find ways to push forward successfully during the 2030s on AI self-driving cars.

If that happens, we’ll then enter into the 2040s with the Gen Z now fully having taken ahold of AI self-driving cars (possibly!), and they will have advanced further in their careers. They will be at the tops of companies and the government. Whatever they did in the 2030s, they will now be presumably continuing it and keeping it going. The younger segment of the Gen Z is now the implementers of what the elders of the Gen Z brought to fruition in the 2030s.

Let’s also consider what will happen to today’s cars by the time we get to the 2030’s and 2040s. We currently have around 200+ million conventional cars in the United States alone. I’ve said many times that these conventional cars are not going to disappear overnight, and nor are they likely to being amenable for conversion into AI self-driving cars. That means we’ll have a mix of conventional cars and AI self-driving cars for many years, indeed I’d say many decades. During the 2040s, I would anticipate that the conventional car will finally begin to wane and those that had conventional cars will have given way to instead switching over to AI self-driving cars.

Well, there you have it. Gen Z. Deciders of the future. Fate makers for AI self-driving cars.

They are in the driver’s seat when it comes to the future of AI self-driving cars. They probably don’t think they are, right now, since they are just starting their lives as the elders of the pack coming into the first difficult moments of their careers. Little do they realize that the maturation of AI self-driving cars is going to coincide with their own maturation. In that sense, they will grow-up together. The question remains whether the Gen Z generation will decide that they like their new brother, or whether they become soured on it.  Gen Z, autonomous AI self-driving cars are going to be your hands. Do what’s right, thanks!

Copyright 2018 Dr. Lance Eliot

This content is originally posted on AI Trends.