Insights

Strategies for Gen Z to Deal with a Dystopian Future

Apocalypse - Vasnetsov - Public Domain
Written by Michael Froehls

What are potential Gen-Z strategies to deal with our dystopian future? Previously, we introduced the Four Horsemen of the Gen-Z Apocalypse. We also mused about how you might benefit financially from it, or at least mitigate its negative effects. But investing to profit from our dystopian future does not necessarily make you happy. The question is, therefore: how should you think about living your life in a future where automation, robots, and AI rule? How to survive and be happy  when more and more countries monitor your activities 24/7, de-globalization might make the world a very uncertain place, and our financial system might be at risk.

While there are no easy answers, here are some Gen-Z strategies for a dystopian future that come to mind:

Define Where You Stand

The first thing I suggest is to come to terms with how you see the future. You need to make your own predictions and then decide what they mean to you. Do you disregard any risks and just live happily no matter what’s ahead? Or do you try to protect yourself? Even more, do you go further and try fighting or advocating for it? Get clarity on where you stand. You might even embrace our brave new world as inevitable and jump right at it by creating surveillance tools stronger than what the Chinese deploy right now.

Employment Strategies

Assuming you are not independently wealthy, you will have to work to survive. Now, decide how to position yourself if many jobs become threatened by automation, robots, and AI. As nobody can forecast exactly what’s going to happen, it’s difficult to find a foolproof method. Here are three ideas:

Become a Coder

Coding schools both online and offline are all the rage these days. They promise fast employment after about three months of study. This seems sensible, but risks remain. Too many might become coders and thus cause an oversupply in the labor market. Programming languages have been changing for decades, so there is no guarantee that what you learn now will be relevant in a few years. Moreover, if you view coding as something technical rather than creative, then soon AI might be able to code instead of you. Still, if you are in your twenties or thirties, getting the basics of coding right might be a great asset.

Do Something Creative

Creativity might be the last refuge for mankind in the age of robots. Anything that is not repetitive, cannot be outsourced to India, done by robots, or be automated still needs human involvement. While you might not become the star interior designer, world-famous piano player, or sought-after modern painter, there should be niches for you to be successful. Doctors, teachers, urban planners, immigration lawyers, international tax experts – there are many professions that offer safety for the foreseeable future. By the same token, regular accountants, legal assistants, financial planners, tellers, and many others are likely to go extinct. Finally, don’t forget manual labor jobs that might offer the best protection – barbers, nail saloon owners, poker dealers, solar rooftop specialists, DJs, welders, and gardeners. Keep an open mind and avoid having a chip on your shoulders.

Get a Master of Science in Big Data or AI

Getting the right master’s degree might be a good investment in your future. Over the last years, many new programs have sprung up that help you acquire the latest knowledge in big data, AI, and every new technology. These usually one-year programs might a be great alternative to the often more costly and more generalist MBA programs. Given how new and untested many of these programs are, expect frequent changes to reputation and curricula.

Location Strategies

There is an interesting debate going on now about the future of emerging markets. It has long been assumed that many of them will slowly industrialize, creating more services like in the developed world, while allowing a middle class to rise. Or that new technology might help in the fast transformation. Dissenters now claim that automation and AI might cut this trend off as local companies prefer employing cheap technology over local labor no matter how abundant and low cost the latter might be. If they are right, then emerging markets have rather a dire future.

Personally, I am more an optimist here, as there are so many untapped opportunities in less-developed countries. You can bring services from the US to, let’s say Colombia, from franchising models (e.g., real estate, food, gyms) to education. Many emerging markets have local brands in fashion or food that are still untapped for export. Then there is global tourism, which is pushing into all corners of the world. What this all means is that you may have more opportunities and be less threatened by robots/AI outside the developed world. The earlier to deploy such a strategy of personal international agility and make a new home abroad, the more time you have to build a future there.

Privacy Strategies

Resistance is futile! There is probably no escape from both state and company surveillance. Whether the NSA or US tech giants, you and your data have become a commodity without your participation or input. Surveillance Capitalism is alive and well, and you would be naïve to think governments around the world are not tapping into all that data to keep their populace in check. Still, there are things you can do without retreating to the woods of Alaska. Don’t buy surveillance gadgets like Alexa; forgo anything Internet of Things; don’t fall for insurance discounts in return for being monitored when driving (car insurance) or around the clock (life insurance). Spend some money on privacy, from using VPNs to strong ad and tracking blockers. Never give your SSN to a medical provider (except for emergencies). Why? Because you can be assured that at some point, your online behavior, shopping patterns, friends, or zip code will be used against you. When? Maybe when you apply for a government or private job, when your kids need insurance, or on a rental application. Just because certain discrimination is not legal now does not mean it won’t be in the future or cannot be circumvented.

Takeaway

While the odds of living in dystopia are sufficiently high to take them into consideration when planning your life, there is no reason to give up. You might be able to defend yourself for a few extra years and make some money from new technologies. A smart career choice can protect your employment income. You could either be symbiotically integrated with new technology or find an occupation safe from it; just don’t get taken down and out. Deciding on the right location and investing in personal international agility might be another key economic survival strategy. Finally, be careful with your data, as at some point everything that is known and being sold about you will come back to bite you and your family.

© Michael Froehls – 2019 – All Rights Reserved

About the author

Michael Froehls

Hello! I am Michael Froehls and the founder of Go Global Be Happy. My nickname is The Global Wanderer. After seeing how many of my students are interested in living a more global life, I decided to start this blog. Having traveled to about 60 countries and worked, lived, and studied on several continents, I am excited to help others leverage our world. After a successful career in consulting and corporate America, I now teach Global Business & Global Marketing at the University of Texas at Austin. My passion has not changed - exploring and enjoying our world every day. Very thankful for my life in the US and my wonderful Colombian partner whom I met while working in Latin America.

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