13 Societal Trends
Awareness of societal trends helps us make sense of our fast-changing world.
Posted August 9, 2017 | Reviewed by Ekua Hagan
In understanding and negotiating our fast-changing world, it may be helpful to recognize these trends:
Less heterosexual, more pansexual. Society’s mind-molders—the schools, colleges, and media—have, for years now, focused on increasing sexual minorities' rights. Current foci are transsexualism and the pansexual movement: replacing labels such as straight or gay with the concept that all people are somewhere in a matrix of continua, from homosexuality to heterosexuality, masculinity to femininity, high sexuality to asexuality.
Fewer jobs, more gigs. It’s ever harder for employers to economically justify paying people full-time with benefits 52 weeks a year if only because the costs of those benefits continue to rise. So the trend of just-in-time hiring will continue. From a human perspective, that’s sad because most people like stability much more than having to look for another gig every few months.
Less “Hi," more A.I. When we phone customer service and state our problem, it increasingly will be “heard” by artificial intelligence (AI) software and the answer will be projected on the human customer service rep’s screen. It’s easy to imagine that that human rep will soon be deemed no longer necessary, replaced by an Apple-Siri-like voice that will provide the answer, like today's automated 411.
Speaking of Siri, powerful as it is, Amazon's Alexa takes it a step further because it can understand us from anywhere in the room and find us information, products, even power our smart homes. Echo is our smart assistant, with no salary or benefits required.
Increasingly, large employers screen resumes and cover letters using AI software such as Karen, which “read between the lines” to help select candidates to interview.
Even medicine is becoming increasingly AI-assisted. It's not inconceivable that, in the future doctor's office, the receptionist (a robot of course) will say, “The computer will see you now.”
We, not me. Today, we often hear phrases such as “All in,” “the community,” and “Together." That reflects the trend from individualism to collectivism. "We, not me's" corollary is redistribution from the Haves to the Have-Nots, the goal being to make us all more equal. For example, that manifests in the increased size of corporate foundations that give money to the poor and corporate ads touting efforts for said community. The we-not-me trend is also evinced by who wins major awards: See for example, the recent McArthur "Genius" awards, Pulitzer Prizes, National Book Awards, and Encore awards. The government provides additional examples. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and other government watchdogs now use “disparate impact” theory to pressure employers into not giving hiring preference to the law-abiding and that all racial groups be proportionately represented in school discipline. Also, students of color are admitted to top colleges with lower grades and test scores. Harvard's entering class is majority-minority.
Connect more with tech than touch. Our heads are ever more buried in our phones and computers: texting, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Some decry the decline in face-to-face and even phone communication but The People have (ahem) spoken.
A corollary: more work done remotely. In our digital age, ever more work can be done from afar. Of course, that causes more offshoring to low-cost countries. But also, government's decision to build far fewer roads increases commute time and so makes more people want to work from home. Too, the great convenience of free Skype, Google Hangout, and Facetime is reducing in-person contact in and out of the workplace. I see ever more clients on Skype, and my wife attends many webinars, which not only avoids travel hassles but enables her to "attend" when convenient.
More gene, less glean. It’s ever clearer that much of us is genetically mediated, no not controlled, but our genes more affect who we are than previously thought—everything from sexual orientation to political orientation and, yes, intelligence. That doesn’t argue for de-emphasizing education but does argue for adapting education to each person’s natural strengths. And as CRISP-R and next-generation gene editing not only cures disease but allows enhancement, our genetic profile will ever more be central.
The future is female. That was famously said by Hillary Clinton. And while some people, disproportionately men and boys, view that as sexist, signs point to Clinton being correct. Society’s mind-molders—schools, colleges, news and entertainment media—have focused on improving women’s status relative to men. Achievements by white men are increasingly attributed to “privilege” rather than merit. The prioritization of women occurs even when men already suffer a deficit, even the ultimate deficit: Despite equal lifestyle choices, U.S. men live five years shorter than women and there are five times as many widows as widowers, yet we regularly see pink initiatives against breast cancer and far less focus on prostate cancer or premature heart attack which kills many more men earlier. Warren Farrell calls men "the disposable sex."
Less Big Military, more Small Ball. Big weapons may be needed to stop North Korea's nuclear threat. But battleships and F-16s are less likely to be key to future wars. More likely battlefields will be business and government computer networks, which control not only our money but our energy and water supply. Or as experts including Bill Gates warn, bioattacks which are yet to go beyond small-scale sarin and anthrax but could expand to highly communicable bioweapons of mass destruction. So the U.S. response will need to be more small-ball.
Weed. Whee! Many people are merrily embracing marijuana, a second alcohol. Despite the suffering and cost that alcohol wreaks and despite, in prohibition, alcohol use and related deaths declining dramatically, we’re hurtling to legalize recreational marijuana nationwide. That's despite the National Academy of Sciences metaevaluation of the 200 best-quality studies, which lays out the serious mental and physical dangers associated with marijuana. Then there's the increase in pot-caused vehicle accidents in states that have legalized marijuana. To top it all, logic indicates and evidence suggests but hasn't yet determined that in those states, teenagers, whose brains are most vulnerable to marijuana’s dangers, are using more of it.
Fake news from Left and Right. Per this week’s comprehensive review in The Atlantic, both Left and Right media are twisting or ignoring facts to promulgate their a-priori world view. The loser, of course, is all of us. Until recently, the Fourth Estate has long been the most credible source of the information we need for a thriving democracy. The media’s replacing its near-sacred responsibility to be reportorial with so-called “advocacy journalism” has resulted in the public trust in the media, according to the latest Gallup Poll, sinking to its all-time low. Only 32% trust the mass media even "a fair amount.” And a new Harvard-Harris poll finds that 2/3 of Americans believe the mainstream media presents “a lot of fake news.” That view is held by a majority of both liberals and conservatives.
More censorship, less free speech. This is a corollary of the previous trend. Issues such as race, gender, and redistribution are subject to significant censorship. Educators must mouth the mantra “All students can learn to high standards” or risk censure or firing. Authors have a hard time getting published unless they toe the party line: that women and minorities are oppressed by institutional racism, sexism, and capitalism, and that additional redistribution is a must. Less redistributive definitions of social justice often get suppressed with epithets: “elitist, “sexist,” and most career-damaging of all, “racist.” Even a moderate internal memo on gender resulted in a white male employee getting fired from Google, which claims to encourage diverse voices. In my experience with over 5,000 clients, many people fear getting fired for not embracing The Orthodoxy.
Less capitalism, more socialism. True, capitalist Donald Trump is the president but his election is likely but a temporary retracement in a leftward trend. After all, Socialist Bernie Sanders almost won the Democratic presidential nomination despite accusations and now a class-action lawsuit claiming that the Clinton campaign conspired with the Democratic National Committee to keep Sanders from winning. The government has increased corporate taxation by mandating ObamaCare and increased Social Security and Workers Compensation payments, and has taken over a number of formerly private-sector industries, for example, student loans, privately managed prisons, and airport security. Too, the Washington Post posits that the government is attempting to shut down the whole for-profit college industry. It also seems possible that the U.S. will adopt a government-run “Medicare for All” single-payer health care system after the 2020 elections that should help the Democrats.
Do you see other major societal trends?
Dr. Nemko’s nine books are available. You can reach career and personal coach Marty Nemko at firstname.lastname@example.org.