The Saeculum Decoded
A Blog by Neil Howe
Jun 132012

This cartoon (thanks to, which has been knocking around the Internet for a few months, is good enough to show again here.

Entering an office today full of Millennial knowledge workers (say, a law firm or investment firm) is a curiously subdued experience.  Not a lot of talking, folding, walking, singing, stapling, photocopying… or even moving.  Everyone is intensely focused, busily attending to many tasks, and (usually) communicating with others, often with many others at the same time.  But it’s all done with a screen, keyboard, and headphones.  To the outside observor, there seems to be almost nothing going on.

I am reminded of the climactic scene in Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End (1953), when Jan (the last real “human”) returns to earth and finds all of the earth’s children, in the hundreds of millions, lying motionless on one continent, not even opening their eyes.  But they are communicating through telepathy, and soon they begin to move and reconfigure the planets through telekenesis.  As I recall, Jan stays to witness the transformation of the rising generation into pure mind (this is where it gets real Boomer!), which finally happens in a Stanley Kubrick-style flash of pure energy that destroys the entire solar system.

Thankfully, most Millennials are as yet engaged in more prosaic activities: emailing their boss, IMing their friend, checking out a YouTube video, airbrushing something out of their Facebook wall…

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  • JPT

    I’m an Xer young enough to be a part of this (we’re engaged in it here on this blog, in fact). I don’t see it as a bad thing. I think technology has changed so much so fast that society hasn’t fully adjusted to it. I don’t think we should assume the worst about the eventual outcome. If anything, technology has made it harder for those in authority to exert control, not easier as many feared.

  • Chad

    The millennial generation is characterized (generally) as being ‘nice’, ‘protected’ and [relatively] ‘isolated’ [in the independent, self-motivated way] –  which can be seen in Japan’s sōshoku danshi “phenomenon” that started being noticed in Japan in about 2006. This kind of illustrates (perhaps) how you said in an earlier comment that the saeculum’s pretty much are the same for much of the world. 

    A short snippet from Wikipedia:

    “Herbivore men (草食(系)男子 Sōshoku(-kei) danshi) is a social phenomenon in Japan of men who shun marriage or gaining a girlfriend. They are characteristically described as frugal, and interested in personal grooming. Under this categorization scheme, men and women are either herbivore type (草食系 sōshoku-kei) or carnivore type (肉食系nikushoku-kei).The term was first coined by Maki Fukasawa in an article published on 13 October 2006, and became a buzz word in 2008 and 2009.
    According to Fukasawa, sōshoku danshi are “not without romantic relationships, but has a non-assertive, indifferent attitude towards desire of flesh”. Later, philosopher Masahiro Morioka redefined sōshoku-kei danshi as men who are “the nice guys of a new generation who do not aggressively seek meat, but instead prefer to eat grass side by side with the opposite gender.” Sōshoku danshi are often given as the primary cause of single women’s woes.Many reasons are attributed to the situation, such as increased employment instability and increased female independence in Japan.” ( )

    • hkq999

      sounds more like nomads.

  • Frank L.

    I am a Boomer (born 10/03/50), and I feel that the series of cartoons is quite poignant, and true! I am old enough (at 62 and counting) to remember a pre-computer world, a world which I found friendly, down-to-earth, and UNDERSTANDABLE. Computers . . . what can I say . . .
    they smack of mind control, technology gone awry, deadening of social relationships, and a cold, cold world which seems to get colder by the hour! And yet . . . computers fascinate me!!
    What gives? Any thoughts, people . . . ?