The Generation of Sovereign Individuals

I recently finished a book called “The Sovereign Individual,” which I’d recommend to anyone interested in or currently operating within the information economy. Really, I’d recommend it to anyone with a thirst for knowledge and growth. It is a book so rich in thoughtful insight and well-researched perspective that I have to stop continuously to absorb what I’m reading — either it’s really dense or I am. Regardless, I have no doubt that the contents of this book will influence my judgment and actions in situations to come.

What was most surprising is how the book opened my eyes to the generation known as “Millennials.” Prior to reading this book, I regarded the generation in question with mostly disdain and subscribed to what popular culture, comedians and other voices of the current consciousness said of them — spoiled, entitled, disengaged, poor work ethic, soft, diminishing interpersonal skills and acumen, etc and etc. Much of this judgment may be fair and accurate for certain individuals. However, much of it can be attributed to the ever-flowing judgment of one generation (soon to be marginalized) to the next (growing in power and influence). Generational judging and stereotypes aside, the book brought about an ah-ha moment that’s worth note.

Although impossible to boil down to a single point or thesis, the book generally looks at the shift taking place as we advance further into the information age, where micro processing and the ever increasing availability of information changes our overarching power structure. And how the shift from an industrial age with large factories, big government and coercive agencies like unions, are falling away and being replaced by individual power and influence; where time, place and brute force at scale no longer matter as they did generations ago.

We who grew up as bi-products of the industrial age and industrial military complex view the millennial’s seeming distaste for group organization and accountability, as individually entitled and disengaged. What I now realize, — they can’t (and likely don’t want to) help it, and aren’t even conscious of it on the level we (the olds or older) are. They may be conscious of it because the older generation bemoans it, but it doesn’t occur to them that way naturally.

What is happening with this so called Milleniall generation is a natural evolution. The information age is allowing individuals to be more disengaged, to be less reliant on the power of large numbers (of people) and to feel more entitled to true personal freedom, where government or controlling organizations of any type are relics of a bygone era. What a holy shit moment.

And it’s not like some book or me throwing out a bunch of personal opinion is what makes this so. Step back and take a look at what’s going on around us, the events that play out on a global scale and how they play out, the products and services people en mass care about and lean into. Although the Millennial generation is in the thick of it, everything around ALL of us, whether it be governments shifting under the weight of social uprising or an endless movement toward all wants and needs available at the tap of our phone, personal and individual wants and desires aren’t simply being met, they are whats driving world social order and the global economy forward.

Back on the ground I get the friction. When a 45 year old person is hiring or managing a 25 year old person, words and traits like ‘disengaged’ or ‘entitled’ tend to be taken in a negative context. And don’t get me wrong, disengaged or entitled in a professional context is almost always negative — typically we strive for the opposite of those things. However, the way we all work together (engage) and what we believe should be basic elements of a work environment (entitlements) are rapidly shifting and evolving, and to simply dismiss these movements and complain about how much better it used to be is missing the point. It’s not going to be like it used to be — ever.

I’m sure there were farmers who really hated machinery for harvesting. The evil machinery is marginalizing my skill — my ability to pull crops from the ground. And these people who are creating this machinary don’t care about me or this country. They’re ruining this country and pissing on the values it was built on. Keep out the machinary so we can all keep doing the same job and keep things just as they are!!

Things didn’t go that way. The agricultural economy was indeed replaced by the industrial economy. And although many types of jobs went away and were replaced by machine labor, many new jobs came about — and many new skills became important and valuable. At the time of this transition no one knew what the skills or jobs would be and so that void of knowledge was filled with fear and suspicion, just as it is today.

But as Steve Jobs said to Stanford’s graduating class of 2005, “you can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking back. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” They will. And maybe it takes a younger generation to see this a bit more clearly than the rest of us.