1998 was an auspicious year. The Winter Olympics were in Nagano, Japan (still love you, Picabo Street). Bear Grylls (of Man vs. Wild fame) became the youngest Brit to scale Mount Everest. Besting Brazil, France won the World Cup. Bearing the unoffical slogan “Don’t be evil,” Google was founded. Frank Sinatra went to his eternal, blue-eyed, reward. Celine Dion’s heart went on (and on and on). And the first of Beloit College’s famous Mindset Lists was published.
Oh, and I graduated from high school in ‘98 too. Which all but guaranteed that my recent reading of this year’s Mindset List would make me feel older than Brad Pitt at the beginning of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Anyway, here’s my completely biased top nine weirdest/coolest/holy crap-iest things that are currently shaping the mindset of the class of 2016.
9. They have always lived in cyberspace, addicted to a new generation of “electronic narcotics” — I’m not even sure what electronic narcotics are.
8. Probably the most tribal generation in history, they despise being separated from contact with their similar-aged friends — Community looks different every generation these days, but that doesn’t mean there’s a lack of desire for it.
7. There has always been football in Jacksonville but never in Los Angeles — I’m pretty sure they put this on the list just to make Ice Cube cry his frozen tears.
6. Outdated icons with images of floppy discs for “save,” a telephone for “phone,” and a snail mail envelope for “mail” have oddly decorated their tablets and smart phone screens — I’m sympathetic here, although I don’t remember the Napster icon looking like a teenager stealing music either.
5. Despite being preferred urban gathering places, two-thirds of the independent bookstores in the United States have closed for good during their lifetimes — Ugggghhhh….
4. They have never seen an airplane “ticket” — I do not miss these at all. Smartphones, ho.
3. Lou Gehrig’s record for most consecutive baseball games played has never stood in their lifetimes — For some reason Lou was my 2nd favorite player as a kid (#1 = Kirby Puckett), so nothing against Cal at all, but this made me sad.
2. While the iconic TV series for their older siblings was the sci-fi show Lost, for them it’s Breaking Bad, a gritty crime story motivated by desperate economic circumstances — Both great shows, so no complaint at all. But it does mean that when I’m teaching I’m going to have to assign episodes of 90210 so that they’ll get my jokes.
1. Genomes of living things have always been sequenced — This was actually the most amazing thing on the list for me because it shows just how much information is available to every person at all times. Not only has the ubiquity of information changed the kind of daily conversations we have (who argues about what happened when anymore? Nobody. Instead we just pull out our phones), but I think it’s going to change the kind of thinking that’s valuable in the future too. Creative, innovative, and synthetic thinking all seem more valuable given that soon we’ll be able to ask a computer to do a keyword search for “Metaphysics” and have three thousand years of information sorted for us in seconds.