Generation Z & the Beats

According to the Strauss-Howe generational theory, the historical loops we're tangled in shape not only the nature of events, but the ethos of the people. The pandemic has shifted the way many are thinking about where they live, what they own, and the work they do. One way to interpret what is happening is to think that the digital nomad lifestyle is becoming more possible and relevant. But another way to forecast the cultural ethos of the next generation is to look back farther; to imagine a similar generation from the 20th century, but in a new historical and technological context.

Generation Z (born after 2005) could emerge out of our current crisis with the counter-cultural ethos of the "Beat Generation" (1950's), except now as the dominant cultural ethos. The irony here is that the Beats rejected materialism. The ways of life that were reserved for delusional vagabond artists are now becoming normalized by the products and networks of billion dollar technology companies. This isn't to say that owning an iPhone in 2030 will turn you into a literary genius, obsessed with peyote, Ralph Waldo Emmerson, and group orgies. It's more like Silicon Valley is unknowingly extracting the facets of the Beat lifestyle that are appealing to modern mass audiences with low-risk tolerance, while discarding the radical elements of the culture.

A smart phone lets us shed our possessions. You don't need a camera, calculator, typewriter, pen, or book. It's a digital multi-tool that accidentally spread the ethos of minimalism. You can take off in a car without luggage and go wherever you need to go. Except you don't own a car. You beam your intent to an ant-colony of robot drivers, who will be at your curb in 2 minutes. Hitch-hiking isn't free, but it's convenient. You end up at a single family house in a city you've never been to. You don't own it. You never plan to own anything. You jump from couch to couch, touring the cities of America, using wifi to connect with your co-workers, who also, live in a cloud.

The next generation will be about flexibility, spontaneous experience, and personal destiny. These were core "primitives" of the Beat Generation, and the Consciousness Revolution that followed in it's path. It used to be a risk to pursue those things, meaning ones who pursued it were generally "out there." But when these 3 things becoming common for the average person, it's bound to twist and change the mindset of the mainstream ethos.

Work in Progress

COVID, location independence, flexibility, spontaneity

digital nomad - infrastructure there

Flexibility, Property, Spontaneous

flexibility - responsibilities, but property ownership locks you in

Live in Air BnBs in different cities, or with friends, crashing, no ownership (Air BnB)

WiFi, Internet - allows you to work for companies around the world, location independence

Train to move city to city, hitch-hike within city (Uber)

now, COVID, work from home, location independence

New era, where you could be living in a different state every month,

2019, job in New York City, needed to rent or buy real estate nearby.

Commuted to the same place every day, a few times a year you could travel, spontaneous


working for the same company in the cloud.

sense of working for a company - starting to become fractured as well

Rural living / Remote living - esp when paired with a Metaverse

Soverignty, personal destiny

Sovereignty, Destiny

defiance - going to do this thing I believe in, regardless

(doesn't come with an iPhone)

destiny - not going down single career paths, pursuing own reality

sovereignty - don't belong to a company, or a town, or even a country

Distribute work, find-coworkers (social media) - obscure non-traditional lifestyles possible

gaming, online expression - ways to make money online

online creator community - creator economy

teenage billionaire


Spirit of the Beat Generation becoming

  • no property ownership, crashing (air bnb, wework)
  • uber, hitch-hiking (no car ownership)
  • travel & experience - rejection of office
  • online writing, asynchronous work
  • Minimal possessions, cell phone has everything you need, camera, calculator (Apple)

AirBnB, Uber,


Technology, enabling a beat style - but possible for a fusion of the two, less obscure

New lifestyle: of flexibility, spontaneous experience, personal destiny.

Corporate work - mechanized, repetitive - automated

Industrial Era > Corporate Era > Autonomous Era

lifestyle of flexibility, spontaneous experience, personal destiny

Attitude about creativity, destiny, etc. - not inherent to the next generation - ideas not inherent to the technology, but promote a lifestyle that facilitates it.


The shift in values from the Baby Boomer to the Millenials is become more obvious. 30 year careers, vs. 3 year cycles. Property ownerships, kids, etc.

other weird fusions
  • time square, burroughs black market vs. tourist
  • san franciscio, counter culture > tech hub
  • grateful dead > john mayer


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