Children are our future, in every sense of the word. But what might that future be like, and how might it shape the lives of young people? Thanks to COVID and numerous other social, ecological, and technological shifts taking place right now, the future of childhood is evolving.
So what happens when three leading female futurists come together to envision what the children of the future could be like or what world they might inhabit? The result is this article, that shares creative and thought-provoking profiles of five kids from the future.
1. Solarpunk Kid
“One of the five kids of the future is called Solarpunk kid. Solarpunk is a sustainability philosophy and lifestyle. It has an edgy fashion and design aesthetic reminiscent of steampunk. While steampunk glorified the Industrial Revolution, Solarpunk is all about the clean, green future,” said Alexandra Whittington, futurist at Partners in Foresight.
Solarpunk is centered around sustainability. For Whittington, the Solarpunk kid of 2030 would be very inspired by technologies like biomimicry, AI, cryptocurrency, and 3D printing because those technologies create abundance. Their parents might have been early adopters of Bitcoin, EVs and smart homes, so they learned early in a very personal way that technology benefits humanity.
“A Solarpunk kid might hold a major life’s ambition like making the world’s first net-zero landfill or inventing new methods of growing sustainable crops. They carry a sense of curious optimism, mad STEM skills, and a creative urge to tinker. They develop interesting life hacks that they teach their friends, such as how to profit by selling excess kinetic energy from your backpack to the grid and what to wear for your upcoming psilocybin trip,” she added.
Overall this kid is someone who considers themselves responsible to future generations. As such, they view human potential as our most valuable resource. They treat this responsibility as sacrosanct and use it as a motive for making up inventions, brainstorming new ideas, and leading new technological revolutions into a positive future.
2. Existential Kid
Existential kid is probably the least surprising young person from the future. By the time they reach their 10th birthday, Existential kid has lived through numerous disasters resulting from anthropogenic impacts on the planet. They may have moved house several times as various ecosystems grew unlivable due to droughts or famines, for example. Power outages and telecommunications service disruptions are a regular part of their lives. Existential kid is expected to tolerate a lot of uncertainty.
“They have a survivalist mentality that translates into a thirst for knowledge about the outdoors, weather, the animal world, and risk. They like camping, content about wilderness, prepping, disaster readiness, and current events. Existentialist kid is not a carefree young person. They share a lot of worries with their parents, who usually don’t try to sugarcoat the truth,” highlighted Whittington.
She continues, “Existential kid is constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop: nuclear war, electromagnetic pulse (EMP), AI singularity, climate collapse, and superbugs are just some of the things they’re concerned about the possibility of happening in their lifetime. They keep tabs on different data and media to monitor situations around existential risks facing the human species. They might like to study science, journalism, communication, psychology, technology, and history—subjects that can give rhyme or reason to the unpredictability of life.”
Whittington foresees child development experts and teachers encountering an Existential kid might be concerned about anxiety, paranoia, agoraphobia, antisocial disorders, and unusual phobias. Their parents might have to support them in finding healthy hobbies and interests that balance their fears.
By the 2030’s, being an Existential kid could become a common, but worrisome, cry for help. Some adults may push ‘resilience’ while others applaud young people’s practical realism. The Existential kid always has the upper hand, though, because adults can’t deny the anxious Zeitgeist of the times.”
3. Designer Baby Kid
By 2030, it’s possible that there will be living humans that we would call Designer Babies. This is a child whose parents utilized genetic engineering with CRISPR or some other exponential technology to select their specific features and characteristics. They’d be the youngest of the five kids from the future—probably literal babies in 2030.
For Whittington, some Designer Babies might have been engineered to avoid inheritable disease or as a prophylactic to future illnesses, like HIV or cancer. Some babies might have a gene hack that makes them immune to mosquito bites, for example, thus naturally Malaria-resistant. Others might just be super attractive or have enhanced brains.
“As a small slice of the population, Designer Baby kids feel as different as they are genetically unique. Their lives are rather celebrated, since their parents tend to be wealthy and connected. They might be famous. A Designer Baby kid is often a prodigy of some kind, depending on the genes the parents select. They are not ‘regular kids,” she added.
For Joana Lenkova, strategist and futurist, author of the upcoming interactive foresight book “Choose Your Own Future”, Designer Baby kids could be our modern day superheroes.
“They might be Galaxy explorers, likely the first “solar citizens” genetically protected from the effects of anti-gravity and radioactive waves. Some can last longer in Space, others underwater. They could bring new knowledge about curious subjects we have dreamt of learning about, secrets we have been longing to discover, thus raising the overall level of human intelligence,” Lenkova adds.
By law, a Designer Baby kid won’t be able to have more than one “superpower” and physical strength would be limited to human levels to avoid the dangers of superior physical power. But these healthier kids would defy ageing and live healthier lives much longer. They would be respected but also slightly feared. They wouldn’t often befriend the “regular” kids and would form a sort of “elite”.
“However, they could help the human race adapt to changing living conditions on Earth, or even populate other planets. Accelerated evolution through genetic engineering,” Lenkova says.
4. The Digikid
The best thing about childhood is that our imaginations know no boundaries. We are free to dream, explore, experiment and believe in magic! Somewhere along the way to adulthood, we lose some of that spark. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to ask your younger self a question or feel the magic again? Well, you may be able to. There is a place where childhood can last forever and it doesn’t depend on our ability or desire to have children in the physical world.
“The Digikid is born in the virtual universe to a human parent, living in the physical universe. It could be modelled on the parent themselves, some other kid that lived at one point in time, or be a brand-new version of itself developed by an algorithm randomly combining traits from a global human database,” foresees Lenkova.
The Digikid lives, plays, interacts and grows in the metaverse. There are many reasons for parents to choose to have Digikids. Some do that for environmental reasons, others already have a child and want to bring up a Digital sibling, or simply want to get the benefits of parenthood in a safer and more controlled environment. Some want to go back to their childhood and relive some experience they believe shaped them as adults.
For Lenkova, the parent, sibling or guardian has responsibilities and rights, just like in the physical world. They enter the metaverse to communicate with the Digital kids, learn and play together, and have family time.
Digikids might also look forward to the day when they actually work part time or full time in the metaverse creating skins or accessories for avatars, or even living off their inherited NFTs from their grandparents collected and passed on to them as part of their legacy.
“The Digikids could be educated in a range of subjects, like the human kids, and can even attend the same metaverse schools as their human peers. Their education path is chosen by their guardian. The Digikid has certain autonomy and can choose its own friends – human or digital, wear virtual clothes, decorate virtual bedrooms, choose hobbies like surfing or playing in a band, and even perform live to an audience,” she highlights.
Would the Digikid ever grow up to become an adult? We are yet to decide.
5. The Maverick Kid
“Born in the 21st century, dubbed Generation Alpha, the Maverick kid would live well into the 22nd century, because of age-defying life hacks and extended life spans. More time on Earth, more time to make an impact! This generation arrives in record numbers, especially in India, China and Africa.
Lenkova foresees most kids of this generation are shaped by technology, and don’t know the world without it. Born in this digital world, they would achieve technological superiority to any adult by the age of 8. They come with a heavy task on their shoulders and one clear mission: Save.The.World!
“The child of Generation Y, with a Zoomer as an older sister, the Maverick child is empowered, curious, opinionated, passionate about humanity and nature, proud of her individuality, but with a strong connection to community. A true entrepreneur who believes they can save the world! And they really can! In fact, they are our only hope,” she envisions.
Lenkova continues, “The Maverick kid belongs to an international network of like-minded kids, often acquired in early childhood through gaming platforms and interactions. Some of these friendships would last a lifetime, despite never having met in person.”
Others would evolve into business partnerships by the time they are in their teens. The power of this global brain is immense in finding innovative solutions and impactful ways to tackle big world problems like poverty, access to learning and information, clean air, oceans and drinking water, safe shelter from the severe weather and unexpected sand storms.
The Maverick kid sits on the board of big organizations as a “futureholder.” She challenges our world values, systems and practices. Connected and confident in her abilities, she lets compassion be a leading force in her decisions.
“The Maverick kid is not interested in formal education, she learns through experimentation, mentorship and the international network instead. Her dreams involve building memorable experiences, enjoying the wonders of the world and space, and building a legacy that she hopes the following generation will improve and evolve further,” concludes Lenkova
Why We Need To Envision The Future of Childhood Today
The future is impossible to predict, but necessary to imagine. In this article we have depicted merely five scenarios of what the future of childhood may look like. Envisioning the future enables world-changing innovations. We should not underestimate the power of childhood creativity and passion to challenge entrenched worldviews.
Going forward, who would Gen Alpha pass the baton to? Enter generation Beta! We can’t wait to see what mark they leave on the world.
About the authors
Cathy Hackl is a globally recognized tech futurist. She’s a business executive, keynote speaker & strategist with deep expertise in AR, VR, spatial computing, virtual goods, virtual worlds & the Metaverse. One of the most influential women in tech, Hackl is considered a leading management thinker by Thinkers50 & a top technology voice on LinkedIn. She founded the Futures Intelligence Group & has worked for some of the biggest names in tech including Amazon Web Services, Magic Leap & HTC VIVE.
Joana Lenkova is a futurist and strategist, founder of the London based strategic foresight consultancy Futures Forward. She has a vast experience, working with multinational blue-chip companies across a wide-range of industries (AB InBev, Societe Generale, Disney), NGOs and start-ups. Joana is a graduate of Saïd Business School, University of Oxford in Strategy and Innovation. She has recently joined LEGO’s Creative Play Lab as Director of Strategic Foresight. The views and opinions stated in this article are her own.
Alexandra Whittington is an educator, writer, and researcher who has earned recognition as one of the world’s top women futurists. She teaches at the University of Houston, where her students describe her as “passionate” about the future. Alex specializes in strategic social foresight through her consulting company, Partners In Foresight. She provides audiences a relatable futurist perspective through articles, books, speeches, consulting, education sessions, and workshops about the future.
This article was originally published at Forbes.