If you look at a few publicly available statistics on the U.S., you can see that the heralded technological progress of recent decades did not necessarily have an elevating effect on the general public in the past decades:
- The real median income of middle-class families has stagnated since 1970. Globalization, automization, and digitalization threaten to aggravate that trend for the “Generation Z” and beyond.
- In 2021, the nation’s birth rate has declined for the sixth straight year. 44 percent of adults under the age of 50 say it’s unlikely they’ll ever have children.
- The number of yearly suicides has reached astronomical heights, particularly among young males.
- Casualties of drug overdoses are at an all-time high. In 2021 alone, the country counted more than 100,000 overdose deaths, mainly from opioids.
- For the first time since World War II, life expectancy among Americans has decreased for two consecutive years (even if you discount deaths from COVID-19).
- 54 percent of Americans say they sometimes or always feel that nobody knows them well.
Letting these statistics sink in, you can’t help but observe a growing sense of despair, anguish, and hopelessness descending on the nation. The limitless optimism and can-do attitude so characteristic of the United States in the past has taken a big hit. The future seems no longer bright and promising, but blurred and threatening. There seems to be a distinctive disconnect between technological change and our actual individual and social needs.
With rising workloads, young professionals and particularly young families don’t find the time anymore to socialize, foster community ties, and enter meaningful friendships. The days when a single middle-class paycheck was sufficient to feed and raise an entire family are definitely gone, and they’re not coming back. Demands on employees’ mobility have often uprooted families, with young adults finding themselves separated by thousands of miles from their immediate kin. Many towns and cities in the Midwest have been hit hard by the loss of industrial jobs, with the result that communities have frayed and middle-aged workers, unable to find adequate replacement jobs, slid into poverty. Yet by far the most important factor contributing to the atomization of society in the past decade has been a technology that was supposed to bring us all closer together.